Pastoe

Philosophy

Radical changes? A fresh start? Driven by the unpredictable whims of the market?
During its ninety years of existence, Pastoe has learned that slavishly reacting to the latest trends in the market is as nothing compared with the careful and measured evolution of a furniture collection. This applies to us, but even more so to those who have elected to furnish their homes with Pastoe furniture. We and our furniture cannot easily be outpaced by the rapid passage of time. New products continue to be based on the selfsame quality we have set ourselves in terms of our design policy and the way we make our furniture. For us, innovation is never merely cosmetic, but it's the next step in refining technologies, enhancing functionality and improving visual and material longevity. Pastoe is fully aware of how valuable history is in responding to the questions the future holds.

Sensationalism just isn't Pastoe's style. Our key role in the development of Dutch design has always been characterised by sober minimalism. And logical innovation. The very simplicity of our storage units, tables, chairs and seating elements is a response to the need to marry quality with neutrality. Basic geometric shapes and sophisticated details are often combined with additional options - in terms of finishing, the way the various elements are composed and even with new functionalities added to storage units during their life. Nothing is forced, so the models function equally well in all kinds of different surroundings. For the trained eye, they are outstanding, but never obtrusive. Furniture with real character, unafraid to reveal itself without the need for extravagance. Furniture of few words.

Pastoe selects its designers with care, drawing inspiration from the rich history of Dutch design, but adding an international edge. The link with Japan is a logical one, in view of the minimalist slant to our collection. Alongside the alliance with Shiro Kuramata, Shigeru Uchida has been Pastoe's most important foreign designer for years now. We also have our own design department, where concepts are developed and designs perfected, even going so far as devising our very own colour concept. Every single detail matters to us. Because the details last a lifetime. In museum collections, showrooms, galleries, but above all in the homes of our clients, who watch in wonder as their furniture gains in value over the years.

A radical change of course? For ninety years now, the way forward for Pastoe has always been one of longevity and continuity.


History


ca. 1920
1913 � 1943 The first phase

The Utrechtsche Machinale Stoel- en Meubelfabriek (UMS) was established on the basis of a small traditional chair-making company, which was founded in 1913 by Frits Loeb (1889-1959) for his own shop in the Ganzenmarkt, Utrecht. The factory rapidly developed to, by Dutch standards, a rather large company, where in addition to chairs other pieces of furniture were made. These included cupboards which were produced in series, either according to old or to new styles.
Apart from Frits Loeb, D.L. Braakman (1885-1996) also played a significant role as manager and draftsman/ designer in the expansion of activities. The view of modern design, as shown by the UMS during the twenties and thirties, is still far distant from the evocative international avant-garde of those years, as presented by Rietveld/ Gispen, Breuer/ Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier/ Perriand. The designs developed by those people had little appeal to the general public, which provided the customers for UMS. Yet, UMS was one of the few who tried to produce, in addition to the commercially more interesting, historicizing styles, more modern pieces of furniture. It is not surprising that the company directed itself in this endeavour towards the more moderate, national �furniture art�. This group consisted in the twenties of many architect-designers from the Amsterdamse School, such as M. de Klerk, P. Kramer, H. Krop and the �craftsmen� such as W. Penaat and Corn. van der Sluys. Later, the influence was felt from the far more businesslike and more cubist Haagse School, as represented by H. Wouda, F. Spanjaard, C. Alons and others.
Furniture factories with mass-production like the UMS did not work directly with these designers. It was more usual for the companies design office to adapt the shapes of the designed piece of furniture to a form which was more acceptable to the company. In this way it was expected to anticipate the supposed and hoped for taste of the general public, which, as described by UMS around 1930, �asks more and more for modern styles, in particular the good modern, without the ugly frames and ornaments; a modern piece of furniture, which presents itself through its combination of lines and not by its ornamentation�.
A good example is a sideboard which was produced in those years, after a design by W. Bernasconi. It consists of an asymmetric accumulation into various directions of cubist volumes and a decorative use of the veneer. These elements provided a somewhat monumental piece of furniture, which formed part of a series of some seventeen models. However, the UMS was too optimistic about the taste of the general public. This also showed after the failure of a project on a series of furniture units by the Amsterdam interior decoration, A.K. Grimmon. This project did not pass beyond the stage of one prototype: a very distinct, orthodox chest of drawers. Another original design, which in view of the situation was very daring, but commercially not viable, was that of the steel tube chairs which could be dismantled, designed by the architect H.F. Mertens (1884-1960).
Nevertheless, the modern piece of furniture succeeded in establishing its own position, next to the more conventional models, within the collections of the UMS. During the thirties, the influence of various foreign trends became noticeable. In particular French Art Deco and Scandinavian design gave rise by using rounded forms and by a preference for light-coloured wood.

