A century of design
The foundations of Artifort were laid by Jules Wagemans when he set up business as an upholsterer in Maastricht in 1890. His son, Henricus Wagemans, expanded the company into a furniture factory, which had a showroom in Amsterdam by the end of the nineteen twenties and was already well known nationally.
The economic recession of the nineteen-thirties forced H. Wagemans & Van Tuinen, as the furniture company was then known, to create a distinctive profile. Developing a catchy brand name and logo was a start. And naturally the furniture had to be distinctive too. The emphasis came to lie on functionality, comfort and quality combined with aesthetically pleasing design and an innovative use of materials.
In 1928 the new brand name was introduced: Artifort, derived from the Latin word ‘ars’ meaning art or knowledge, and ‘fortis’ meaning strong or powerful. The word ‘comfort’ is also reflected in this brand name.
Artifort’s breakthrough came at the beginning of the nineteen-thirties when the company started to use Epeda interior springing. Up until then, straw, horsehair and kapok has been used as filling materials, sometimes in combination with iron springing. Upholstering furniture with these materials was extremely labour-intensive. Epeda interior springing offered an attractive alternative and Artifort managed to acquire a licence to the Epeda patent. What was special about this interior springing, which was already being used in mattresses and car seats, was that it was woven from a single steel wire. Epeda interior springing combines a high level of comfort with great durability. Moreover, using this interior springing provided a major saving in production time.
A great deal changed with the arrival of the interior and furniture designer Kho Liang Ie. His forward-looking view, his great knowledge of design and his international contacts were not only determining factors in the successes of the nineteen-sixties and seventies but have continued to exert their influence up to this day. Artifort and Kho Liang Ie introduced talked-about designs and together ensured that the name Artifort became a runaway success internationally, both with architects and lovers of design. In 1959, Kho Liang Ie recruited the French designer Pierre Paulin, who introduced new techniques and constructions. He also designed a new logo for Artifort with Harry Sierman.
The face of Artifort
Paulin’s designs were fresh and innovative. His striking, brightly coloured seating sculptures raised eyebrows at home and abroad. Right up to today, they are regarded as the face of the Artifort collection. To produce these designs, a new construction method was introduced in collaboration with Artifort’s development department. Artifort started to work with foam-covered metal tube frames and stretch fabrics. In 1967 Paulin met Jack Lenor Larsen and together they formed a golden duo. In fact they changed the way in which the world viewed design, in terms of form, materials and textiles. Now, forty years later, Artifort has resumed production of the fabric Momentum exclusively for Paulin’s designs. At the beginning of the nineteen-sixties, Artifort started to focus more on the international contract market. The English designer Geoffrey Harcourt designed an extensive collection of contract furniture. Internationally, the furniture seemed to be very much in demand, which resulted in enormous sales growth in a short time. Artifort extended its activities in the contract market even further by distributing furniture made by the Italian Castelli company, among others.
Over the succeeding years, Artifort had to face increasing competition from foreign manufacturers. Once again, Artifort’s answer was innovation. First came the house style. 1970 saw the introduction of the logo that is still in use today – as timeless as the brand itself.
Under the inspiring, creative leadership of Harry Wagemans, the company continued to attract young and established design talent. Nel Verschuuren, Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, Gijs Bakker and Jeremy Harvey – young designers at the time and well-established names today – came to work for Artifort. Pierre Paulin and Geoffrey Harcourt continued to add new furniture to the collection every year. The design of Artifort furniture continued to be distinctive but sadly Kho Liang Ie would no longer be there to witness this. He died at the age of 47 in 1975.
Artifort’s policy was continued in the nineteen nineties when the company worked with designers such as Jasper Morrison, Wolfgang Mezger, René Holten and Jan Pesman. The result was celebrated furniture that entirely reflected the company’s philosophy and the values of the brand. Design, functionality and quality go hand in hand.
2000 and further
In 1998, the Lande Group in Schijndel breathed fresh life into the Artifort brand. New factories opened in Schijndel and Lanaken in Belgium where our know-how in furniture construction is perfectly combined with the art of upholstering. After the dip in the nineteen-nineties, Artifort is once more back in business. At ‘Il Salone Internationale del Mobile’ in Milan, the most important European furniture trade fair, Artifort is once again prominent.
2002 saw the birth of Patrick Norguet’s Apollo – a fauteuil that is now legendary and embraces everything that Artifort stands for. The Apollo marked the beginning of the continuingly successful relationship between the French designer and the Dutch company Artifort.
In 2006, after years of absence, Artifort once more returned to Interieur 06, the most important furniture trade fair in Belgium in Kortrijk. There, Artifort exhibited the interior of the future, in collaboration with Philips.
2007 was a treble anniversary year for Artifort: 50-60-80. Pierre Paulin turned 80 on 9 July, while 2007 also marked his 60th year as a designer, of which he had worked 50 years for Artifort. These were reasons enough to celebrate the anniversary in style and indeed it became the theme of Artifort’s stand at the ‘Salone Internazionale del Mobile’. In honour of the occasion, the ABCD and Le Chat were reintroduced in Jack Lenor Larsen’s Momentum fabric – a combination that set tongues wagging once again after 40 years.
After a year centred around Pierre Paulin, new models were introduced at the Artifort Event at the end of 2007. And they were as innovative as always! The Trance, Gap, Magnolia and Presso all featured unique details and Michiel van der Kley’s Globus proved to be a real hit. First as a simple work station and then, in 2008, expanded with a host of options and a special coating. The last word in flexibility!
Also a hit in 2008 was René Holten’s Lotus and Low Lotus - an innovative use of materials resulting in an exceptionally elegant fauteuil and stool. It is still raising a lot of eyebrows at the many trade fairs that Artifort has attended this year.
What 2010 will bring is still a surprise but one this is certain – after 120 years, Artifort is still making history!
Product group: Seating Relaxing Tables Storage / Shelving Kid's room furniture Office chairs Storage / Filing Executive Conference / Meeting Break-out / Privacy areas Lounge area / Waiting room Seating / seating systems Multipurpose Gastronomy
Designer: Karel Boonzaaijer Jacco Bregonje Diplomat Khodi Feiz Geoffrey Harcourt René Holten Richard Hutten Ie Kho Liang Wolfgang C. R. Mezger Jasper Morrison Patrick Norguet Pierre Paulin Dick Spierenburg UNStudio Ben van Berkel Toine van den Heuvel Michiel van der Kley Gerard Vollenbrock
Van Leeuwenhoekweg 20
P.O. Box 115 5482 TK,
Phone: +31 73 658 00 20
Fax: +31 73 547 45 25