By Dan Goodman
Blank walls have a tendency to make a room feel incomplete, but you’re feeling like you’ve outgrown the Pulp Fiction and Bob Marley posters. Time to buy some art to look cultured for your guests. Art on the walls is often the last step of furnishing a house, the icing on the cake. Picking out a piece of original art is a serious process for many, especially if they’re looking to drop some real money.
Good art is awesome and nothing can replace a hand painted piece hanging on your wall. There are instances, however where some custom built wall shelves can serve the same purpose.
Most people would acknowledge that interesting shelves like these are art themselves. Not only that, but they’re art that you can put more art on. This is functional art. Now think of a chair. Most of us don’t give much thought into chairs, where they come from or how they’re made, because most of them come from a factory. Now think of the hand chair.photo link
Now you’ve likely seen plenty cheap replicas at thrift stores or hip coffee shops, but at one point in time this was someone’s genius idea. Mexican artist, Pedro Friedeberg’s idea to be specific, who hired a local carpenter to build a giant hand large enough to sit in. The chair was a huge success among collectors and has since become iconic.
Why did this idea gain so much traction? Because it brought surrealism and creativity to a mostly utilitarian object. There is no reason to constrain artistry to the walls when it can be built into the room itself.
Visit any antique shop and you’re likely to see old dressers and chairs that were painstakingly crafted by master woodworkers. These antiques were built with tremendous artistry, and were only available to those with the wealth to afford such luxuries. The same approach was taken by architects and builders during this time period, who constructed buildings with distinct ornamentation and style. It’s no coincidence that the rich people in Europe who wanted their furniture to look like this:
Lived in places that looked like this:photo link
Yes, Mostly this is because they could afford it. Although it feels odd to praise the rich nobility of Europe who commissioned fancy vanities and self portraits while peasants starved in the streets, I can’t deny they had an eye for aesthetic. Furniture wasn’t valued solely for it’s function to hold things, just like the old European streets weren’t lined with buildings with the sole purpose of housing people. Everything had to be built with care.
As a working class person in modern America, I have access to luxuries the royalty of one hundred years ago didn’t have. Similarly, we have access to technology and building techniques that would have saved even the Ancient Egyptians a lot of trouble. It seems, however, that although the possibilities have grown tremendously, our architectural appetites have lessened.
When we become accustomed to buildings looking like this:
We end up accustomed to furniture that looks like this:
But that’s not you is it? If you’re reading this, chances are you have an interest in craftsmanship. It turns out there are a lot of people willing to spend a little more money for it. The care taken to build a truly unique dining room table is similar to the care taken to make a sculpture. Thinking of furniture this way allows you to expand your artistic preferences and sense of style to encompass every aspect of your home or business. Everything that is built by people has the potential to be an art form. Now please buy my weird furniture.