Furniture has been made since time began with people wanting something to sit down on, a flat surface to eat off and chests to store their things. While their first thoughts were about usefulness and what materials to use, human sophistication quickly came into play and soon designers were taking into account the stylistic elements of the furniture they were making. Conformity and fashion led the way with the ultimate aim of complementing the living environment with furniture that harmonised with its surroundings and with the other pieces in the room while enabling people to express their individuality.
Furniture design throughout the ages has followed the same simple rules to create an asset to the living space that takes into account looks, usefulness and durability. Limited only by their imagination, available materials and the required function, furniture designers have produced everything from the simplest stool in an African hut to the extravagant and ornate furniture found in the nineteenth century palaces of Europe. Architectural form and prevailing art movements have principally informed stylistic considerations while materials have provided the limitations which have extended and shaped the resourcefulness of the designers over the years.
The advent of Art Deco and post-war Modernism were probably the earliest influences on contemporary furniture with frustrated artists and designers keen to overthrow the oppressive constraints of demand from patrons who held too rigid a view of what is a beautiful thing. The availability of new materials and manufacturing techniques coupled with a new post-war gaiety demanded that the boundaries of furniture design be pushed further and further, resulting in a close amalgam between art and design most constructively manifested in the Bauhaus movement in the 1920s. The Arts and Crafts movement further blended function and form and a new era of furniture making began in which self-expression and personal taste were represented in the things we bought to place in our homes.
The Italians, French, Swedes and Americans all played a prominent role in the early development of contemporary furniture. Classics were born with designers such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Philippe Stark producing chairs which influence design values to the present day. Post World War 2 saw the introduction of aluminium moulding and the production of cheap plastic and new man-made padding materials. A new egalitarianism swept the West and people with enhanced buying power wanted to embrace these changes in circumstance and aspiration. Colour and shape more and more found expression in the evolving attitudes of shoppers influenced by the art and politics of hope of the fifties and sixties and the new individualism of the eighties and nineties.
The computer probably did more than any other tool to expand the creation of contemporary furniture. No longer restricted to time consuming and limiting drawings and model-building, the designer has been able to experiment with adventurous ideas with the click of a few buttons. With digital communication, designers have access to the exchange and sharing of ideas internationally.
While it is comforting to have a few pieces of time-honoured and beautiful furniture in the home, the real value of contemporary furniture is that it speaks of the now. It represents and complements the dreams and ideas of international culture as it is today and enhances our sense of connection with not just the people of our country but with the world.
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UK Contemporary Furniture is part of the Value Store Group a trading division of Troy Innovations Ltd.
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