The design of factory-produced furniture changed in conjunction with the new forms of business and labor organization. The visual composition of the furniture was often fractured because it was built up of layers of ornamentation that were not as integrated into the whole as they were in hand-crafted furniture.

Excerpt from:
Enduring Furniture at an Affordable Price: Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Business Models

Philip Carlino, BFA Product Design ’97, MA History of Decorative Arts & Design ’12

Philip Carlino —Excerpt from "Enduring Furniture at an Affordable Price: Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Business Models" ∕ MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies ’12
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To say there was a path from hand techniques to machine production would imply an overly deterministic, and narrow view of technological change.

A relationship, whether to another person, or to an object, requires reciprocation. The mass-produced furniture in production holds none of our stories, it has nothing to give back and so it is painless to let it go when it becomes broken or inconvenient to keep.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, well-made, desirable furniture was widely available to and affordable for the burgeoning middle class in the United States. Much of the furniture that was made over a century ago remains sturdy and desirable enough to be treasured as heirlooms in homes, antique shops, and museums. The business strategies of early industrial furniture makers offer models for the revitalization of mid-priced furniture manufacturing in the twenty-first century.

The designed object is a tangible representation of a vision of who the intended user should be and how that person should behave. The vision is influenced by the economic and technological parameters of production and consumption. I read industrially produced objects as texts that explain the process of mediation among the expectations of the user, the purchaser, the designer, the maker (labor), material suppliers, marketers, wholesalers, retailers and shippers. In tracing the reciprocal web of connections between the realms of production and use over time, I explain how daily life in the United States was shaped within these tensions.

Susan Solny—Excerpt from "Some Unusual Stylistic Preferences in New York Cellaret Design, 1810-1840" Penny Lynne Wolfson—Excerpt from: "Enwheeled: Two Centuries of Wheelchair Design, from Furniture to Film" Michelle F. Jackson—Excerpt from "Springs of Salvation: Theoretical and Literary Readings of Glassware from Bohemian Spas"