An emerging Renaissance had begun in Europe by the early fifteenth century. The rebirth is often cited to have originated in Florence, marking Filippo Brunelleschi’s (1377-1446) completion of the dome for the cathedral in 1420 (Figure 10.20). Science, engineering, mathematics, human anatomy, perspective drawing, and new materials fueled a rebirth in the arts, furniture design, and architecture. The artist began to be admired as an inspired creator, which serves to mark the birth of the designer as understood today.
Craft guilds dominated the workshops during the Renaissance. Instead of igniting scientific and artistic revolution, they restricted exploration and experimentation in design. A joiner was not allowed to inlay. Engravers were not allowed to do carpentry... >
The Romanesque period is marked by the spread of Christianity as a unifying culture throughout Europe, grafting pagan art from the north onto the more classical styles of the south. During this period, the Roman Catholic Church grew in power and influence despite the relocation of the papacy to Avignon, France, during the 1300s. Much that survives today from the Romanesque period is ecclesiastical, but there were relatively few differences between ecclesiastical and secular pieces other than the level of ornamentation. Many of the furnishings from this period were designed for the ruling class and the wealthy; most people still sat on rugs, platforms, simple stools, and the ground.
During the medieval period, regions utilized available natural resources and relied less on trade... >
The roots of Islamic furniture can be traced to pre-Islamic and Persian societies, which had functional, simple furniture that later developed into more artistic and complex designs before 610 CE. In Islamic society, much of one’s life was spent on the floor; therefore, the rug was considered one of the greatest possessions in a household and was used as furniture (Figure 10.17). People often slept on mattresses on the floor that were folded and stored in cupboards during the day.
The use of ornamentation was prevalent in pre-Islamic design and appeared in woven textiles as well as in carved and inlaid chests. The four basic types of ornament are calligraphy, vegetal patterns, geometric patterns, and abstract figural representation... >
Throughout medieval Europe and Asia, regional development thrived as clustered areas banded together politically and culturally. In 330 CE, the Roman Emperor Constantine placed the new seat of the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople. With the new governing center, a developing Christian culture emerged throughout eastern Europe and Asia
Minor. Christian culture flourished, leading to the building of new churches and cathedrals and monastic interiors throughout Byzantium (Figure 10.16).
The stone that was used in the architecture around the area of Constantinople was superbly carved and revealed the desire to build permanent buildings. Ivory was commonly used in furniture, usually in the form of thick veneers... >
The Roman Republic (Figure 10.14) was marked by expansion based on military strength and economic trade. Greece came under centralized Roman rule in 146 BCE and began to influence Roman culture, including its architectural style and design vocabulary. Roman furniture was more elaborate than earlier Greek models. With the rise of the merchant class, the military class, and Roman citizenship, furniture began to function as a status marker, as described in Petronius’s Satyricon, a Latin work of fiction, written in prose and poetry.
Figure 10.15 Roman study with furniture. Image credit: Thomas Hope, Hope’s Greek and Roman Designs (Dover, 2005).
The furnishings of the Roman house were as elegant as the house itself... >
From 600-404 BCE, the city-states of ancient Greece fostered an overall spirit of inquiry and sought scientific and philosophical solutions to problems of daily life. Much of our understanding of ancient Greek furniture is based on the few surviving pieces on display in museums, as well as the representation of furniture on painted vases and incorporated in sculptural relief. These artifacts provide knowledge regarding the fabrication and use of six types of Greek furniture:
■ Diphros (footstool)
■ Kline (reclining couch)
■ Klismos chair
■ Trapezai (tables)
■ Thronelike chair
Figure 10.10 Decorated plate showing Greek reclining furniture.
Greek furniture was used in a combination of practical and ceremonial functions tied to its developing democratic society,... >
Early Dynastic Period (3100-2575 BCE)
Egypt evolved from an unsettled society into a politically secure, economically strong, technologically advanced, and culturally unified civilization along the Nile River. Egypt was, and
remains today, a land of few trees, but examples of wooden furniture have been preserved because they were buried in the tombs of kings and queens. Clearly, central trading among societies from different regions occurred in Egypt. Wood was imported and furniture was exported to neighboring countries. Craftsmen learned how to make and decorate a variety of freestanding furniture pieces (Figure 10.3). The furniture known to us from the Early Dynastic Period was well crafted, ornate, and fabricated using several materials... >
Ancient Nomadic Societies
Before there were settled civilizations, there were nomadic societies. Before there were temples and houses, there were people living in tents, earth-mound structures, and caves. People traveled about freely as weather and terrain permitted.
Nomadic societies existed around the world and likely made a series of artifacts designed to make life better—physically, functionally, and spiritually. But what were their furnishings like? How did furniture help members of ancient nomadic societies in daily life?
Nomads can be categorized into three groups:
1. Hunting and gathering nomads (e. g., the African Pygmies, Cheyenne and Navajo Indians, Australian Aborigines, and indigenous people of Southeast Asia would have followed this way of life)... >
History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created.1
how Societies have Thought about designing, Making, and using furniture
The history of furniture design emerges from the history of kings and queens, established and emerging societies, furniture makers, furniture designers, architects, interior designers, industrial designers, artists, historians, entrepreneurs, and consumers. Throughout history, furniture has helped people sit, rest, work, play, organize their possessions, and partition space. Furniture includes all the conceivable variations of freestanding objects made to meet these functional needs as civilizations have developed.
Furniture design reveals the thinking about and the making of use... >
Design at Herman Miller is a way of looking at the world and how it works—or doesn’t. It is a method for getting something done, for solving a problem. . .
—From Herman Miller’s corporate values statement, "Things that Matter"
Industry giants such as Bernhardt Company, Baker Furniture, the Bittner’s Group, Thom Moser, Verbargs, and Arhaus (Cleveland, Ohio) are examples of traditional and contemporary production companies that attempt to extend their market share by competing directly in the retail market and the public domain. They work to brand their merchandise, reaching customers directly through journals and magazine advertising and investing in retail-based showrooms... >