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Furniture of the Future Inspired by Designs of the Past

comments (0) November 7th, 2011 in blogs

CustomMade CustomMade Staff, contributor
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What are the furniture trends for the future?  Multipurpose, moveable, and modular.  So they say. Take a look at the picture above. Is this a vision of the future or a ghost of the past?

We associate the future with progress and increasing efficiency.  Our computers will be faster. Our medical treatments will be more effective.  Matters of style, however, don’t lend themselves to prognostications of efficiency.  When we envision “future styles” we tend to imagine sleek, clean, ultra-modern works in which function dictates form.  (When we do imagine more “baroque” future styles, they usually accompany a vision of a dystopian, post-apocalyptic nightmare society, a la Mad Max, where “progress” has failed).

What will future furniture look like?  Consider looking to the ghosts of a “multipurpose, moveable, and modular” past. Cherished “traditional” furniture styles can make the transition to this brave new multipurpose world.  Artisans have grappled with problems of space, portability, and efficiency throughout history and have successfully created custom solutions in many styles. 

Table-Desk, Opened, by at

“A new and useful Piece of Furniture,” this table/desk is an interpretation of Stephen Hedges’ patented 1854 design by at

This is an interpretation by Barry Tribble of of a table/desk patented by one Stephen Hedges in 1854.  Barry writes that according to Mr. Hedges, this invention was “A new and useful Piece of Furniture, Intended to Serve as a Table Alone or as a Chair and Table combined,” What made it unique was the hinged design that united a table and chair into one piece. Hedges’ creations came to be known as “Aaron Burr Desks,” which as you can see here, is a wonderfully designed multipurpose combination table, desk, and chair.

The desk is made from walnut and features imbuya burl, English fiddleback sycamore, pommele sapele, makore, and black dyed pearwood.  The drawer features pommele sapele inset with ribbon banding. Barry says, "The design appealed to me, mostly for the challenge of engineering and building it, but also because it had the large panels in the apron which were perfect for marquetry." In his piece Barry added a unique oriental dragon marquetry design to the panels.  

What is the connection between Hedges’ design and the American statesman Aaron Burr, who is best remembered nowadays for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel? Specifically, a popular but mistaken association that stems from a 1911 newspaper article which featured an illustration of this style of desk and stated, erroneously, that “not only had it belonged to Aaron Burr, but, with its small size, had been specifically designed to accommodate his ‘short stature.’”  Hedges’ patent for his table/desk was issued 18 years after Burr’s death.

The Ecrire by MissionCraft Canada at

The Ecrire by MissionCraft Canada at

Laptop computers were not the first portable desks.  Something like the rosewood and suede ecrire by MissionCraft Canada could have accompanied a traveler on a journey by train or stagecoach in the 19th century.  This item was originally designed to hold writing materials and serve as a writing surface. Pieces created today would be used as portable custom made computer desks perfect for the slim electronic devices we carry that often require a stable surface to use efficiently. Artisan George Kiorpelidis made this simple, elegant 21st century laptop desk with a 19thcentury sense of adventure.

Campaign Desk by Noble Son Woodworks, LLC, at

Campaign Desk by Noble Son Woodworks, LLC, at

You will rarely find furniture pieces for the home inspired by their military counterparts.  The campaign style desk of the 19th and early 20th century, however, is precisely such a crossover.  Gene Smith of Noble Son Woodworks, LLC, created this campaign desk for a customer who was impressed with the durability and functionality of these desks, designed to be easy to set up and transport during military campaigns.  This custom built wood office desk was made from cherry and features a leather writing surface and metal brace corner coverings “that acknowledge a history of being transported by cart, wagon, or truck.”  

As you can see from these three examples, furniture made from recycled resources is not “tainted” by its past use but enriched by its history.  The multipurpose, moveable, and modular furniture of the future doesn’t have to be “futuristic” in appearance, but can draw inspiration from the masterpieces of yesteryear.


This article is by, the internet's largest marketplace for custom made goods. 




posted in: blogs, cherry, walnut, marquetry, leather, custom table, custom built wood office desk, wood desks, BWTribble, imbuya burl, custom desks, Aaron Burr, futurepieces, multi-purpose furniture

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