Saturday, 16 may 2020
My flatmates and I enjoyed eating our pizza in the kitchen,
when suddenly a chair collapses under one of us.
The short shock turns into laughter.
The chair is irreparably destroyed and finds its new home in the darkest corner of our apartment.
We quickly find a replacement with one of the chairs from the balcony,
so that we can continue eating pizza.
After washing up, we go to the balcony for a beer, to watch the setting sun shine on the buildings across the street.
Since one of the chairs from the balcony is still standing at the dining table and our beer thirst, impregnated with laziness, is too great, I sit down on the floor of the balcony and let my legs dangle through the grating.
After a few relaxed sips I noticed an ache on my bottom.
The floor has an awkward edge that I never really noticed before.
I slide away from it and make myself comfortable again with my beer.
When my roommate goes inside to crawl into bed with Netflix, I switch from the floor to the remaining balcony chair.
As soon as I sit down, I realize how comfortable a chair is.
A first-class invention! I wonder who came up with it?
The evening is still young, so I start googling. I come across a picture of a chair from 580 AD. The chair comes from a burial chamber from a place today known as Trossingen in the Black Forest in Germany.
The chair is quite battered and definitely not suitable for sitting, but the construction fascinates me.
In the same grave there was a round table found with a rippled tabletop.
Nevertheless, the design seems pragmatic: three table legs and a round top - a concept that has proven its worth until today.
In under 1500 years, not much seems to have changed... but only a few pieces of furniture have survived the passage of time.
The reason for it being, that the furniture was and still is mostly made out of wood.
Woodworms, humidity, fires and abrasion have certainly destroyed most old furniture. The round table and the battered chair only survived because they were buried airtight under the ground. A drawing shows how they laid in the stone box next to the wooden coffin,
when they were excavated in 2001.
Hardly any piece of furniture build and used before the year 500 AD survived the time.
But on mosaics and frescoes one can often discover furniture: tables, chairs, cupboards and much more. One example is the mosaic from the Villa del Cicerone in Pompeii, which was buried in 79 AD when Vesuvius erupted.
In the Roman Imperial period, the upper class possessed furniture with silver plating, gilding, tortoiseshell inlays and valuable veneers such as citrus.
Even ancient Greek houses were furnished with chairs, stools, tables, beds, chests of drawers and couches. The ancient Greeks already knew the wood turning craft since the 8th century BC.
They used simple mechanical wood turning lathes that could be operated with their feet. After some time I find a highlight:
The golden throne from the tomb of Tutankhamun from the 14th century BC. Ancient Egypt is known for a widely developed furniture carpentry. Grave discoveries of tables, thrones and couches from this period show knowledge in wood turning, veneering, marquetry and coloring. Traditions that goes back much further than I had expected. The first evidence of furniture goes back to the Pharaonic period.
Objects were found in Akrotiri (Santorini) from around 1500 BC.
It is assumed that furniture became popular after the Neolithic Revolution.
Furniture is thus closely linked to human settlement and has probably been in use and constantly developed since the 8th millennium BC.
And still to this day furniture plays a big role in our everyday life. Currently probably more than ever.
Because of Corona, we spend almost the entire day with the furniture we have chosen and bought in our apartments.
We use them, but are rarely aware of them.
While the ancient Egyptians or even people in the Middle Ages buried their handmade furniture as burial objects with their deceased owners, we value our furniture much less.
Our furniture should be modern and functional, but above all it should be affordable.
Nowadays, quality rarely plays a role.
If something breaks, IKEA offers a guarantee and we simply replace the broken chair at our dinner table. And it's not uncommon for good furniture to be left by the roadside with the bulky waste simply because it's out of fashion or no longer appealing. Take a look around in your home.
Have you ever looked closer at your furniture?
Do you know how and where it was built?
Do you know where the different materials came from and which technique was used?
And is there a piece of furniture that you really appreciate? I leave the balcony and take a look.