IN a time of transitional development like the present, when period and modern furniture are intermingled in many homes and in most salesrooms, it seems opportune to examine the bases of contemporary furniture design. At such a time, it is especially appropriate to restate art principles, to point to their present applications, and to set forth the qualities of new materials coming into use in the construction of furniture. While many persons know some of the distinguishing characteristics of modern furniture, very few have an adequate appreciation of its significance; they have very little conception of the art movement that brought it forth.
With this viewpoint as a compelling motive in this book, an effort has been made to give lucid definitions of some of the new art terms. Widely divergent opinions exist as to exact meanings of some of these, but the author has attempted to bring together the most generally accepted definitions from both Europe and America. In some instances, it has been found necessary to set up new art definitions applicable to furniture design; but as nearly as possible these are in accord with modern practice.
Thus it is to be hoped that this pioneer book will so clarify modern designing as to make it a serviceable and enjoyable medium, both for the beginner and for the advanced craftsman and designer. While styles will change, the principles herein advocated are regarded as basically sound and so synchronized with modern architecture as to be thoroughly integrated with it, bringing furniture and architecture into harmonious relationship.
Functionalism, that activating agent of modernism, runs like a keynote throughout the book, and is detailed in Chapter One. Isometric rendering, modified to suit design re-
quirements, is adopted as the vehicle for creative expression. It will be found amplified in Chapter Two.
Modern furniture design is considered as passing through three stages of development: (1) volumetric planning, (2) space-and-mass planning, and (3) the form stage. All points connected with the first stage are in Chapter Three; space-and-mass planning, the second stage, in Chapter Four; while the third, or form stage, is developed in Chapter Seven. The older and well-known art principles, such as balance, proportion, and rhythm, are introduced when they are needed for some specific purpose, and hence they occur in Chapters Three, Five, and Eleven. The theory of empathy is adopted in modified form and applied to clarify definitions of balance, rhythm, and thrusts.
Enrichment is introduced in the form stage and is of two types: plastic and surface. Enrichment brings with it knowledge of various types of plasticity and plastics, Chapter Six; while surface enrichment considers textures, veneers, and color, Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten. Glass, metal, and bent wood and their design processes are detailed at appropriate points, together with some construction suggestions, although it is not the author's intention to write a construction handbook.
As the book progressed, the author considered it necessary to draw from the field of psychology a résumé of human desires and their relation to furniture design, curiously enough justifying many modern patterns through that source. These principles, finally applied to room planning and unit design, are found in Chapter Eleven.
In Chapter Twelve is developed what is believed to be a new approach to creative furniture design, based on func-tionalism, human needs, and beauty. At that point, the beginner, led through the technique of designing, is ready for the thrills of creative experience and its ultimate expression in creative construction.
If the industrial or manual-arts teacher is to keep abreast of the times, it becomes essential to advance his design knowledge. Likewise, the furniture salesman and interior designer must be familiar with the new terminology and its applications. Again, the new leisure brings with it the amateur craftsman who will naturally turn to the new forms and processes for his avocational development. To these, it is the author's hope to lead to new knowledge, to greater efficiency, to new vistas in creative art.
In order to keep the cost of the book as low as possible, and at the same time produce adequate illustrations, it was decided to omit expensive half-tone plates of photographs, and to use the line-cut process throughout. Simple and efficient beauty has been the objective in all illustrations within the delineating scope of the line-cut process, which in itself is expressive of the developments of this, the machine age.
Acknowledgment is extended to Gordon Hampel, a senior in the University of Wisconsin, for his faithful help in lettering and outlining jjiany illustrations in the publication. The trade publication, Creative Design, has been a valuable source of contemporary information. Additional acknowledgment is extended to the Wisconsin Chair Company, Port Washington, and to their designer, R. G. Rideout, for permission to use motives shown in Figures 96 and 97; to Gilbert Rohde, designer of modern interiors, New York City, for privileges in relation to the bentwood chair designs on Plate 16; the Hekman Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, for Figure 98; the Johnson Handley Johnson Company also of Grand Rapids, for Figure 19; Popular Mechanics Magazine for courtesies extended in connection with illustrations of bending processes and the console table on Plate 15. Donald Deskey has contributed to our knowledge of glass design and construction.
From my files were selected several sketches without designation as to the designers. Modified to fit the text, some of these sketches have been used as illustrations; and it is the author's desire to extend due acknowledgment to these unidentified designers for their contributions in the field of creative design.
William H. Varnum
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