Residential 1.2 Worlds Fair 1937, Paris Through the

Residential and
Office based furniture


The 20th
Century, furniture design has been completely ranged in form and function which
has produced icons which we use today. I personally believe this started from
the World Fair in Paris 1937, which was post World War I, and before the
beginning of World War II. The World’s Trade Fair in Paris 1937 showcased the
new styles of design through different countries and their visions. From that
point onwards, the evolution of residential and office based furniture changed
to what it is today. From iconic furniture which Ray and Charles Eames
designing, to French decorative furniture from Jules Leleu; this all helped
contribute to what we see today.

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However all
design has to be meaningful, and all types of furniture all have different
driving factors to create the piece in the first place, such as being
resourceful of materials or to look into the overall ergonomics of a chair to
help human productive. I wanted to explore these factors because looking back
through different moments of time; each designer would have had unique motives,
and the drive to create furniture for a certain reason. This factors might not
be related to the designer motives either, these could be factors in trends,
and other qualities that are happening within homes and office situations such
as a flexible working space which is accommodating different activities for a
variety of different professionals.


After discussing
a few of the driving forces are affecting how furniture has been designed and
is being influenced by, passing my own judgement; I’d like to also discuss the
matter of what is going to be the next evolution of residential and office
furniture. Could there be the integration of electronics so that life around a
residential furniture, so that the house could be controlled from one central
position? Offices are completely changing in the styles of work, and how
offices have been layed out, so it would be interesting if any future factors
could influence a new stage of furniture.
















Worlds Fair 1937, Paris


Through the
evolution of design, the World’s Trade Fair in Paris 1937 marked a huge starting
point for the design movement of office and residential furniture. ‘1937
world’s fair in Paris, marked an evolution of styles and tastes’ 1
said Anne Bony, because the designers had brought a new movement of
neoclassical furniture to a bright future of design. For the French stand, Art
and Industry had two separate stands, and had a partially favoured theme for
beautiful furniture at this time, however
“there were never any systematic attempt to
integrate the two”2.  Furniture from this point onwards evolved
through form and function through of the designer’s perspective. This also
changed as time went on due to the other driving factors, which influence the
function of furniture for different uses. The Worlds Fair in Paris marked such
as influential part of residential and office based furniture; as it offered
different cultures perspectives of design. From that point onwards, design for
furniture progressed into the future, as we know it through the means of form,
function and manufacturing process.


The evolution of Furniture In France through the 1940’s


As the World’s Fair was hosted in France,
designers took it amongst themselves to excel boundaries in form and
manufacturing processes, creating iconic and stunning pieces of art. The quality of materials is a key insight into
the luxurious furniture of French design, and another designers to take advantage
of this were Andre Arbus. Of French decent, Arbus was well known for this beautiful
office based furniture which he showcased in his own home as well as many other
exhibitions (see figure 1.2). Hardwoods are known for their quality in grain
and appearance and materials such as Sycamore and mahogany with were used in
often as desks with matching chairs to be shown as a statement of class. With
furniture of this standard had qualities such as being extremely robust,
difficult to move and natural because they kept the organic colours from the
material therefor being seen more as art then the overall function of being a


One designer Jacques
Adnet, Born 1900 was self-proclaimed ‘Innovation and classic: the champion of a tradition looking into the future’
3. Adnet designed furniture with beautiful styling as one of his
main objectives; one example of this is his use of marquetry. Marquetry the use of ‘elaborate patterns, formed by material such
as wood, shell, or ivory,’ 4 allowing Adnet to inspire artists
to motivate themselves by using them to ”use
their skills to enhance plain oak furniture”5. By using a
‘canvas’ in the means of furniture, it then transforms these pieces of
residential furniture into luxury items due to the talent and skill in the
designers, not because of the limit in material selection.


Another influences designer
of this period was a man called Jules Leleu, who brought a new classicism style
of furniture to the French population. Once again post war, 1948 Leleu stated “A piece of furniture is to be
appropriate to its function… but I do not believe this to be
incompatible with other elements of beauty”6. Keeping
both form and function in mind, he created a piece in style with the art deco
period called the “Meuble
feu d’Artifices” Exceptional
Fireworks Cabinet (See Figure 1.3).


  The fine
details are also from the technique of marquetry, and are made from materials such as gilt bronse, mahogany
and pearl inlays; which show off the high quality of craftsmanship that went
into designing for the market at this time. 


However in 1947, the unveiling
of ‘La Residene Francaise’ the
French home, saw the downfall to this use of exotic material choice, and push
design into a new style. The designers of the show want to show a fresh release
of furniture; however it got ‘critized
for having exclusive luxury furniture an insult to the war victims’ 7.

Therefor a year later, a more affordable solution came which looking into
comfort for homes, which had a lack of space. This further used more commonly
found materials such as iron rather than hardwoods, which had a paint-coated
layer, allowing the piece to still have a simple yet aesthetic quality to it.



The evolution of Furniture through Herman Millar’s Perspective


The Zeeland, Michigan
based Furniture Company, Herman Miller was originally started but in 1923 by
the man D.J.De Pree; who further named the company after the father-in-law8.

The roots of Herman Millar started with the production of residential
furniture, which was just identical to the competition at the time with high
detailed, wooden furniture of an extreme high class. (See Figure 2). There
needed to be something new, a new earor of furniture for the company, and that
originally came from the introduction of Gilbert Rohde. By trade he was a more
of a illustrator, advertiser, however he stated he was a ‘student of living… I
know how people are going to live”9 which led to the Herman Millar
new ethos of having this minimise, simplistic new look to the company.  This new beginning however would come from a
man called George Nelson after being appointed the designers roles after
Rodhe’s death in 1944. However Nelson insisted to keep future intentions of
Gilbert Rohde’s at the forefront resulting in elegant, iconic office and
residential based furniture.


