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image icon Two dining chairs and chest of drawers, designed c1948

Two dining chairs and chest of drawers, designed c1948
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a set of furniture made in wood and plastic by Douglas Snelling (1916-85), who designed them about 1948. The dining chairs were made of wood and woven plastic webbing in about 1961 and measure 78.0 cm x 42.5 cm x 52.0 cm in size. The chest of drawers was made in wood in 1952 and measures 82.5 cm x 90.5 cm x 38.0 cm. Both the chest of drawers and chairs are made from the same light-brown-toned timber. The chairs have tapered, angled legs and boomerang-shaped timber sides with light-coloured webbing on the seats and back supports. The chest of drawers has tapered and angled legs similar to those on the chairs. The front panels of the eight drawers on the chest are set at a slight angle, sloping backwards from bottom to top.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • presents a set of furniture made by Douglas Snelling - Snelling was born in England and worked as an architect and designer in Australia 1942-77; during the late 1940s, Snelling had furniture manufactured to his designs by Functional Products Pty Ltd (a Sydney-based company that Snelling helped to establish in 1947); Snelling was one of a number of furniture designers who were committed to producing modern, well-designed and comfortable furniture that was compatible with contemporary living; these designers, who included sculptor-designer Clement Meadmore (1929-2005) and Grant Featherston (1922-95) along with Snelling, kept abreast of the latest international developments in furniture design, particularly those in the USA and Scandinavia
  • is from the range of furniture designed by Snelling known as the ‘Snelling’ line - this range (Australia's first post-Second World War modern range of furniture) included tables, chairs and modular furniture; a feature of this style of furniture is its lightness, both in design and in the colour of the timbers used; the style became popular in the later 1940s and remained so in Australia through to the 1960s
  • shows furniture that is modular in its design - the advantage of modular furniture (as in this example) was its capacity to be expanded or reduced as requirements changed; the modular elements include the common styling of tapered angled legs (both chest of drawers and chairs), repeated diagonal angling of the drawers and the common timber finish
  • expresses a new post-War approach to working with materials; the light-coloured timber fitted with the lighter colour schemes and naturally lit interiors of post-War housing; the 'Snelling line' was particularly known for its use of parachute webbing, replaced later by Saran (plastic) webbing, on slim timber-framed seats; these items were lightweight, functional and easily transported, and a real alternative to the large over-stuffed, upholstered lounges that were a feature of the 1930s; these designs, with minor modifications, remained in production into the 1960s
  • references modern European and US furniture traditions and innovations - furniture was seen as a design object by some of the most influential art movements of the early part of the 20th century; furniture was designed by artists associated with the Bauhaus (1919-33) in Germany and De Stijl (1917-31) in the Netherlands; in the 1950s Scandinavian furniture-design aesthetics influenced international design trends; during this period the attitude towards furniture design as being purely utilitarian and mundane changed to it being an expression of contemporary lifestyle and creative experiment.