BLOG →SUPPLIERS GUIDE:  200 YEARS OF FURNITURE

 

200 Years of Furniture

Suppliers Guide

DATE

November 2023

A Journey Through Time

We’re going back to the furniture with a look at some of the most important furniture pieces and styles of the past two centuries, focusing on the evolution of furniture design and examining how certain styles have lent themselves seamlessly to commercial and hospitality environments in the last century. But looking into the past can give us a glimpse into the future of furniture design with its potential implications for hospitality venues. As old motifs find their way into new styles the key beliefs of good design are evolved and reinforced from the traditional to the modern

Before the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th century, furniture was mostly produced by local craftsmen using materials that could be easily sourced or grown. Wood was the obvious choice, but practicality and function tended to be the focus of its design rather than decoration. During the revolution the rise in technology allowed for factories to produce goods on a mass scale for the first time and furniture began to reflect the new styles and advances of the time. New technology meant new design.

Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, mackintosh

1800s - Victorian Elegance

The 19th century marked the peak of the Victorian era, a time when opulence and grandeur were highly prized. In the world of furniture, this period saw the emergence of dark, heavy wood furniture, ornate carvings, and plush upholstery. Iconic pieces like the Victorian wing-back chair and elaborately decorated sideboards became symbols of affluence. These pieces, though incredibly stylish, were often too bulky and ornate for modern commercial or hospitality spaces, making them more suitable for residential use. Although, a key piece of furniture would find its place in hospitality venues and residential properties across Europe. The no 14 bentwood chair designed by Micheal Thonet was lightweight, strong and most importantly cheap to mass produce and sell, becoming a staple for restaurants and cafes that still exists today with over 50 million units sold.

However, some designers leant towards the decorative design elements to create ornate furniture for tea rooms and restaurants across the UK. The Argyle chair was designed by Charles Mackintosh at the end of the 1800s for a famous Glaswegian tea room and featured an unusually high back with sculptural influences from the arts and crafts movement. This chair became an early exploration into the Art Nouveau style that would become popular within the next few years. 

Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, bauhaus
Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, bauhaus

Early 1900s - Art Nouveau and Art Deco and Bauhaus

As we moved into the 20th century, two distinct design movements emerged. Art Nouveau celebrated organic forms and intricate details, while Art Deco embraced streamlined, geometric shapes. Art Nouveau was an evolution of the early arts and crafts movement featuring organic lines, intricate patterns, and an inventive use of materials. With their flowing shapes and floral motifs, it was a direct reaction to the clean lines and bland minimalism of industrial design. While the Art Nouveau style was very common in art and graphics, its physical manifestations in furniture and architecture was very expensive and time consuming to produce making it only viable to the highest end hotels and restaurants. One of the lasting design pieces is the Tiffany lampshade still in production today.

However Art Deco followed a very different ethos, with repeated geometric patterns and triangular shapes to create grand and sometimes futuristic looking items. Strong symmetry and recurring motifs of sunbursts united Art Deco throughout the architecture, graphics and furniture. While originally very expensive the use of veneers and a boom in manufacturing capabilities allowed the style to be adopted by more people, working its way into middle class homes and hospitality venues rather than just the elite.  

Originating from Germany, another style would come to combat the overly decorated aesthetics of Art Nouveau and Deco, minimalism. Refined by the Bauhaus school of art and design, designers would follow the key principle of ‘form follows function’, clean lines, anti-clutter and honesty of materials to produce a unifying aesthetic. Bauhaus architecture became popular for residential buildings while its furniture would enhance the space inside, creating a total design environment but. However, one of the most iconic Bauhaus designed spaces is the Barcelona pavilion, furnished with classic pieces like the Wassily chair and Barcelona couch. While most hospitality venues might not have gone for the ‘total design environment’ of the Bauhaus movement, the furniture was mass produced and popular when furnishing hotels and bars.

Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, art neuveuo
Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, art deco
Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, mid century
Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, mid century, eames
Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, mid century, eames

Mid-1900s - Mid-Century Modern

As we move into the 1930s the design world exploded with new styles and movements from all areas of the globe, modernism became an eclectic mix of different design elements as styles blended together. With core influences from Scandinavian, Minimalist, Farmhouse, Bohemian and Art Deco styles; modernism became a new age of design where designers could cherry pick elements from multiple disciplines and blend them together without needing to adhere to a strict aesthetic.

The mid-20th century saw a shift towards furniture that balanced functionality and aesthetics. The Mid-Century Modern style, the cool little brother of modernism, was characterised by clean lines, minimalist forms, and the use of materials like molded plywood and plastic, becoming a staple in residential, hospitality and commercial settings. Its simplicity and versatility made it an excellent choice for office spaces, restaurants, and hotels, allowing for both comfort and sophistication. The furniture designed at that time has continued to be manufactured and sold because of its adaptability and strength in materials. The plastic shell range of chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames are now design classics that are used in every situation, they were one of the first affordable and mass produced chairs to offer customisation with different colours and bases offered to fit the need and design of its environment.

Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, post modern, panton

Late 1900s - Post-Modern and Contemporary Styles

As the 20th century progressed, Postmodernism emerged, challenging the norms of design with bold experimentation. It was during this period that designers started incorporating theatrical and playful elements into furniture, creating pieces that were considered highly luxurious to highly ludicrous. While these designs often found their way into eclectic, avant-garde restaurants and boutique hotels, they were less commonly used in mainstream commercial spaces as the divisive designs were often labelled as frivolous or style without substance. However Post-Modern design was incredibly self-aware and aimed to subvert the rigid formal structures of modernism. One of the early front runners of Postmodernism, Verner Panton, designed completely immersive interiors that were as trippy as they were colourful. His furniture was designed with both futuristic and organic elements that distinguished the pieces from the norm. His restaurant interiors were a vibrant mash of soft  textures, colourful plastics and shiny metal that demanded the attention of the venue’s patrons. The eclectic style would eventually burn itself out in 1990 as designs turned kitsch rather than socially challenging, but Postmodernism is still a huge influence to artists and designers today who are looking to push past boundaries.

Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, post modern, memphis
Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, post modern, panton

The 21st Century - Eclectic Blend

In the 21st century, a unique blend of styles has come to the forefront of furniture design. Minimalism and sustainability have become key drivers, resulting in pieces that are functional, eco-friendly, and adaptable. Commercial and hospitality venues have embraced this fusion of styles, creating spaces that balance aesthetics, comfort, and sustainability.

Contemporary Style products

Kirkdale studios, furniture history, contract chair, inside out - chair dinning chair, wood, indoor furniture for restaurants, contract furniture, upholstered furniture, upholstered wooden chair, contemporary

The Future of Furniture Design and Hospitality

As we look ahead to the future of furniture design, several exciting trends are emerging, which will undoubtedly impact hospitality venues

Sustainable Materials: Eco-conscious consumers are driving the use of sustainable materials like bamboo, reclaimed wood, and recycled plastics. Hospitality venues are likely to adopt these materials to align with the growing demand for environmentally friendly design.

Modularity: Modular furniture designs allow venues to adapt their layouts quickly and efficiently. This trend is particularly useful for hotels and restaurants that often need to reconfigure their spaces to accommodate different events or guest preferences.

Technology Integration: With the rise of smart technology, furniture is evolving to incorporate charging stations, wireless charging surfaces, and even touch-screen tables. This trend will undoubtedly enhance the guest experience in hospitality venues.

Biophilic Design: Bringing nature indoors through the use of natural materials, greenery, and organic shapes is gaining popularity. Incorporating biophilic design elements can create inviting and relaxing spaces in hotels and restaurants.

Customisation: Custom furniture pieces that reflect a brand’s identity or a venue’s unique character are on the rise. This personalisation allows hospitality venues to create distinctive and memorable experiences for their guests.

 

Our Part of the Journey

In this journey through time, we’ve witnessed the ever-changing landscape of furniture design and its impact on hospitality venues. From the opulence of the Victorian era to the functionality of Mid-Century Modern and the bold experimentation of Postmodernism, each style has left its mark on the world of interior design.

Looking ahead, the future of furniture design holds great promise for hospitality venues. Sustainability, modularity, technology integration, biophilic design, and customization are the key trends that will shape the industry. As these trends continue to evolve, we can expect hospitality spaces to become even more inviting, efficient, and memorable for guests.

At Kirkdale Studios, we remain committed to staying at the forefront of these developments, creating innovative furniture solutions that cater to the changing needs of commercial and hospitality environments. As we move forward, we anticipate a fusion of styles that seamlessly blends form and function, offering both comfort and sustainability. Our aim is to help businesses create unique and inviting spaces that leave a lasting impression on their patrons.

We hope this journey through the history and future of furniture design has inspired you to think creatively about your own spaces, whether you’re a hospitality venue owner or a design enthusiast. The world of interior design is ever-evolving, and the possibilities are limitless. Embrace the trends, but don’t forget to infuse your own personality and brand identity into your spaces, creating a truly memorable experience for your guests.

 

GRAPHIC

Thonet Chair Wassily Chair Eames Chair Panton Chair Masters Chair

VECTOR CREDIT

Thonet Chair by cho-eunhye from Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)
Wassily chair by Nicole Yip from Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)
Eames plastic armchair daw by ochre7 from Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)
Panton designer chair by ochre7 from Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)
Masters chair by marta martin from Noun Project (CC BY 3.0)