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Beauty in Utility: The Magic of Dutch Design

No other design movement encourages you to find beauty in utility quite like Dutch modernism. But if you value the power of simple forms and exceptional quality in design and manufacturing, uncovering the magic of Dutch modernism will come easy.

For us, there’s nothing quite like the world of 20th Century Dutch design. Spanning furniture, architecture, graphic design, fashion, textiles and more, it’s evolved over the years – from the early stages off the back of the De Stijl and International Style movements, to the widespread use of timber and curved forms driven by the likes of Pastoe and Cees Braakman, and finally to the continuous refinement of the unquestionably utilitarian aesthetic that has come to define this era.

By Millie Thwaites

If you value the power of simple forms and exceptional quality in design and manufacturing, uncovering the magic of Dutch modernism will come easy.

It’s this pared back, geometric style that captivates us; Dutch designers’ commitment to honing this aesthetic is clear in the unrivalled and utterly refined look we now associate with their work. This, alongside the prominent use of a monochrome or primary-coloured palette across uncomplicated forms is the seemingly simple yet wonderfully complex recipe of Dutch modernism.

Take Wim Rietveld’s Recent table for example: it features painted folded steel legs and a ciranol (paper and resin) laminate top. The combination of these materials reference the key design principles of Dutch modernism – functional, minimalist and wonderfully reductive in its form. It’s a super cool, pared-back piece for a contemporary home, and paired with the Revolt (or Result), you instantly have an elegant yet robust setting.

Dutch designers’ commitment to honing their aesthetic is clear in the unrivalled and utterly refined look we now associate with their work.
It’s the pared back, geometric style that captivates us; Dutch designers’ commitment to honing this aesthetic is clear in the unrivalled and utterly refined look we now associate with their work.”

The iconic Revolt chair perfectly encapsulates the tenets of Dutch modernism. Designed by Friso Kramer for Ahrend de Cirkel in 1953, it marked the start of a revolution. The original frame was made from pressed and curved sheet steel; the back and seat used new plastic bending technology; and the ‘click system’ used to attached the seat and frame was considered highly innovative. In the 50s, it was used widely in commercial environments, but has since become a covetable Dutch design piece and is often used in residential spaces too.

It can be easily recognised by its sharply angled scissor steel legs and perfectly moulded back. The similar Result chair – designed by Kramer and Wim Rietveld – honed the production process that was pioneered in the Revolt, but with sharper angles and more harmonious arcs.

Rob Parry’s Lotus Armchair for De Ster Gelderland features a geometric timber frame that bends and folds at sharp angles around an upholstered interior.

In recent years Kramer has been credited as the originator of the pared-back, utilitarian approach that came to define Dutch Modernism. However, there’s softness and warmth to be found here too. The perfect example is Rob Parry’s Lotus armchair for De Ster Gelderland, which features a geometric timber frame that bends and folds at sharp angles around an upholstered interior. The angular form creates a nest into which you can settle, and the slender armrests and frame epitomise Dutch design. We currently have one Lotus available – it’s the precursor to the later version with metal frames and is considered highly rare.

The Arielle and Cleopatra daybeds are two pieces that also marry utility with warmth: the Arielle – designed by Rietveld for Auping – is a perennially stylish piece that epitomises Dutch modernism with its architectural black enamelled frame and beautiful metal hairpin legs, while Andre Cordemeyer’s Cleopatra daybed distills the themes of Dutch design into a chic and elegant piece.

Pictured is a daybed by Martin Visser for ‘t Spectrum; it is polished and refined with the perfect amount of vintage flair.

The Dutch approach to design filters into many aspects of life and positively enriches the everyday. It’s a mindset we could all use a touch more of – shop the story here for your own little slice of the beautiful and balanced world of Dutch design and read more on the journal.

The seemingly simple yet wonderfully complex recipe of Dutch modernism revolves around the prominent use of a monochrome or primary-coloured palette across uncomplicated, geometric forms. It's captivating and classic.

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