Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Furniture for the Modern Life

Furniture Is About How We Use Space

A piece of furniture is an achievement. It lies at the intersection of ingenuity, talent, tradition, style and engineering to name but a few ingredients. Our furniture says something about how we use our space, what our habits are and the nature of our personal taste. Furniture is present in both palaces and prisons, on board ships, in bedrooms, boardrooms and in courtrooms. It is found on archaeological digs and showcased in seasonal catalogs. The things on which we sit and sleep – at which we eat and work – have played quiet witness to the smallest and largest moments in our shared history. 

Stone Bench  The ways in which we use furniture have been influenced over time by forces such as local climate and social custom. The organization of space has been a factor in how we live our daily lives and the types of furniture we require. Consider that something as simple as a hallway (or corridor) was not common in western domestic life until relatively recently. It seems odd to us that our ancestors may have resided in chambers joined directly to those of their neighbours rather than enjoying the privacy afforded by a common hallway. For most of us, such an exposition of our most intimate domestic routines would be an uncomfortable predicament. Our notion of a customized room is very different from people who lived in those spaces.

Similarly, the idea of a “fainting room” now sounds absurd to contemporary society. In the 19th century it was custom for a woman to wear a corset, which has led to some speculation that fainting couches were on hand should a lack of circulation or lung capacity cause a woman to feel woozy. Anyone who has read Victorian literature may be familiar with the theme of the hysterical woman who retires to a quiet chamber to restore her delicate constitution.

 Since the more recent century, our habits and our use of space have remained relatively consistent. Gone are the fainting couches, bedroom screens and dumbwaiters. Furniture from the 20th century fits our lives just fine. Now we are able to enjoy modern design with the added polish and sophistication that a little history contributes.

The significance of modern furniture lies not only in how and where it is used, but also in how it is manufactured. Technology has elevated designers toward new possibilities, but traditional hand-craftsmanship is by no means a thing of the past. Most producers are able to combine the hands-on tradition of furniture-making with modern methods and machinery. There is something comforting in noting that the period which gave us the idea of Progress (capital P) still has a role for simple, human artistry.


 How you use your space and what furniture you prefer is up to you, but the next time you need to entertain guests or quietly read a book in your private, hallway-accessed living room or office, do so knowing that there is a entire history of innovation beneath you. Look around your space and think about your daily routine. Does it suit your habits? Does the furniture? Odds are, you don't miss the fainting couch. 

Contemporary reproductions of 20th century pieces offer a superb bridge between quality manufacturing, contemporary lifestyles and individual choice.

Modern furniture and interior design for a living room.
The Modern Living Room

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