ca. 19501948 � 1972 The second phase

After the Second World War, during which the factory had been completely stripped, the company made a new start. Initially it seemed as if the pre-war design policy would be continued: there was a simultaneous development of �old finish� products, and of more modern styles. In 1948, the management of the company made a radical decision in favour of the modern pieces of furniture.
Cees Braakman (1917), who succeeded his father as manager and designer, managed to convince his management, after a study tour through the United States where he saw the work of Charles and Ray Eames, that it was necessary to apply newly developed production techniques. This included the bending of laminated types of wood (triplex, multiplex), and the adaptation of the design to these techniques. In addition, there was the wish to follow the Stichting Goed Wonen (�Foundation for Good Living�: 1946-1968) in an adaptation to the limited size of the average Dutch house; the restricted financial possibilities of the consumer, and the changing demands posed upon furniture by the family situation. In general design matters, Braakman followed the great examples from abroad, in the first instance from Sweden and Finland (Aalto) and America (Eames), and later also from Italy, Denmark en West Germany. Braakman adopted the foreign ideas of design to the production techniques available to the company. Thus distinct and coherent collections of furniture were developed, which were regarded as functional objects. Because they were in general rather quiet and unobtrusive in outlook, they fitted into the most divergent situations. This �passepartout� principle was adopted into the trade name PasToe, with which the factory gained a wide reputation, both in the Netherlands and abroad, as producer of modern furniture. The specific character of the company can also be most clearly seen during this period in its successive series of storage cabinets, which formed the main part of the turnover. Chairs and couches played a less important role. The underlying principle with the storage cabinets was the concept of the �combination� piece; an idea which had already been developed before the war. These pieces of furniture were not the autonomous objects of before, but of a type which could be expanded in a flexible manner. The oak series (1948) and the birch series (1950) were based on cupboards with strongly cubist, basic shapes. Because of their smooth finish, they could be places beside, or even on top of each other, in order to make larger units. The design is distinctly sober, although the selection of lighter coloured types of wood made sure that the pieces had a friendly character and a visually light and neutral appearance.
The introduction of the teak �Pastoe-meubelen-naar-maat� (Pastoe-made-to-measure furniture) series in 1955 was a radical new elaboration of the concept. The system was based on a �corner frame� to which other planks and other parts could be added in all four directions. With a limited number of basic elements the most divergent units could be constructed, which, if so desired, could be expanded and changed. In the following years, this system was produced in other types of wood, such as rosewood, light pinewood, and with various colours of veneer.
This concept was a great success, both in the Netherlands and abroad. The teak version won the second prize at the 11th Triennale at Milan, and in 1957 in Belgium it was awarded �Le Signe d�Or�. The concept of unit furniture culminated in the 125M series (1965). With the help of additional segments the storage cabinet could be exactly fitted in between floor and ceiling. As a cupboard wall, the cupboard was no longer an autonomous piece of furniture. After some time the production started, next to that of the flexible �furniture made-to-measure�, of more conventional (fixed) pieces. Apparently not everyone wanted a wall full of cupboards. The models from the �U+N� series (1958) had a strongly formal and geometric character because of the fronts which were constructed with nailed-on board, executed with a combination of wood types and colour veneers. This suited their autonomous status. The �DC-Collection� (1962), was far less distinctive in its independent concept. With the �Pastoe Cube� (1967) and the �K 369� series (1971), Braakman continued the old principle of stacking loose elements into a larger unit. Both series were based on a newly developed production technique, whereby chipboard coated with PVC was milled crosswise, so that it could be bent into the shape of a chest. This approach is characteristic for the way in which Braakman created his designs from the technique. This can be seen in all the catalogues of the Pastoe collections. For their inventiveness and courage, in 1968 Braakman and UMS-Pastoe were distinguished with the BKI-prize and an exhibition in the Center for Industrial Design in the Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam.
During the seventies, a certain ambiguity became noticeable in the collections, which until then had been remarkably coherent. On the one hand more exclusive models were produced which were of a high quality, but on the other hand the wish was to serve young and new customers, who felt the need of cheaper and less pronounced furniture.
ca. 19641982 - present

The confusion which characterized the preceding years was finally put an end to at the beginning of the eighties. A new management adopted a clear, unequivocal plicy, shich in the meantime has become well established. The central feature of this new policy is a pronounced and recognizable design and a high quality level of manufacture. The furniture pieces of the present Pastoe collection consist no longer of purely functional objects, but are also individual objects in space. With this concept Pastoe follows the development which has shown itself everywhere in the avant-garde of design over the last ten years. In certain cases this new policy also means a break with the past, in particular as regards the organization of the company. The production of furniture is no longer confined to within the company itself; a lot of work is put out to contract. In this way it is possible to present a larger assortment of shapes and a more balanced collection.
Pastoe is not only the producer of storage cabinets, but it also offers original seating in various techniques and models. In this Pastoe not only directs itself, as was done in the past, to as wide as possible a domestic market, but to a relatively small segment of the international market.


� Guus Vreeburg