One of the first things you notice when you see these pieces together is a more industrial take on modernism that’s very different from the hand-crafted Scandinavian style of the same era. The rigorous use of straight, horizontal and vertical lines, geometry and primary colours served as a foundation for many mid-century Dutch designers.
When thinking of Dutch mid-century furniture, one might be inclined to imagine a variation on Danish mid-century furniture where the focus was on beautiful natural materials and hand finishing. In fact, Dutch design of this same period is quite the opposite! Whilst it is wholly informed by the same modernist principals that guided the Danes (read an earlier blog post about this!), the Dutch interpretation was led by the burgeoning manufacturing technologies emerging in Holland at this time.
Here’s a rundown on four influential Dutch designers that have helped shape the landscape of mid-century design today.
Friso Kramer created some of Holland’s most iconic modernist designs. In 1953 he produced a chair, called “Revolt” which was shown at the 1954 Milan Triennial and in the same year he designed the “Reply” drafting table designed with Wim Rietveld for Ahrend de Cirkel. The work surface pivots at two points and can be configured into a office desk, standing desk or anything in between. Inspired by Jean Prouvé, the design won a “Signe d’Or” award for the design in Brussels.
“You may design a beautiful chair, but put six around a table and something starts to happen. You say, ‘It’s too much this or that’. So you have to remove the irritation you will develop over time.” – Friso Kramer.
Another Dutch designer of the period that is highly valued for their contribution to Dutch Modernism is Cees Braakman. At the age of 17 (what a young-gun!), he began working at Pastoe, a Utrecht-based furniture manufacturer, where he learned the trade. Check out this three-legged desk he designed whilst at Pastoe!
During the 1950s and ’60s, Braakman placed particular emphasis on modular storage solutions. In 1955, Pastoe launched Braakman’s Made-to-Measure cabinets, which allowed customers to choose from a variety of woods and configurations and self-assemble them. This was all in keeping with the Dutch idea of creating accessible design that was functional and affordable.
The youngest son of architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld (who designed the seminal Red/Blue Chair in 1917), Wim Rietveld (1924-1985) is considered to be another pioneer of Dutch Industrial design.
“The product needs an overall improvement. That means considering form, function, colour and price.” -Wim Rietveld.
Wim Rietveld took over as designer for company Gispen in 1949 and mainly designed office furniture and lighting. He introduced ‘furniture for simple interiors’ in line with the thoughts of “Goed Wonen” (Good Living), a foundation set up to promote well-designed domestic goods.
You might have spotted Rob Parry’s ‘Easy Chairs’ in our most recent campaign, see the pic at the top of this post or the full campaign here! These chair designs are just one project in an extensive body of work comprising furniture, typography, interiors, exhibitions and architecture, all in a contemporary style, appropriate to a prosperous welfare society in the making. Parry really proved he was a high achiever in all aspects of design.