Charles Rennie Mackintosh – English Furniture Designer

Posted on 13th September 2011 in English Furniture Designers

Charles Rennie MackintoshCharles Rennie Mackintosh -  Born June 1868 and living until December 1928 in Glasgow, he designed in the Arts and Crafts movement incorporating modernist design influences. First apprenticed to John Hutchinson, a local architect he moved to a larger firm of Honeyman and Keppie in 1889.

Wanting to expand his talents as an architect, he enrolled in the Glasgow School of Art where he earned the Alexander Thomson Traveling Studentship to travel to Italy. As he continued to develop his architectural designs he felt that designers should be given greater freedom of artistic expression. To this end, he began to expand his artistic aspirations to include decorative forms, graphic art, metalwork and the beginnings of modern furniture design. He embraced the modernist concepts of design of innovation rather than a repetition of traditional design. Modern design would continue to evolve including the use of organic forms and materials, his designs remained focused around the needs of people. He viewed his designs as a work of art to be appreciated and used.

He, like Frank Lloyd Wright, was not content to only design the building but to include the complete design of the interiors as well. This included the furnishings down to the smallest of details, the silverware as well.

In 1904, he was commissioned to design The Hill House in Helensburgh in 1904. Designing both the exterior and the interior furnishings, he went on to design a series of tearoom interiors sponsored by Catherine Cranston. This commission lasted between 1896 t0 1917. He was given a free rein to design as he pleased resulting in his signature high-back chairs, light fixtures, wall decorations and the silverware.

His modern furniture designs were produced with care and skill incorporating the influences of Glasgow, the Art Nouveau movement, the Japanese and the refreshingly, unexpected lines, materials and the exploration of new construction methods of the Modernist era.

The curved lattice-back chair designed for the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, was a stylized interpretation of a willow tree, with the seat made of horse hair and the frame with ebonized oak used by the Willow Tea Rooms to separate his all white front saloon from the darker, back one.

With an impossibly tall back, he designed a desk for the drawing room, 120 Main Street in Glasgow. This was a piece that he collaborated with Margaret Macdonald who supplied the silvered metal panels portraying stylized female figures. The desk, of oak painted white, was practical designed for side doors that provided storage for paper. He designed another writing cabinet for this same home, highly imaginative, using mahogany and sycamore, ebonized with pear tree, mother-of-pearl, ivory, glass inlays with metal fittings.

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