In a typical design project, planning takes place before furniture selection is considered. One plans with function in mind and talk furniture in generalized way using average sizes and from to designate desk, table, chair, sofa, bed, and so on. Templates with such average size forms cut out at various Scales help the beginning designer with this task. Most experienced designers become adept at drawing the plan forms of familiar furniture pieces at the commonly used scales without help from templates or even reference to a scale.
Built-In Versus Movable Furniture
Some furniture types that impose constraints at the planning stage must be considered beforehand. This is the time to make decisions about built-in versus movable furniture. Built-ins tend to be neat and efficient, to save space, and to contribute to a modern look. In addition, they may be the most economical way to provide certain functions, such as the storage of books or quantities of other objects. In rented spaces or where long-term occupancy is uncertain for other reasons, movable furniture has, of course,the advantage of being readily transportable to a new location. It also permits easy rearrangement as needs change, or simply to satisfy the desire for change for its own sake. Certain functions, those of dining chairs, for example, almost require mobility (although fixed booth seating and banquettes are not uncommon in restaurants).
The use of what has come to be called systems furniture should also be considered in advance of planning. The systems developed largely for office use consist of elements linked together in clusters. Some of the elements provide spatial subdivision in addition to their primary functions. Each available system has its own dimensional characteristics and may influence plan layout by favoring certain arrangements or making others impractical or impossible.
Whether or not to reuse existing furniture is a third decision to be made before planning begins. This decision may be based on reasons of economy or on a clients desire to retain well-liked or treasured pieces. In residential design, it is probably more common to reuse at least some existing furniture than to start out with everything new. The designer typically inventories and measures existing furniture, noting down which pieces must be reused and which might be considered for reuse as design develops. New furniture specifically chosen falls into a similar category. A desired seating group, a new grand piano must be planned for as if they already were on hand.
With these decisions made and a basic plan of the interior space completed, furniture selection can begin. Another decision, which may apply to an entire project, or be taken on a piece-by-piece basis then, confronts the designer. Should any furniture for the project be custom-designed and -built, or should it be purchased ready-made from shops, showrooms, catalogs, galleries, and dealers? The pros and cons of these two approaches deserve some discussion.
Criteria for Choosing Furniture
The primary issue in choosing appropriate furniture. Whatever its source, is quality. It is an unfortunate fact that the widely available furniture tends to be mediocre: badly designed and poorly made, it is intended to sell quickly and serve briefly before being discarded, either because it goes out of style or it physically disintegrates. Furniture only a few years old can be observed in trash piles almost every day, while good furniture can last for a very long time, as demonstrated by antiques still serviceable after hundreds of years. Evaluating furniture quality involves several issues, many easy to evaluate others more difficult. The primary issues are the same that apply to the evaluation of all design function, structure and materials, and aesthetics but with more particular bearing.
Function relates to the furnitures purpose. Almost all furniture has a practical use, and good furniture serves that use effectively and reliably. Different uses call for specific qualities and characteristics. For example, storage furniture must be sized to hold whatever it will contain efficiently and conveniently, and its drawers and doors must work well and continue to work well over years of use. Chairs and other seating and reclining furniture must fulfill the requirement of providing comfort.
Structure and materials concern how the furniture is made. Good furniture is well made of appropriate materials. Examining the broken furniture left on garbage heaps reveals slick or showy finishes covering flimsy materials and slipshod construction. Since inexpensive furniture of good quality exists, it is clear that the poor quality of such materials and construction stems only partly from an effort to maintain low prices. The difference lies in the makers awareness of and attention to the kind of construction the furniture calls for and an effort to use affordable materials honestly and to their best advantage.
Aesthetic success is probably the hardest element of furniture quality to evaluate. Furniture that is well designed in terms of function, structure, and the expressive qualities that we call aesthetic generally has a long life and gives high levels of satisfaction over that long life. Exactly what aesthetic excellence is remains a matter of. disagreement and discussion. To say that furniture should be beautiful seems an easy way of setting a standard, but beauty means different things to different people, in different contexts, and at different times. Many of the greatly valued classics designed a few years ago may not seem beautiful to most people. Collectors now value designs of the Victorian era considered monstrosities only a few years ago. Too often, what people call beauty is a matter of superficial appeal.
A better way to define the aesthetic characteristics of quality furniture is through the strong expression of concepts significant when and where the design was developed expression of functional and structural intent along with a kind of "spirit of the time" seems to make for furniture thats lasting and satisfying. Stickley Craftsman furniture of the late Victorian era, angular De Stijl designs by Gerrit Rietveld from the 1920s and 1930s, Bauhaus tubular designs by Marc all possess an integrity that makes them just as worth- Georgian Chippendale, Colonial Windsor chairs, or Shaker- rockers. Any number of current fashions of the intervening has become dated and worthless because they lack any comparable integrity of ideas. Leaving aside aesthetic questions, the more tangible function and construction can be examined in greater detail.