June 18, 2024

Best Furniture Design History Lessons Learned in 2023

This year we’ve seen plenty of new, standout furniture designs (and occasionally some strange ones) pushing the industry forward. But we also find it edifying to look at how furniture problems were solved in the past. Here are the best vintage and antique furniture designs we covered in 2023.

We looked at some ergonomic considerations in early desk designs from 800 years ago.

Early American furniture: Here’s a primitive design for a cooling chair, circa 1786.

German industrial designers Kyra Heilig and Lenn Gerlach recovered this 19th-century DIY height-adjustable stool from a farm in Germany’s Black Forest.

Designed around 1820, this library table transforms into a ladder for reaching tall shelves.

This line of 19th-century campaign furniture, by Ross and Co. of Dublin, is flatpack furniture that doesn’t look flatpack.

In the late 1800s, massive unfolding desks with tons of cubbyholes became trendy.

Pre-Eameses bentwood furniture: Pioneering British designer Gerald Summers created this one-piece plywood chair in 1934.

Steelcase has re-released the Racine Collection, a line of office furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939.

Italian architect Franco Albini designed and built this Veliero bookcase, for himself, in 1940. Here in the 21st century, Cassina reverse-engineered it and put it into production.

Hans J. Wegner’s Wishbone Chair was designed in 1949, and has remained in production. This year Carl Hansen & Son released a special version to celebrate Wagner’s birthday.

Charlie Brown lived in a world of Mid-Century Modern furniture, back when you could buy it for “peanuts.”

A 20th century furniture design feature: leather surfaces that you can re-tighten as they stretch over time.

These pieces of permanent outdoor concrete furniture—still there today–are by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm, circa 1950s.

Carl Hansen & Son also released a 60th anniversary edition of Wegner’s CH07 Shell Chair, designed in 1963.

An underappreciated design classic: This JG Folding Stool, designed in 1970 by Danish furniture designer Jørgen Gammelgaard. It’s still in production.

Danish furniture designer Dan Svarth designed this Wire Chair in 1972–but it took material science 50 years to catch up. Today it’s in production.

These Roller Cabinets, by Danish industrial designer and architect Knud Holscher in the 1970s, were designed as office storage furniture. Today they’ve been re-marketed for domestic use.

Luigi Colani’s Rappelkiste, designed in 1975, is a combination bed/workstation/closet for children.

Designed in 1977 by the Swiss design duo of Ueli Berger and Susi Berger-Wyss, this Fan Man shelving unit was a repudiation of modernism. It’s still manufactured today.

From the 1980s/’90s: Swiss architect Mario Botta’s Robot chest of drawers is storage piece with a couple of surprises.

Next year we’re looking forward…to continue looking backward.