Utility Reassessed

Utility Reassessed, the role of ethics in the practice of design. Edited by Judy Attfield, Manchester University Press, 1999.

BEE Lion005

Chapter 7. Utility Furniture and the myth of Utility 1943-48. p110-124.

The history of Utility furniture and the furniture designs that were supplied under the scheme have been represented in many different ways by various authors since the theme was introduced by the Board of Trade in 1943. This chapter will consider the factors which led to the introduction of Utility furniture and the designs of the furniture that were included in the scheme between 1943 and 1948. It will be shown that, contrary to some published opinions, the designs for Utility furniture were not the result of any one particular design ideology, but of a complex scheme of rationing, attempting to meet an ever-changing economic and supply problem.

fullsizeoutput_86b.jpegFour dressing-tables from the second Utility Furniture Catalogue published in June 1947: (top left) Cotswold Range; (top right) Cotswold Range; (bottom left) Chiltern Range; (bottom left) Chiltern Range.

“From a visual inspection of certain items of Utility furniture it would be just as possible to draw links between Utility furniture and Modernism as it is between Utility and the Arts and Crafts Movement. The diversity of designs produced under the Utility scheme when the freedom of Design period is recognised as part of it, is sufficiently large that a design could be found to characterise the gamut of styles from reproduction Jacobean to contemporary.

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