Artifort is part of the Lande Group, a family-owned Dutch furniture manufacturing company that produces the labels Artifort, Lande and Zwaardvis. The foundations of Artifort were laid by Jules Wagemans when he set up business as an upholsterer in Maastricht in 1890. His son, Henricus Wagemans expanded the company into a furniture factory; which by the end of the 1920´s had a showroom in Amsterdam. The company was originally known as H. Wagemans & Van Tuinen, the actual brand name Artifort was introduced in 1928.
Artiforts breakthrough came at the beginning of the 1930’s when the company started to use Epeda interior springing. Up until then, straw, horsehair and kapok had been used as filling materials, sometimes in combination with iron springing. What was special about this interior springing, (which was already being used in mattresses and car seats) is that it was woven from a single steel wire. Epeda interior springing combines a high level of comfort with great durability. Moreover, using this interior springing provided a major saving in production time. Artiforts furniture designs were inspired by contemporary trends, such as the Amsterdam School, the Hague School and the French Art Déco style. Joint projects were regularly carried out in the 1930′s with architects and designers for the interior decoration of various hotels, restaurants and luxury liners. In 1936 skilled craftsman and furniture maker Theo Ruth was appointed permanent designer of Artifort. After World War II the Artifort collection became even more modern under the impact of new ideas, materials and techniques. In the 50’s the collection included not only designs by Theo Ruth, but also contemporary pieces of furniture from foreign designers and by architect Gerrit Th. Rietveld. Rietveld’s designs – the only upholstered chairs in his oeuvre – specially designed for the Dutch pavilion in the Expo ’58 World Exhibition in Brussels.
With the appointment of Kho Liang Ie as Artiforts permanent designer in 1958, the company took a completely new direction. Kho Liang Ie attracted foreign designers such as Pierre Paulin and Geoffrey D. Harcourt, making his influence noticeable right up to the present day. French designer Pierre Paulin introduced new techniques and constructions, his designs were fresh and innovative. His striking, brightly colored seating sculptures raised eyebrows at home and abroad. To produce these designs, a new construction method was introduced in collaboration with Artiforts development department. Artifort started to work with foam-covered metal tube frames and stretch fabrics. In 1960, Pierre Paulin and Artifort wrote design history with the launch of the Orange Slice (F437). It was a great success from the very beginning and since then it has been a permanent feature of the Artifort collection, and that makes over half a century by now. In 1967 Paulin met Jack Lenor Larsen and together they formed a golden duo, they changed the way in which the world viewed design, in terms of form, materials and textiles. A part of the Pierre Paulin collection is still produced today by Artifort.
Through the 20th century and into the new millennium Artifort established itself as a trendy powerhouse of talented designers differentiating itself through eclectic furniture, aesthetically pleasing designs and innovative use of materials. Artifort is continuing to provide space for new designers and established names who have not previously worked for the company. Among the list of designers that have collaborated or are currently working with Artifort we have Boonzaaijer & Spierenburg, Diplomat U.K., Geoffrey D. Harcourt RDI, Gerard Vollenbrock, Jacco Bregonje, Jasper Morrison, Kho Liang Ie, Nel Verschuuren, Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, Gijs Bakker, Jeremy Harvey, Khodi Feiz, Michiel van der Kley, Patrick Norguet, Pierre Paulin RDI, René Holten, Seiler & Veit, Toine van der Heuvel and Wolfgang C.R. Mezger, just to name a few.
The claim to fame of the company in the 1930’s was the use of Epeda interior springing. It is obvious that one of the leitmotivs of this company was and still is offering extreme comfort and durability. This vector found its parallel at that time with the designs of Theo Ruth mostly on wood frames and later, the company focused its efforts based on these two vectors that Pierre Paulin masterly translated in a moment of epiphany in the Orange Slice and the Mushroom chairs, just to name some. He also updated the vectors keeping the comfort and using steel chrome frames becoming almost a trademark for the designs of Artifort. From then on the different designers that have worked in the venture of Artifort have followed these principles that move the company making their beautiful designs very homogeneous to the present days; all trying to use innovative new materials including foam upholstered tubular steel frames and stretch fabrics, marking the difference between Artifort and other companies that abused of their nude back rests and seats that sometimes you get tattooed on your body for a few hours after you have sat on a Harry Bertoia “Diamond chair” for example, or some others that make you sweat or freeze like the Verner Panton “S chair” or Eero Saarinen´s “Tulip chair”. Time will judge if René Holten´s “Lotus chair” (2008) is part of this group.
It is very clear that this company has been faithful to its principles and designers like Michiel van der Kley, Patrick Norguet, Jacco Bregonje and René Holten have been responsible in the last 10 years for the new mass produced home and office furniture icons of Artifort.
…to be continued in part # 6
Copyright © 2011 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.