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Modern Times Is Going Dutch

This month Modern Times presents a focus on Dutch mid-century furniture. Inspired by our European counterparts, we will be presenting a collection of furniture in a format which treads the line between retail display and exhibition. Our Dutch Design Focus will launch this Thursday May 1.

Dutch mid-century furniture is not as well known in Australia as Danish furniture of the same period but we have observed a growing interest in this period of design in Europe and are proud to be the first Australian dealer to present an extensive range of pieces.

Read on to learn more about this period in European design…

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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 resulted in a style far more austere and industrial.

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Two examples of chairs which both satisfy the criteria of modernist design – ornament is stripped back, form is dictated by function, the materials are honest and the lines are neat and clean. However the left is Danish designer Borge Mogensen’s Spanish Chair (1959) which emphasises natural materials and hand craftsmanship and on the right is Dutch designer Wim Rietveld’s Model 415/1401 Armchair (1954) which uses industrial processes and materials such as tubular steel and bakelite.

Dutch mid-century furniture design emerged out of the Dutch De Stijl movement (1917-1931) which dictated using only primary colours and non-colours, squares and rectangles, straight and horizontal or vertical lines.

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Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, Piet Mondrian, 1930 | Red Blue Chair, Gerrit Rietveld, 1917. The artist Piet Mondrian and architect Gerrit Rietveld produced archetypical works of the De Stijl movement.

Whilst creativity with a more artistic and decorative focus had prevailed previously, the post-war period in Holland saw designers drive a huge push to develop industrial design in the country.

In the early 1950s members of the ‘Goed Wonen’ (Good Living) foundation became an influential force with their aim to reinstate the prewar quality of life and create a new authentic style and a new identity for the country. A leading member of this group in the 1950s was Friso Kramer and at the Milan Triennale in 1954 one of the most famous and collectable Dutch furniture designs came to prominence – Friso Kramer’s Revolt Chair.

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Left: Friso Kramer’s ‘Revoltstoel’ saw the first use of U-shaped steel tubes which was cheaper than tubular steel and could be used in more creative ways. This material became a favourite of the Dutch mid-century furniture designers.
Right: This chair manufactured by Marko is clearly influenced by Friso Kramers Revolt Chair. This chairs and a number of other interpretations by other Dutch designers and manufacturers will be part of our Dutch Design Focus.

The focus at the time was very much on ‘industrial design’ with designers working closely with manufacturers. Knowing they were experienced with industrial materials, the designers favoured bent and tubular metal, painted steel, compressed plywood and modern plastics.


Left: Globe D-2000 Floor lamp designed by Frank Ligtelijn (1960), manufactured by Raak, Amsterdam. Right: Very rare wall mountable coat rack designed by Cohen De Vries (1958), manufactured by Devo. Two fabulous pieces which will be presented as part of our Dutch Design Focus, both representative of the Dutch mid-century style.

Other designers of the period that are highly revered for their contribution to Dutch Modernism are Cees Braakman, Kho Liang le, Andre Cordemeijer and Wim Rietveld – son of pioneering modernist Gerrit Rietveld.

Well known manufacturers of the period are De Cirkel, Pastoe, Marko, Spectrum, Gispen, Auping and Tomado.  Examples from all these manufacturers and designers will be on display and available for purchase during our Focus On Dutch Design.


Cleopatra Daybed designed by Dick Cordemeijer (1953), manufactured by Auping. Another iconic piece which will be available.

We will be launching our Focus On Dutch Design this Thursday May 1. We look forward to you visiting and possibly even sending you home with your own piece of European mid-century design history.

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