Even though the first plastics were made in the mid-1800s, most household items were not made of plastic until the 1920s and 1930s. It was used instead of rubber to make radio cases and handles for kitchen tools. By 1927, people had made plastics like vinyl and nylon. During World War II, research led to even more types of plastic, and by the 1950s, designers were experimenting with them to make furniture that was light, colourful, and cheap.
Plastic – Material
Furniture styles changed because of new materials. “Organic” designs were made in the 1940s. The DAR chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1948 and made by Zenith Plastics for Herman Miller Furniture Company, was probably one of the first popular plastic chairs made in large quantities. The Womb chair (1947) and the single-pedestal Tulip armchair (1955), made by Knoll and designed by Eero Saarinen, were made of fibreglass-reinforced plastic. In the 1950s, designers wanted good design affordable for many people. Moulded plastics made this possible. Without using fabric upholstery, great colours were brought in. No longer did a chair have to have three or four legs and a seat; instead, it could just be a curved piece of strong plastic. Joe Colombo designed the Universale stacking chair in 1965, and Kartell made it. It was the first chair made in one piece by injection moulding.
In 1968, Verner Panton made the first cantilevered chair from a single piece of plastic. It was a stacking chair. Plastic was hard to work with for many other designers and manufacturers well into the 1960s. The seats would crack, the legs would break, and the heat would make the plastic soft.
Plastic – Early Years
In the 1900s, many kinds of plastic were used to make furniture, such as Bakelite (around 1909), Formica (created in 1913 as a replacement “for mica” in electrical insulation and used for furniture beginning in the 1920s), Lucite (1930s), acrylics (1930s), fibreglass (1930s), and ABS (1930s) (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, 1950s). Inflatable furniture was first made by the Italian company De Pas, D’Urbino, and Lomazzi in 1967. It was made of soft plastics like vinyl and polyurethane foam. Gaetano Pesce made a lot of mass-produced but one-of-a-kind pieces by dripping different coloured resins into moulds or over other shapes to make random patterns of colour and shape.
Plastic furniture – Now
People still like plastic furniture. There are copies of older designs and new styles of chairs and tables that cost about the same. Very cheap garden furniture is made of plastic shaped to look like wicker, iron, or stone. Prices are higher for stylish modern designs like the injection-moulded, one-piece clear and coloured plastic Louis Ghost chairs by Philippe Starck and the Briton garden bench by Paolo Rizzatto.
Kovel, R. M., & Kovel, T. H. (2007, October 1). Kovels’ American Collectibles 1900-2000. https://doi.org/10.1604/9780609808917
Furniture books – Amazon
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