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How five pieces of furniture have evolved through time

by Greg on October 9, 2018

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For some, furniture is an obsession, while others don’t think twice about what they choose for their home, happy to find something that’s cheap and does the job.

But furniture is more than somewhere to sit: it’s a cultural identifier whose style and meaning has changed across the ages, ever since the Neolithic man first pulled up a rather heavy stone to sit on.

The experts over at Angie’s List decided to delve a little deeper, and have produced this wonderful new set of animated gifs tracing the evolution of five common pieces of home furniture from Ancient Egyptian times right through to the modern day.

Chairs

evolution of chair

The humble chair, eh? Where would we sit without it? In Ancient Egyptian times, most people just sat on mats or blankets. Chairs were an invention for the royals and well-to-do, who would have ornate and even gilded seats to park their esteemed behinds. But chairs really came of age in the early 20th century, when designers at the Bauhaus experimented with new industrial materials to create forms that would have seemed impossible or impractical just a few years before.

Dining set

evolution of chair

The furniture you choose for your dining room says a lot about your attitude. Hard, severe seating discourages guests from lingering after a dinner party (though you may just want to usher them into a more comfortable room) while a higher table can be child-unfriendly. Ornate furniture makes every meal a ritual while simple, homely furniture acknowledges that eating is a regular part of life that brings families together. Of course, tables became much easier to wipe following the invention of Formica.

Sofa

evolution of chair

These days it’s possible to move into a new place with just a sofa and a tablet device and you don’t even need anything else. It’s not so different from the Ancient Greek way of life: their ‘kline’ was a couch designed to sit back and eat on. Today, from the moth bitten, blanket-covered comfort-sofas of student life to the middle-class sitting place where the dog definitely isn’t allowed to be, a sofa can be an indicator of class and of the pace of your life.

Desk

evolution of chair

Some people will never sit at a desk again once they leave school, while others will define their very identity by the way their study is arranged. A desk needs to be both comfortable and practical. To have space for the things you need in reaching distance, but also room to spread. And preferably it will have a surface that works well with Post-It notes. For the digital nomad, the desk they always eventually return to is an anchor of security.

Bed

evolution of chair

Now then. This is where it all happens. In the old days, people would just sleep on straw or foliage. Beds have been found from 2200BC or earlier in Scotland that were made up of a platform of stones with more comfortable coverings on top. The Egyptians may have been the first to get it really right: the royals had beds so high you had to climb steps to reach them, pillows, and even curtains. Discreet, huh?

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John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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