In 1948, Herman
Millar opened a new department in manufacturing corporations, with the
reasoning that ”If designer and management like a solution to a particular
furniture problem, it is put into production” 10. Nelson and Millar needed each other
because they had different outlooks on design such as Nelson with the bold
ideas and forms, but the same intention of Millar of designing modern
furniture, achieving the same goal.  From
this exclusive coffee tables had been designed using glass and new forms from designers
such as Isamu Noguchi (see figure1.4) creating bold, yet delicate piece of
residential work. Where as Nelson was also moving office-based furniture into a
new vision, and having a simplistic overall chair which used an aluminium base
than mainly incorporated human ergonomics into is solution. This marks a
important statement in my opinion, because with this new ethos of ‘your not
creating furniture anymore, your creating a way of life’ 11 which
Rhodhe preached himself. Compared to other designers previously mentioned such
as Adnet and Leleu, this furniture has first achieved the function as its main
priority rather than the form – which I subsequently believe it has achieved as


Whilst Herman
Millar had been success in producing a positive reimage for the company, Nelson
had discovered Ray and Charles Eames. Nelson himself after seeing the Eames’s
product range, told the president C.J. De Pree that “These are three to five
year ahead of our own”12. They were ahead of their time with new
moulded plywood furniture that was showcased at the MoMA in 1946, offering
curvature and forms that had really never been seen before. Their style was so
unique and iconic even to this day, that Eames distinction in the language of
their furniture ‘has threatened to obscure his queal distinction in other
forms’13. By pushing the manufacturing process from handcrafted
and into the mass market, this allowed Herman Miller to stand out from other
competitors and really show the advancements of furniture at this time.(See
Figure 12).

The Eames Shell
Chair was a piece of design, which was revolutionary for the time. It allowed
functionality for several uses such as schools and offices allowing furniture
to be easily stored and packed away; as well as the shape being aesthetically
pleasing for residential uses allowing several variations to be developed such
as wire structured frames, to fibre glassed plastic bodies which offered
loose-cushioned upholstery for comfort. This in my opinion gave Herman Miller their
position within furniture design, and bringing a new lifestyle of furniture,
which is now being used as influence today.


Herman Miller’s
influence to the change the office lifestyle came through the development of
The Action Office. George Nelson and the help of Robert Propst developed the
office dynamics to standards that new designers are looking to achieve. Through
Rohde’s strengths in the company, the Action Office offered furniture which was
neutral to its environment, open-frame glazed panels and the used of acoustic
boards. This was an aim to provide an office that could change into a variety
of configurations to allow open plan work, to private booths and area to help
concentrated work. Finally, this modular principle allowed employees to feel
comfortable at work, allowing different scenarios such as the Action Office
“Perch” (see figure 12). This piece of transforming furniture extending working
positions to sitting, perching, or using your work space as a stand up desk –
Which is commonly seen in furniture design today.








The New Evolution of Furniture today


each of the stages I have previously mentioned, furniture design has still kept
its function and form close at heart, whilst creating its own movement in style
and reasoning behind each piece. Firstly, one trend that has been extremely
successful in style and function is the balance of fusion. Furniture from
Muller Van Severen has been a iconic part of this movement such as the joint
project, where they have developed range of systems which combine different
functions within one piece of furniture. Taken
inspiration from the Bauhaus, the piece (See Figure 1.6) allows a wide variety
of activities to happen on the linear chair/chaise-lounger. I find this new
period of furniture extremely interesting because this crosses the boundary of
Office and Residential furniture, creating a simplistic yet multifunctional
furniture which breaches both markets. Further taking inspiration of Bauhaus,
furniture such as the joint project and several others are now looking into
clean, metal frame-structures keeping the overall form in the modernism period,
‘This piece of furniture battles with minimalism, and uses it at the same
time’14 –Muller Van Severen.


modularity has become a recent trend to the world of office and residential
furniture if this consists of chairs, loungers or even shelving units. Jakob
Jorgensen, Danish furniture designer has allowed his work to follow take the
theme of ‘joining things… it is more than likely that a new and original design
will emerge’ 15. Having this theme to his work of shelving allows what were
simplistic shapes, to transforms them giving a shelving unit a new purpose, and
rebranding the norm into a more multifunctional piece.


Dutch design
company Prooff, have been producing modular furniture for offices such as the
Worksofa, which has been created to fit different socializing environments. The
premise behind the worksofa is that ”seating differently can stimulate genuine
dialogue”, which leads me on to the first change of workspaces. Isolation of
workers has once been thought to allow workers to concentrate, and have their
own personal space, however Scott
Birnbaum, a vice president of Samsung Semiconductor has commented “The most
creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in front of your monitor”16.

So the idea of interacting with one another in a workspace either to talk about
work, or on a break, could actually be more beneficial to brainstorm, allowing
the WorkSofa to be more productive than a regular work desk.


Finally in the residential
environment, the qualities of style and comfort are at the pinnacle of
interest. As living spaces
have become much large, we typically find lounges, armchairs, and
chaise-loungers in living rooms, whilst having single chairs and dinning tables
for area which are more practical such as the dinning room. Having a combination of the classic functions that
allow people to recline, whist having a new contemporise design to fit in personal
environments has lead to many different styles of furniture. This then results in tendencies such as finding
”Straight lines over the curved, by it
spaciousness and search for optimal comfort”17. Walter Knoll is
a German-based furniture company, which keep to straight lines, having a very
minimalist approach such as the El Foster 505 (See Figure 1.5). The quality
that they strive for is based on the material selection, and craftsmanship,
which offers the sofa quality with an overall clean finish which is highly
desirable it residential homes of today.