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It’s hard to imagine that the historic Battle of Waterloo would turn out to have such a profound impact on the history of modern furniture design. After Napoleon was defeated, Europeans began replacing all the flamboyant furnishings that defined the emperor’s reign with simpler pieces in their homes. This transformation eventually led to the Modernist Movement in the early 1900s and started the modern furniture revolution that included visionaries such as Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, Eileen Gray, George Nelson, Harry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi, Josef Hoffmann, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Paul Kjaerholm, and other designers.
Modern furniture was a radical change from the designs of the time. Designers spurned the status quo of traditional furniture design and found new ways to create pieces where their function guided their form. Modern furniture was simple with crisp, clean lines and available in a variety of very bright colors. Soon after the industrial revolution introduced new materials into modern society, designers began using plastic and plywood in innovative ways. Mass production then made it possible to produce furniture on a large scale, making affordable modern furniture available to the working class.
During this revolution in furniture design, many of the classic pieces in modern furniture were born which include Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair in 1929, Han Wegner’s Wishbone Chair in 1950, and Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair in 1958. These modern furniture classics continue to look just as good today as they did when they were first designed close to a century ago.
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