Partitioning space is another determinant of function. Space can be subdivided or unified through the location and use of built-in furnishings, privacy screens, and shelving systems. Consider how built-in and partitioned pews have influenced the perception of interior space in many older churches and cathedrals across Europe (Figure 2.25). At the other end of the spectrum, consider the many office environments, hotel lobbies, museum exhibits, libraries, and restaurant spaces in which freestanding furniture functions to partition and define zones of activity, independent of the interior or architectural frame. Office storage systems can provide flexible arrangements, dividing and subdividing large spaces into more manage­able spaces or more private spaces (Figure 2.26). Residential fire screens help control the heat from an open fire and in so doing provide a greater utility for those near a fireplace.



Figure 2.25 Enclosing and shaping space with built-in pews. Photography by Jim Postell, 2006.



Figure 2.26 Partitioning space using office furniture. Photography courtesy of Steelcase, Inc.


Classifications based on social use

Furnishings facilitate social use and the functional needs required in many different environ­ments. Social-use classifications include:

Health-care furniture:

Nurse stations Hospital beds

Examination chairs and tables Wheelchairs Hospitality furniture:

Restaurant dining (tables and chairs) Serving stations Lobby and vestibule seating Institutional and educational furniture: Chairs and tables Desks

Podium/lectern Multifunctional furniture:

Sit-work Sit-sleep Store-display Office furniture:

Ergonomic task chairs Workstations Filing cabinets Shelving systems Recreational furniture:

Camping Gaming furniture Leisure

Adirondack chair Porch rocker Porch swing Playground equipment Poolside

Sports-watching Religious (Liturgical) furniture:

Catholic Altar Ambo Ambry Cantor stand Credence table Gift table Lectern

Presider’s chair Processional cross Tabernacle



Lectern Ritual table

Torah table


Minbar Prayer rug

■ Residential furniture:


Blanket chest Bunk bed Canopy bed

Chest of drawers



Four-poster bed Futon Highboy Lowboy Side table

Trundle bed

Dining room

Breakfront Buffet Dining chair Dining table Drop-leaf table

Gateleg table

High chair Hutch

Pedestal table

Living room

Coffee table

Love seat

Multimedia display and storage

Nested tables Reclining chair Settee

Shelving Side table Sofa

Tea table Nursery

Changing table Crib

■ Retail furniture:


Product display Shelving/product storage

■ Storage furniture:


Retail stores, online web sites, catalogs, and custom fabrication companies market spe­cialized furniture using social-use headings to reach targeted audiences who might be looking for specific use or specific type furniture categories.

Social-use needs change over time. Retailers try to keep current with social-use trends and respond by offering new products to satisfy the changing demand. Consumers want safe furnishings for newborn babies, nontoxic products, and finishes that emit few volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Multimedia furnishings are designed to be much slimmer today, catering to a shift in the market toward thinner, smarter TVs. Many outdoor residen­tial furnishings are lightweight, comfortable, and designed to resist fading or damage caused by the sun. Home goods is a phrase used by many retailers to describe lifestyle (residential) design. Arhaus, IKEA (Figure 2.27), Macy’s, Target, and Williams-Sonoma are retail corpora­tions that offer lifestyle furnishings and target middle – to upper-middle-class consumers.

Updated: September 24, 2015 — 3:53 pm