#041 / 2002

reviews of four out-of-print furniture books

Earlier editions

The fast-changing technology of the furniture industry appears to have discouraged publishers from developing new titles about the furniture industry. With only trade journals and research reports to meet our need for print information, good reference material is hard to find. Fortunately, many out-of-print titles can be a resource for designers and manufacturers (sources included.

Upholstered Furniture: Design and Construction

Mario Dal Fabbro
(Published in 1969 by McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0070151806)

*Using dimensioned line drawings and photographs, Upholstered Furniture describes techniques for the construction of "modern" stools, chairs, sofas and sectionals. Fabbro gives preference to late twentieth-century creations, emphasizing furniture that "will be practical and in style for many years to come." More than 200 black-and-white photographs detail the work of over 70 European and American designers. The techniques of basic manufacturing are included in sections about frames, springs, padding and coverings. Seating concepts, from classic wooden armchairs to steel dining chairs, and, from sectionals to task chairs, are described in equal detail. This much-sought-after book can sell for high prices.

A Design Manual for Cabinet Furniture

Furniture Development Council (UK)
(Published in 1958 by Pergamon Press, ISBN n/a)

*Despite its diminutive size (49 pages) and age, this book is far from lightweight. It covers the "craft" and "science" of cabinet construction in some detail. Two basic principles of cabinet rigidity are covered by simple diagrams and more complex mathematical formulae. The first principle outlined states that cabinet components do not contribute to the stiffness of a cabinet box in equal proportions; the second principle states that a five-sided cabinet box can be made stiff by thickening only one side. This book is a classic - don't design a cabinet without it. (Purchase from

Furniture Modern + Postmodern, Design + Technology

John Pile
(Published in 1990 by John Wiley & Sons; ISBN 0471854387)

* John Pile is professor emeritus of art history at Pratt Institute. With over 300 photographs, drawings and illustrations, the second edition collects "together in one place a cross-section of the information necessary to value, understand and enjoy the best in modern furniture." The book provides a framework of information that places the design process in context with the technical data needed for its application. Chapters include data on materials, construction, engineering, production, ergonomics, etc. However, as the author notes, the book is a "starting point" - one that provides an excellent foundation for further exploration of modern furniture design. Note: the first edition titled Modern Furniture was published in 1979 and is less comprehensive.)

Twentieth-Century Furniture: Materials, manufacture and markets

Clive D. Edwards
(Published in 1994 by Manchester University Press, ISBN 017904061)

*Written by a lecturer in design history at Loughborough College of Art and Design, Twentieth-Century Furniture reflects the academic roots of its author. The "studious" format works to advantage, however, providing a welcome overview of the way our industry developed from 1900 to the 1990s. The content is non-elitist and moves "away from the modernist point of view with its frequent emphasis on names, movements and icons." Instead, Edwards relates chronological steps in the development of furniture materials, technology, production, management, distribution and consumption. Most of the references relate to the history of the UK furniture industry, but the general context provides for a wider appeal, particularly the coverage of furniture retailing practices and patterns of consumer demand.

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