A few years ago, on one of the BUILD Manhattan field trips, we stumbled upon a great exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt entitled “Design does not equal Art”. The exhibit aimed to “explore the very nature of both design and art, and how one may distinguish between the two”. The furniture pieces on display were attenuated, elegant and some of the most gorgeous work we’ve seen. Interestingly, most of this work was produced by individuals not typically associated with furniture design.

Donald Judd is typically associated with three dimensional installations and sculpture; however his furniture pieces are his most provocative work in our opinion. As one of the first artists to declare and explore minimalism, his furniture designs are austere and elegant. We’d also like to think the designs are practical and comfortable but that will have to remain conjecture – the Cooper Hewitt staff didn’t seem too crazy about us lounging around on the “furniture”.

Donald Judd, Chairs #84/85, Fin color plywood, 1987

Donald Judd, Chairs #84/85

Donald Judd, Stool #68, Cherry, 1989

Donald Judd, Stool #68

Donald Judd, Frame table and chairs

Donald Judd, Frame table and chairs

Donald Judd, Wintergarden Bench #16/17, Douglas fir

Donald Judd, Wintergarden Bench #16/17

Donald Judd, Prototype for child’s desk, Pine, 1977

Donald Judd, Prototype for child’s desk

Donald Judd, Desk with two chairs #97, Fin color plywood, 1992

Donald Judd, Desk with two chairs #97

Donald Judd, Desk #74, 1990

Donald Judd, Desk #74

Donald Judd, Office desk

Donald Judd, Office desk

Richard Tuttle, commonly known for his two dimensional work, produced a series of furniture that can vary in size, however a numerical system regulates the proportion of the objects. The simple geometrical game and flexibility of the system produce a handsome composition.

Richard Tuttle, Furniture set, 1990

Richard Tuttle, The Nature of the Gun

Joseph & Anni Albers are, again, known for a variety of achievements other than furniture design including painting, printmaking, teaching and a robust portfolio of textiles. The Albers believed that every detail of how we live, every aesthetic choice, affects the quality of daily human experience. More of their work can be seen in their book Designs for Living or on the Albers foundation website.

Josef Albers, Table for a reception room, Baltic birch, 1923

Josef Albers, Table for a reception room

Josef Albers, Set of four stacking tables, Ash veneer, black lacquer, and painted glass, circa 1927

Josef Albers, Set of four stacking tables

Josef Albers, Office desk, Ash and mahogany, black laquer, c.1927

Josef Albers, Office desk

Josef Albers, Sofa in two parts, Walnut and maple veneer, c.1927

Josef Albers, Sofa in two parts

Josef Albers, Corner table, Ash, c.1927

Josef Albers, Corner table

Josef Albers, Bed, Walnut veneer and metal, c.1927

Josef Albers, Bed

The pieces shown above are, unfortunately, one of a kind. In our search for comparable design we recommend checking out Blu Dot. They strike us as a furniture designer and manufacturer that shares a philosophy of simple, straight-forward design. Their pieces serve the intended purpose without filling up space with over-design.

Blu Dot, Strut table

Blu Dot Strut Table