A MEETING AT THE EXHIBITION: THE POLISH COFFIN-SHELF UNIT. AROUND 90s DESIGN
Parts of the “Home at Last. The Polish House During the Transition” exhibition devoted to home interiors show post-transformational changes in the needs and aspirations of Poles concerning the organization of their private space.
It clashes transformation-era solutions with contemporary living standards. It doesn't only constrast the functional arrangements, juxtaposing the living/sleeping/dining rooms of the 1990s with modern apartments where each function has its own space, but also shows the changes in how Polish apartments have been decorated and equipped in the last thirty years.
Home interiors in the 1990s were characterized by a special kind of eclecticism. “Big rooms” not only served various functions, they also incorporated various styles and types of furniture - the only conscious design principle often being a matching color. Heavy oak furniture with carvings and balusters, stylistically referring to baroque Gdańsk furniture, were just as popular as office-style particle board furniture. Eco-leather armchairs stood next to massive coffee tables with ceramic tile tops. Velour-covered living room suites and first Ikea shelves. Obligatory wall decoration in the form of a painting/clock made out of leather.
But they key piece of furniture in the Polish home was still the wall unit. Glass-covered segments showed off home possessions, name-day knickknacks and souvenirs from trips abroad. The built-up cabinets and closets hid all the things that today would take up a whole walk-in closet. No wonder such a significant piece of furniture was one of the few home equipment elements that evolved so much in the 90s. After the traditional, open units used for dividing rooms in the 60s and the high-gloss wall units of the 70s and 80s (which were still present in Polish homes) came the futuristic, postmodern furniture units. The segment shapes and commonly black color with golden plastic elements quickly earned them the mocking name of “coffin-units”.
The meeting will focus on 1990s furniture presented in the exhibition.
Cezary Lisowski - art historian, exhibition curator, collector of Polish design.