Fred Ward 1900-1990 (close enough to Fred Wood) is considered to be a cult figure for those that idolise antique furniture in this country. Born in Victoria, he attended the school of drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria. He began his artistic career as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist for the Bulletin and had a stint at the Melbourne Herald in 1929. Fred began designing furniture in that same year, initially for his house in Heidelberg. His early influences were Georgian architecture and American colonial furniture design. Joints were a feature of his early work, with a crafty focus on function in form.

Fred Ward Father of Furniture Design in Australia

He swam against the tide initially and designed original pieces rather than copies of European furniture. Fred did not use a dark stain on lighter coloured timbers, but employed local timbers like Blackwood, myrtle, coach wood, fiddle back and white gum for his furniture. Fred Ward opened a shop in Collins Street in 1932 for his interior design and furniture pieces. European modernism influenced his furniture designs, and asymmetry, geometry and negative space came to the fore. Ward exhibited his furniture in several leading exhibitions of the era. Myer Emporium invited a young Ward to manage its fine-furniture workshops in North Melbourne in the years before the Second World War. Fred Ward’s austere and modular designs for Myer were successful during the Depression. Was he our own IKEA trailblazer, decades before the Swedish behemoth took off?

Fred Lowen’s First Chair

Fred Ward was involved in advising Australia’s Department of Aircraft Production regarding the timber-framed Mosquito bomber during the war years. Fred would turn his attention to industrial design after the war, converting wartime machinery into egg incubators, and designing cooking ranges. In 1948, Fred designed the first chair made by Fred Lowen and Ernest Rodeck at their backyard factory of the time.

Fred Ward in Canberra

Fred moved to Canberra in the 1950s, and like that city itself spent many years uncelebrated by the greater public in Australia. He was the winner of a competition to design the furniture of University House at ANU. He, then, became head of design at that institution, before retiring in 1961. Fred Ward assisted in the establishment of the Society for Designers in Industry (Industrial Design Institute of Australia from 1956) and the Industrial Design Council of Australia. Australian furniture designers everywhere owe Fred Ward a great deal.