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Our research project into 20th Century paint colours gave us a fascinating insight into the huge advances in materials, technology and manufacturing processes that made this period so important in design history.
The foundations of the modernist movement were, quite literally, laid at the very beginning of the century by a handful of ‘radical’ architects, and by the 1920s there notable practitioners and design schools all over the world – challenging archetypes, deconstructing design and reshaping the world and the way we live in it.
Perhaps it was the purity of purpose with which designers of the time were able to focus so determinedly on “form following function” and “truth to materials”, that almost every 21st Century western home is familiar in some way with a design classic – an object or product that is as fresh, pure, functional and beautiful today as it was on the day it was conceived on the page of a sketchbook or workshop bench.
During the 1950s, colour became a much more significant tool in the designer’s belt, with an enormous influx in the availability of synthetic pigments that could achieve long-lasting bright colours in fabrics and plastic furniture. Similarly, our range of historical paint shades includes several from the 50s, 60s and 70s that just couldn’t have made it onto the walls of England’s significant buildings any earlier in the century. These colours were the product of new technologies and had a profound impact, in exactly the same way that touch screens have transformed the way we can communicate in the last few years…
The object cited here is the perfect example of something beautiful born out of both the opportunities and the constraints of modernism – Charles and Ray Eames’ DSW chair; the first industrially-produced plastic chair. This prolific husband-and-wife team designed the chair to be affordable and easy to make, the original seats were cast in fibreglass in a range of colours, and signified the dawn of a new era for the domestic environment.
With the exception of the seat construction (now made from polypropylene as fibreglass is not recyclable), no detail of the design has changed and it still looks every bit as fresh and modern as when it first hit the American market over 60 years ago.
In the words of Charles Eames “Who ever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?”
Little Greene is offering a DSW Chair as the prize for its bloggers’ competition ’20th Century Design Classics’. If you write a blog, click here for details on how to enter.
And in case you were wondering, D stands for Dining, S for Side, and the W for Wood (the legs).