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I attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob Javits Center on Sunday. There were miles of aisles and it almost seemed daunting, except, of course, that I am looking at furniture. And there were some great things to see. Foremost in my mind was the folding furniture made by a company in Hoboken called Folditure.

They make chairs and tables that fold up completely flat and, from my heart, I have to say they were truly marvelous. The technology and sophistication of the design are just amazing and that the chairs fold flat to ¾” is spectacular. Creativity in the 18th century appears as boring to non-existent, the same old, same old, cabriole legs, splat backs, etc. I understand why that characterization is made, but I would suggest that it doesn’t hold weight, particularly for high end furniture of the period.

Furthermore, the creativity expressed by makers when transitioning from one style to another often led to unique pieces that combined numerous styles in one piece of furniture. That creativity was subtle, of course, but it was also unique to that maker.

When this furniture is good, it is superb. Occasionally it missed as well. The dimension of creativity today is broader than the 18th century. The variety of materials that contemporary makers can use is almost limitless. Furthermore, machinery helps in realizing some of the more fantastical designs from the point of view of design and construction. In the 18th century, craft was king and the craftsmen of the period had extensive apprenticeships and training.

Ergo, design was a function of using those talents to their fullest extent.

The differences between then and now seem wide, but they aren’t as wide as you might imagine. After all, the human body hasn’t changed all that much.