Pastoe’s story began in 1913 in Utrecht, when German-Dutch businessman Frits Loeb (1889-1959) decided to produce chairs in a traditional cabinetmaking workshop to sell in his own shop. His atelier—named Utrechtsche Machinale Stoel-en Meubelfabrik (UMS) at the time—quickly grew and in 1917 moved into a large factory facility, manufacturing furniture for a range of retail outlets. In 1918, the factory was moved again to the Rotsoord area in Utrecht, where it is still located today. While the early furniture lines produced by UMS were intended for a general audience, the company—under the direction of designer-manager D. L. Braakman (1885-1966)—was one of the first in the Netherlands to adopt a more austere, minimalist aesthetic expressed in then-novel materials like tubular steel and bent plywood. The Dutch market was slow to respond to these designs, so it was all the more audacious when UMS, in 1947, became dedicated to producing only modernist furniture. To reflect the new mission, the company’s name was changed to Pastoe.
In 1848, Cees Braakman (1917-1995), D. L.’s son, took the helm as designer and director and furthered the company’s modernist aims, advocating for low-cost, modular designs inspired by the likes of Charles & Ray Eames and Alvar Aalto—the latter of which created the first series of Pastoe geometric cabinets at the end of the 1940s. During the 1950s, the company focused on developing flexible cabinet systems that could be assembled by the consumer, which led to the highly customizable, highly successful Made-to-Measure storage system (1955). In 1957, Made-to-Measure furniture was awarded a silver medal at the 11th Trienniale in Milan and crowned with the Le Signe d’Or in Belgium.
Today Pastoe continues to manufacture formally simple, high-quality furniture, including cabinet systems, storage pieces, chairs, and more. Many of Pastoe’s designs have attained an iconic status, such as Cees Braakman’s SMO5 Chair (1958), one of the first stools to be entirely fabricated in steel wire, and Studio Pastoe’s L-Series Cabinet (1979). Recent collaborations include projects with the late, great Belgian designer Maarten Van Severen, German designer Konstantin Grcic, and rising-star Dutch studio Scholten & Baijings.
Pastoe’s objects have been exhibited in galleries and museums broadly, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
* All images courtesy of Pastoe