Gerrit Rietveld

(1888-1964)

Gerrit Rietveld (Utrecht 24 June 1888 - 25 June 1964) learned the craft of furniture making at an early age in his father's traditional furniture workshop. Later, he apprenticed as an architect and came into contact with members of the De Stijl art movement such as Robert van 't Hoff, Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg.

Rietveld develops into a versatile designer with a strong vision; his architecture and furniture designs become world-famous. His Red and Blue Chair, Zig-Zag Chair, Crate pieces and Press Room Chair are now true design classics that are impossible to imagine museums and modern interiors without. In the early period, Rietveld designed a lot of furniture based on an inquisitive idea in which construction, form and material play an important part.

Later, the furniture was often created as part of architectural commissions, such as the Steltman chair he designed for the jeweller of the same name in The Hague. Almost every Rietveld design has a special story. They can be found on the collection page.

In 1917, Rietveld opened his first furniture workshop on Adriaen van Ostadelaan in Utrecht. At that time, he further developed as an architect and, through Robert van 't Hoff came into contact with members of the De Stijl art movement such as Bart van der Leck, Theo van Doesburg and the architects J.J.P Oud and Jan Wils. Rietveld's 1919 slatted chair received great appreciation from De Stijl, under whose influence Rietveld painted the chair red and blue around 1923. Rietveld joined De Stijl and wrote regularly in their magazine.
Rietveld became part of the Dutch and later international avant-garde. Artist Charley Toorop, architect Bruno Taut, artists Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitzky, Vilmos Huszár and designer Mart Stam were among his friends.

Image: Red and Blue Chair, 1923

De stijl

The Rietveld Schröder House

Rietveld's most famous design is undoubtedly the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, which he designed in 1924 for Truus Schröder-Schräder. After the death of her husband Frits Schröder, she decided to live in a smaller and, above all, more modern home.

Truus Schröder intensively interferes with the design, which soon after completion receives a lot of attention. Rietveld starts his architectural practice on the ground floor of the house, with the living and sleeping quarters on the first floor, which can easily be rearranged by ingenious sliding walls. Major designers like Mart Stam, Eileen Gray and Aino Alto visit the house and are impressed.

Gray clearly drew inspiration from it for her famous E 1027 house in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. With the Schröder House, Rietveld manifests himself as an architect ahead of his time. In 2000, the Rietveld Schröder House was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

After the dissolution of De Stijl in 1931, a difficult period began for Rietveld. Due to the crisis, there was less construction, and he was also forbidden to work during the war. During this period, Rietveld did make a lot of furniture designs. With the Zig-Zag chair from 1932, he demonstrates his knowledge of material and form. In 1934, he designs his Crate furniture. A series that furniture made from leftover material from transport crates. Rietveld does not just sell the furniture but also the drawing with instructions so the customer can build the chair themselves. The upholstered chair follows in 1935: the Utrecht armchair with its distinctive blanket stitch finish. In 1942, Rietveld is commissioned to design an interior for the Amsterdamse Bank. He is not allowed to execute it because he is not a member of the Kultuurkamer instituted by the Germans. The prototypes for this project are presumably made by Rietveld at his hiding place with friend and photographer Nico Jesse, who ends up using the furniture.

1950s architecture and design

After the war, Rietveld gets commissions again and his great success as an architect follows. In the second half of the 1950s, he works on major projects such as the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht and the construction of the De Ploeg weaving mill in Bergeijk.

In Paris, he designed the famous Press Room for the UNESCO building in 1958 and the Dutch pavilion of the World Expo in Brussels in the same year. During this period, Rietveld built many detached houses for clients who came to him more than once after being recommended by Willem Sandberg, director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Sandberg frequently supported Rietveld throughout his long career as museum director. In 1951, Rietveld designed the Stijl exhibition for the same museum. This exhibition was later also shown at the Venice Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Rietveld's Muse

Truus Schröder plays an important role in Gerrit Rietveld's career. The two first meet when Gerrit comes to deliver a classic desk to her home on Bildtstraat in Utrecht as his father's helper. The desk is for her husband Frits Schröder. When Truus rejects the design as old-fashioned, she finds Rietveld on her side. Not long after, she commissions Rietveld to furnish a room in her home. The two share more than just a passion for design and architecture.

After Frits Schröder’s death, Rietveld is commissioned in 1923 to design a modern house that later gains world fame as the Rietveld Schröder House. Gerrit Rietveld and Truus Schröder often work together. She remains in the background but clearly develops as an interior designer. She advises Rietveld and manages an important part of his design archive.

As a result, several designs bear the names of both Rietveld and Schröder. After the death of his wife in 1957, Rietveld moved to the Schröder House, where he lived with Truus Schröder until his death on 25 June 1964.

Authenticity and copyright

Gerrit Rietveld's designs are protected by copyright. The Rietveld Furniture made by Rietveld Originals, Cassina and Tecta bears various features or marks to guarantee authenticity. These marks vary from design to design. The G.Th. Rietveld Copyright Foundation imposes strict requirements in this respect. Each piece of furniture and/or packaging bears a copyright notice. Several pieces of Rietveld furniture are made by enthusiasts themselves. The construction drawings of several wooden pieces of furniture are available in book form under the title: 'Rietveld furniture to make yourself'. Making this furniture is only permitted for your private use. It is expressly forbidden to use this self-made furniture for commercial purposes or to sell it.

Image: Press Room Chair

Vintage collection

Rietveld Originals

Rietveld Originals has an extraordinary collection of old Rietveld Furniture at its disposal, including several unique pieces. This furniture is part of the Titus Darley Collection, a collection of contemporary design furniture. The core of the collection consists of furniture from Spectrum, Gelderland, Rietveld Originals and lighting company Atelier Artiforte’s rich history. The collection also includes furniture with a special origin or story and furniture that has been important for the development of modern furniture in general. The collection can be viewed by appointment. If you have any Rietveld furniture you would like to bring to our attention, please contact us via this link.

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