The History of Furniture

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Furniture is the movable articles and objects that equip or furnish a room, building or other structure in which people live. Its history can be read as a record of the changing ways that human beings have organized their living spaces. Furniture may be made from any material but, for practical reasons, wood has predominated. Furniture has been decorated in many styles throughout the centuries, and designers have sought ever-more creative solutions to the problems of making functional, attractive and durable objects.

The basic categories of furniture are those designed for sitting, stretching out restfully or sleeping. This large group includes chairs, stools, sofas and beds. It also includes consoles, desks and tables for writing or other work, and cabinets for storing clothing, textiles, books and household goods. The furniture of the Arts and Crafts Movement, led by William Morris in England and Gustav Stickley in America, was a reaction to what was perceived as the excesses of machine production and historical revivalism. It advocated an idealistic return to “honest construction” and handcraft techniques.

In more recent times, other materials have been used for furniture. Bronze, iron and silver were used in ancient times; cast-iron seating furniture became popular in the 19th century; chromium-plated tubular steel was used for modern functionalist pieces in the 1920s; and since World War II much inexpensive furniture has been produced from various kinds of newer plastics. Yet, even today the majority of furniture is still made from wood.