The folly of ob­so­les­cence

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

ALthough the mo­bile-phone in­dus­try has turned in­built ob­so­les­cence into an art­form, man­u­fac­tur­ers are also hav­ing a pretty good stab at mak­ing fur­ni­ture that has to be re­placed with mo­not­o­nous reg­u­lar­ity.

When those in the in­dus­try—of­ten peo­ple who see the world through the prism of a spread­sheet—refer to ‘economies of scale’, they im­ply that these are of ben­e­fit to con­sumers be­cause they cre­ate bet­ter value. In re­al­ity, they are the economies of ex­tract­ing the high­est pos­si­ble profit mar­gin from sub­stan­dard fur­ni­ture. With its flat­ter­ing im­ages, the in­ter­net has been a use­ful tool in this de­ceit, glam­ouris­ing fur­ni­ture made from poor ma­te­ri­als sta­pled to­gether in the short­est pos­si­ble time.

It wasn’t al­ways so. A young mar­ried cou­ple buy­ing a sofa in the early decades of the 20th cen­tury could rea­son­ably look for­ward to liv­ing out their dotage in its com­fort­able embrace. their descen­dants will be lucky if a mass-pro­duced sofa is still in ser­vice when they’ve fin­ished pay­ing off the in­ter­est-free credit.

on page 76, we pub­lish im­ages cre­ated by some of our ear­li­est pho­tog­ra­phers of some of the great­est English in­te­ri­ors of the past 120 years, in­clud­ing those at Dean­ery gar­den, the house that Sir Ed­win Lu­tyens de­signed for Coun­try Life’s founder Ed­ward hud­son, Nancy Lan­caster’s sa­loon at Kel­marsh hall and the breath­tak­ing Art Deco in­te­rior at Eltham when it was the home of Stephen and Vir­ginia Cour­tauld. the qual­ity that all these rooms share is a time­less­ness that they owe to the in­tegrity of their con­tents, which would look as fresh and rel­e­vant to­day as they did then.

Doubt­less, a spread­sheet com­piler would worry that cre­at­ing fur­ni­ture of this type wouldn’t be able to of­fer ‘a sus­tain­able busi­ness model’, yet the cur­rent model isn’t sus­tain­able ei­ther. Mak­ing fur­ni­ture well doesn’t just cre­ate em­ploy­ment— it also gen­er­ates de­sign pos­si­bil­i­ties that mass man­u­fac­ture never can. Most im­por­tant, how­ever, is that it can be mended, pol­ished and re­uphol­stered so that it can be re­vived rather than re­placed.

In 1905, Lu­tyens de­signed the chairs for the Coun­try Life of­fices in Covent gar­den. Now, 112 years later, we con­tinue to use them on a daily ba­sis. Scuffed by years of sup­port­ing suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of ed­i­to­rial staff, they are still per­fectly ser­vice­able. As a spread­sheet com­piler might say, that’s a pretty good re­turn on in­vest­ment.

‘They share a time­less­ness that they owe to the in­tegrity of their con­tents

Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

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