Rietveld & Spectrum: a collaboration with a history

The history of Spectrum goes back to the start of the Second World War. Not everyone is aware that Gerrit Rietveld was part of that history, almost from the beginning.

Due to the limited supply of raw materials, the sharp drop in demand, and the machines advanced by the occupying forces, the weaving mill De Ploeg was forced to change its operations during the war years. Initially, blackout materials were still being produced, but that proved insufficient. This led to the start of a new furniture company: ‘t Spectrum was founded in Bergeijk in 1941 (later Spectrum).

De Ploeg’s director Piet Blijenburg came up with the idea of making interior products and accessories from materials that were locally available, such as pit reeds, rushes, and wood. The collection was diverse: trays, napkin rings, coat racks, and cots were made, as well as bags of reed and dolls with clothing from De Ploeg’s fabrics.

By founding ‘t Spectrum, Blijenburg prevented its employees from being employed by the occupying forces, and the relationship with the country’s customers was maintained. In the early years, a Supervisory Board was appointed, consisting of the architects Eschauzie, Jansen and Gerrit Rietveld. The latter was only announced after the war. Because Rietveld refused to become a member of the Culture Room set up by the occupying forces, he was not allowed to be active in his own working area. As a member of the Supervisory Board, Rietveld was closely involved in the development of the first Spectrum collection.

It is unknown how the contact between Rietveld and Blijenburg came about, but it was the beginning of a long collaboration. The first years after the war were mainly focused on the successful continuation of De Ploeg and Spectrum. Bag production stopped and Spectrum focused on modern and affordable wooden furniture. When Martin Visser moved from De Bijenkorf to Bergeijk in the early 1950s, his relationship with Rietveld received a new impulse. Rietveld was commissioned to design Visser’s private house and designed various pieces of furniture for Spectrum. Our archives contain drawings of a bed, coffee tables, a series of stools, and a chair. The chair was Roelof van Daalen’s desire; he was then De Ploeg en Spectrum’s director and Rietveld admired him for both his furniture designs and architecture. It was Van Daalen who commissioned Rietveld in 1957 to build his own house and De Ploeg’s new factory in Bergeijk. This special factory building is now a national monument.

A new chapter was added to the rich history of Holland’s most famous architect and furniture designer with Spectrum, only a few years ago. Since 2014 we proudly carry the Rietveld Originals collection. As a result, a large number of Rietveld’s furniture designs are once again available through a Dutch design label. For example, the Press Room Chair, the New Amsterdam armchair, the Steltman chair and the Armchair for Metz&Co are all part of the Spectrum collection.

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