Gilbert Rohde: Modern Design for Modern Living

Overview

Few designers did more to influence the appearance of postwar American interiors than the furniture designer Gilbert Rohde (1894–1944). This first in-depth book on Rohde explores how he brought an industrial design perspective to the furniture industry and, in the process, introduced modernism to a broad range of Americans, especially through his modular furnishings.

By tracing his career at the Herman Miller Furniture Company, where Rohde was a designer in the 1930s and 1940s, ...

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Overview

Few designers did more to influence the appearance of postwar American interiors than the furniture designer Gilbert Rohde (1894–1944). This first in-depth book on Rohde explores how he brought an industrial design perspective to the furniture industry and, in the process, introduced modernism to a broad range of Americans, especially through his modular furnishings.

By tracing his career at the Herman Miller Furniture Company, where Rohde was a designer in the 1930s and 1940s, Phyllis Ross places his work in a broad cultural and economic context. The book shows how Rohde’s focus on comfort, informality, multifunctionality, and flexibility transposed European design antecedents into furnishings suitable for American lifestyles. A champion of modular components, he experimented with new industrial materials, including Plexiglas, and produced furniture with biomorphic forms. Not only did Rohde introduce modern designs, but he also devised a complete merchandising strategy for their promotion.

Today Rohde’s furniture and decorative designs are coveted by collectors. The story of his career rounds out our understanding of his fascinating contributions to American culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Christopher Long
"Phyllis Ross' new book on Gilbert Rohde, perhaps the most important American furniture designer of the later 1930s and 1940s, presents a great wealth of new material. It is a quantum leap over anything that has been previously published on this seminal figure and makes a significant contribution to the study of American design of the period."—Christopher Long, University of Texas at Austin
Interior Design
“As Ross states in her introduction, ‘A comprehensive appraisal of his diverse career is long overdue.’”—Interior Design
Contemporary Collectibles
“Meticulously researched, the book chronicles the designer’s life and career.” —Contemporary Collectibles
Elle D�cor
“The first comprehensive look at the Bronx native’s brilliant career.” —Elle Décor
Elle Décor
“The first comprehensive look at the Bronx native’s brilliant career.” —Elle Décor
Library Journal

New York City in the late 1920s and 1930s provided a stimulating environment for Gilbert Rohde to evolve from an illustrator to a nationally recognized industrial designer of furniture and interiors. Avant-garde ideas from France and Germany inspired his signature "unit," or modular furniture designs (based on the German Typenmöbel). In this thoroughly researched book, independent decorative arts scholar Ross conveys the appeal and impact of Rohde's promotion of functional lifestyle spaces for modern Americans. Although Rohde died in 1944, it is easy to see his influence later in the century—streamlined styles of affordable mass-manufactured furniture; geometric and biomorphic forms; innovative combinations of metals, new synthetics, and woods; reflections of light off glass surfaces and chrome; personal touches of plants and artwork; and savvy marketing of space-saving, often dual-purpose items to create flexible configurations and comfort in houses, offices, and urban apartments. VERDICT Students at colleges of art and design will find this book useful; also recommended for members of the public who would like to discover why much of our furniture today looks the way it does.—Anne Marie Lane, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie


—Anne Marie Lane
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300120646
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2009
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Phyllis Ross is an independent scholar specializing in 20th-century design.

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