Sourcing and Selecting Furniture, Brief History of Furniture, Alison
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Module 1: Sourcing and Selecting Furniture

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Brief History of Furniture

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A brief introduction to furniture
Selecting the right furniture and planning an appropriate layout are fundamental tasks that must be undertaken when designing an interior. You need to make sure that the furniture you choose meets the following requirements:-
That it allows the client to use the space for its designated purpose: Whatever kind of space you are designing, you must always begin by thinking about the ways in which it will actually be used. You can make a room look beautiful, but if it is not fit for purpose, then you will not have succeeded in filling the client’s brief.
That it fits the intended aesthetic and style of the room: Unless a space is designed to look deliberately mismatched or “eclectic”, you need to make sure that the furniture you choose for a space matches. You will need to think about how the colours, lines, weights, style and quality fit together, otherwise the room will not look balanced or well coordinated.
That it is comfortable to use: This may seem a rather obvious point, but it is easy to become distracted by how an object looks and forget to test it for comfort. People have different preferences when it comes to the structure and comfort of their furniture, so you must ascertain a client’s wants and needs early on in the design process. For example, one client may prefer to sit in a straight-backed dining chair, whereas another may prefer to eat their meals perched on a stool. 
That it is of reasonable quality: It is not realistic to expect that every client will have a large budget. In almost every case, you will need to strike a compromise between cost and quality. However, it is best to choose furniture that looks as well constructed and neatly finished as possible. Furniture that is obviously cheap or of low quality brings down the tone of the room. Quality should also be uniform across the space. For example, if the bed in a guest room has a high-end appearance, yet the wardrobe looks ordinary or even slightly shabby, the resulting effect is one of imbalance. As a general rule, allocate the budget so that a similar level of quality can be preserved across all the main pieces of furniture within a space.
That it can be maintained and moved as required: When putting together a list of potential pieces, think about the material from which they are made and how much maintenance they will require. For example, will a particular piece of furniture need to be varnished or polished? Is it easy to clean? Ask your client how much time and effort they are willing to devote to furniture upkeep. You should also ask them whether they will want or need to move the furniture around and choose the right pieces accordingly. For example, if a client asks you to design an office that can be used for a variety of things, including meetings and training days, it would be unwise to choose a heavy table for the centre of the room.
That it literally fits into the room: When drawing up a floor plan, do not forget that every piece of furniture will have to enter the room, either via a window or a door. If an item is flat-packed then it can simply be constructed inside the space, but if it cannot be easily dismantled, you must double-check that it will fit through a door or window frame. You should also remember that those using the room will need to move around the furniture, so be sure to check your initial sketches when thinking about the pathways people will use.
The history of furniture and modern furniture styles
A comprehensive account of how people have used furniture over the centuries is well beyond the scope of this course, but you should set aside some time to learn about the major trends and developments that have occurred over the past couple of centuries. Not only is it interesting to learn about the ways in which people have constructed and used furniture over time, but the history of furniture can also help you find inspiration for your design projects. Below is a list of the most common design styles in use today. Some of them have roots in historical trends, whereas others are based on ideas that have come to prominence only in the latter half of the 20th century[1]:-
Traditional: Traditional styles make use of materials, colour schemes and patterns that first came to the fore several centuries ago in Europe. For example, a traditionally-styled bedroom may feature a heavy wooden bed, a matching wardrobe and a varnished floor. The colour palette is often rich or even opulent and there is room to emphasise classic textiles such as velvet and silk. Traditional rooms are popular with clients who want a look that is unlikely to ever go out of style.
French country: This is similar to the traditional style outlined above, in the sense that it has been around for many years, but it has a warmer tone. Wood features heavily and furniture is often embellished with intricate patterns. Natural materials are also a key design element. Chairs and tables are likely to be fairly ornate, yet comfortable. Yellow, red, brown and gold are essential elements of a French country colour palette.
Shabby chic: This is a “vintage” style that makes use of a pale, pastel colour palette, combined with vintage or retro furniture. It creates a feminine atmosphere and is especially effective in bedrooms and sitting rooms. Paint and glazes are often used to give furniture a distressed finish and fixtures such as ornate brass handles add a small touch of sophistication.
Mid-century modern: This approach is based on the key trends of the 1950s and 1960s. It is clean, somewhat minimalist and emphasises organic and “round” designs, such as egg-shaped tables and chairs. Fabric tends to be plain in a mid-century modern space and furniture is kept simple.
Modern: This aesthetic was established in the latter half of the 20th century. It is not to be confused with “contemporary”, which refers to whatever happens to be in fashion at any given moment in time. Modern interiors are comprised of sleek furnishings, clean lines and a colour palette based around neutral hues. Everything serves a purpose and the furniture, which may be made of metallic elements, can appear notably utilitarian.
Industrial: If you have visited a home or retail store that appears “intentionally unfinished”, you have seen an industrial-style interior. These spaces are intentionally designed to resemble a stripped-back warehouse or factory. Elements such as timber or brickwork are often left unfinished, which gives the space a slightly “edgy” feel. Furniture is kept to a minimum and is usually selected on the basis that it has few lines and is rendered in simple block colours. Accessories are generally absent, although they may occasionally be used to add some texture or colour.
Scandinavian: Also known as “Scandi style”, this approach is synonymous with traditionally Nordic values that espouse the virtues of living a simple life. Scandi décor is understated, but it is not minimalist. There is an emphasis on space, white walls and ceilings and subtle use of colour in the form of artwork and fabrics. Furniture is sometimes made from moulded plastic and textiles are often made from natural fibres. This style is warm and welcoming, but never cluttered.
 
Fact: The “Billy” bookcase, devised by Nordic designer Gillis Lundgren in 1978, is arguably IKEA’s most famous product. It has sold over 60 million units worldwide.
Source: BBC News
Glamour: Also known as “Hollywood Regency”, this style is based on classic Hollywood aesthetics from the 1920s and 1930s. It is well suited to clients who want to express their more flamboyant side. The prevailing theme is luxury, which is often combined with a Victorian-style twist. The furnishings in a Hollywood-style space are plush, with details such as fringes and tufting adding interest. The colour scheme is suitably rich, often featuring deep jewel-like colours.
Rustic: This approach is based around natural materials. Stone and wood are often integrated within the design, which gives a warm and homely feel to a space. For example, a sitting room designed around a rustic theme may contain wooden chairs and a fireplace with a natural stone finish.
Transitional: Many interiors contain a mixture of modern and traditional styles, with a couple of contemporary touches thrown in. A skilled designer who understands how to choose colour, light and furniture can bring together even seemingly disparate objects and elements into one coherent space.
[1] Rochele Decorating. 14 Most Popular Interior Design Styles Explained. rocheledecorating.com.au

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