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Canadian Furnitures Reflect a Changing Society

Have you ever noticed changing trends in homefurnishings in Canada? The most popular goods displayed in furniture stores, floor covering stores, and drapery and upholstery stores always vary in appearance over the course of time. Many households seek to update their décor and furniture selections in order to keep pace with these changes. (While eventually older fashion trends receive acclaim as "vintage" or "antique", during the short-term these wares simply become outdated and outmoded!) Just consider some of the most important contributions to developing Canadian furniture styles:

Native American Artists and Craft Designers

Certainly the works of Inuit and Native American artists supply one of the most significant and lasting impacts on homefurnishings in modern Canada. Indigenous residents of North America have utilized cultural themes to exert a powerful influence over many aspects of these products in the past. These traditions continue into the modern era. Stroll through the isles of large commercial floor covering stores, drapery and upholstery stores, and furniture stores in Canada to notice an array of items reflecting this trend.

For example, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia reports The Woodlands School of Art (i.e. the "New Woodlands School of Art") derives from a style of painting first popularized by Native American artists from the Great Lakes Region. Artists working in the cultural tradition of communities residing in this geographic area and in parts of Northern Ontario and Manitoba reportedly contributed heavily to this influential body of work. Some leading artists found compensated employment as graphic designers. You'll find their efforts carried forward in some popular styles of homefurnishings and furniture. Just a few of the creative artists involved in the movement included these well-known names:

  • Daphne Odjig (1919-2016);
  • Benjamin Chee Chee (1944-1977);
  • Eddy Cobiness (1933-1996);
  • Jackson Beardy (1944-1984).

Popular themes of artists working with indigenous cultural traditions include animals, plants and other aspects of the natural world. Some artists relied extensively upon legends and lore in formulating specific pieces.

Western European Influences From The Colonial Era

Furniture stores, drapery and upholstery stores, flooring stores and other retail fashion outlets in Canada still also reflect the profound influence of designers from Western Europe in the field of contemporary furniture and graphic design styles. For example, antiques from Canada's Colonial Period (c. 1534-1867) in good condition frequently command high prices among furniture collectors today. The items of furniture crafted in Europe and transported to Canada during the era of French and British colonization exerted a strong influence over the daily lives of Canadian households in earlier historical periods.

Jacques Cartier entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and claimed Canada for the French Crown in 1534. Afterwards the emigrants from France, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and other nations who relocated across the Atlantic Ocean did not reside in a completely dependent state. Just like settlers who built homes and farms in British-held lands further south, many of these enterprising individuals constructed their own handcrafted furniture. They usually imitated familiar Western European furniture styles in preparing homefurnishings. You'll see evidence of the enduring influence of these styles when you spend time visiting furniture stores, flooring stores, and modern drapery and upholstery stores in Canada.

The Period of Western Expansion

Following the formation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, the young nation of Canada underwent a significant period of western expansion and resource exploitation. The discovery of gold in California earlier in the century had sparked considerable interest in discovering mineral deposits west of the Mississippi River. The allure of finding precious metals inspired many Canadians.

Denizens of communities in eastern provinces relocated in significant numbers to British Columbia and "prairie" locations such as Alberta and Manitoba; they joined immigrants from other places (including the United States, England, France, Ireland, Hungary, Iceland, and China). Racism sometimes impacted these demographic changes in Canada. Yet the population changes inevitably impacted the styles of goods sold in furniture stores, floor covering stores, and drapery and upholstery stores.

The Industrial Revolution had by then allowed the mass production of fabrics, allowing retailers to supply Canadian immigrant communities with competitively priced factory generated homefurnishings. Some historians today trace the first furniture company in Canada to a firm which had begun conducting business in Ontario in 1830. By the era of westward expansion, Canadian households benefited from the wide availability of fabrics, farm implements, hand tools, metal skillets, and other items required to establish mines, farms and ranches in the increasingly populous Canadian West.

Dynamic Twentieth Century Design Themes

Of course, furniture styles and the appearance of other wares utilized by Canadian households continued changing and evolving during the Twentieth Century. Although they benefitted enormously from the growth of manufacturing facilities and expanded railroad transportation networks, Victorian Era Canadians sometimes enjoyed comparatively few luxuries in their households. Their choice of manufactured goods often proved limited by availability. With the arrival of the Twentieth Century and the exuberance of the post-World War I period, new cosmopolitan influences began pervading Canadian society. These elements appeared in the adoption of changing furniture styles.

Now Canadians in every socioeconomic income bracket enjoyed a much greater selection of attractive furniture styles. Furniture stores, floor covering stores, and drapery and upholstery stores offered more options for households seeking homefurnishings. Three especially important trends stand out from this era. First, sleek Modernist functional furniture designs from Scandinavia emerged during this century. These styles gained wider popularity, largely replacing the Art Deco exuberance of earlier decades. Scandinavian designs became very influential during the 1950s and 1960s. Second, the economic upheavals caused by WWI, the post-WWI "Roaring Twenties", the Great Depression, WWII and the booming post-WWII years all exerted profound impacts over product and fashion styles. Third, by the close of the Twentieth Century, the rise of the Internet had begun ushering in a new, novel period of e-Commerce and global trade, disrupting previously established markets.

Current Influences on Modern Canadian Furniture

Never before have Canadian households enjoyed such a wide array of options for selecting beautiful home furnishings and furniture. The products marketed today in a variety of brick-and-mortar and online venues offer impressive choices. Whether they choose to shop in person at furniture stores and floor covering stores, or online via merchant websites, Canadians discover products from around the globe available for use in their homes and businesses. This change represents a genuine revolution in the distribution of goods and services. It also means buyers can evaluate a wider number of styles and designs.

For example, Canadian furniture stores currently offer both assembled furniture, and DIY furniture kits. Fabrics utilized in these products may undergo production in several disparate locations: wool from sheep in Chile contribute to fabric production in India and chair manufacturing in China. The spread of global trade has resulted in the mass production of diverse inventories. At the same time, a market niche also exists for the creation of fine handcrafted brands manufactured and sold by Canadian furniture stores. A variety of business models help merchants generate revenue in this eclectic marketplace.

The Future of Canadian Furniture And Homefurnishings

While no one can predict future trends with certainty, it does appear likely furniture stores in Canada in coming decades will continue to enjoy remarkable success. Canada today serves as a supplier of important natural resources, including oil and gas, minerals, and timber. As long as wood furniture remains in high demand, Canadian lumber suppliers will likely enjoy a market for forest products.

The emerging global e-Commerce marketplace continues to develop and expand. It permits numerous competing styles and fashion trends to vie for popular support from consumers. With numerous influential design schools and manufacturers contending in this arena, people seeking high quality, lovely Canadian furniture and homefurnishings will continue to discover exciting values in this industry!

Reference Information:

  1. https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodlands_style
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Beardy
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphne_Odjig
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Chee_Chee
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddy_Cobiness
  6. https://www.history.com/topics/exploration/jacques-cartier
  7. https://everything2.com/title/Canadian+westward+expansion
  8. https://pier21.ca/research/immigration-history/settling-the-west-immigration-to-the-prairies-from-1867-to-1914
  9. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/furniture-industry
  10. http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/0-9/20th-century-design-styles