Gerrit Rietveld worked at his father’s furniture workshop. They made classic furniture and also panelling for interiors. Rietveld spoke about this period: “The fact that I got rid of the old styles was not because I didn’t like them or because I couldn’t make them successfully, because I had learned the trade well. But I chose to not continue with it because it did not give me any satisfaction. I didn’t see a future in it, because everything you made in those old styles was actually worse than what people made in those times.”

From 1904 he followed evening courses in drawing, painting, moulding, technical drawing and theory of style and ornamentation. One of his teachers was P.J. Houtzagers, at that time a famous architect in Utrecht.

‘The fact that I got rid of the old styles was not because I didn’t like them … I didn’t see a future in it’

In the period 1909-1913 Gerrit Rietveld joined the firm of Begeer and designed showrooms in Louis XIV and XV style. There he met Erich Wichmann and Jan Eisenloeffel, who brought him into contact with, as Rietveld called them, ‘more modern atmospheres’. At that time Rietveld also attended evening classes with the architect P.J.C. Klaarhamer. He had a studio in the same building as Bart van der Leck and so Rietveld became acquainted with the work of this artist.

Rietveld expressed about these times: “I started to make all kinds of things for myself but first I wanted to know where to go. I immediately felt that you no longer had to work with the mass of the material but that you had to work with the space which was in it and that you therefore had to separate a space from the general space by means of boundaries which were not complete.”

At the beginning of 1919 he came into contact with members of De Stijl group through the architect van ‘t Hoff.

Rietveld stated about De Stijl: “I joined De Stijl when it already existed for 1.5 years. Very coincidentally because people saw my things and they corresponded in appearance with the creations of De Stijl members. But De Stijl had the intention to make a new style, whereas in fact I only made a study which happened to correspond with the principles of De Stijl.”

About the sideboard which Rietveld designed in 1919 immediately after the red-blue chair he said: “As a principle it had that same construction [of the red-blue chair]; the construction is not only a very typical strong construction which leaves the wood in its full strength, but at the same time it is a spatiality; the three dimensions of space are in it; so when I started to use material I always used this spatially.”

At that time Rietveld also designed a number of renovations, interiors and store facades. Begeer’s store front, for example, was built in 1919 and the store in Amsterdam of the Gold and Silversmith’s company (1921) was given a special facade during the renovation. The facade is constructed as a spatial composition of various volumes and surfaces.

The renovation of the leather store E. Wessels en Son in 1924 showed a shop window in the shape of a large glass container. The store front seems to be detached from the floor because the skylights have been moved backwards over the entire width of the building.

Two years earlier Rietveld designed the interior of the consultation room of general practitioner A.M. Hartog in Maarssen, with a desk, two straight slatted chairs, a chest of drawers and a tube lamp. This first version had four tubes, later the lamp was usually composed of three parts. An ultimate spatial object, in which the three dimensions of the space are represented.