One of the less shouty design trends in 2008, if the proliferation of a single object can be called a trend, was the appearance of a number of very handsome desks.
From Wales & Wales’ masterpiece for Meta, to a pared-down, pocket writing desk for Ligne Roset; our award-winner, Marina Bautier’s simple wooden offering for De La Espada to the hulking, traditional workman’s desk by German company Stivoll; barely a stand stood at any fair without a shining example of good desk design.
Sebastian+Barquet were clearly in on the act too and have begun the year with an exhibition dedicated to the evolution of 20th Century desk design, told through just 8 pivotal desks.
Beginning in the post-War period with the surge in architect-designed interiors, the modern ideal was gradually formed – function, simplicity and mass-production became the driving forces behind design. Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and Jean Royère are presented as the pioneers and their desks demonstrate innovative use of materials (metal tubing, formica) and practical forms.
This isn’t to say that pre-War craftsmanship disappeared altogether. The second facet of the exhibition shows how as the decades passed, raw, industrial aesthetics were softened by the gradual introduction of a more traditional, freeform feel. Perriand spent time in Japan during the 1950s and returned with a gentler approach, reflected in her curved pine desk designs of the 1960s.
It was this softer element and more sculptural use of wood that was popular in America, represented here by George Nakashima’s imaginative designs of the 1970s and 1980s. The exhibition might stop here, but, in the spirit of good old-fashioned graft, we’ve put together a gallery of our favourite 8 desks from last year too.