The craftsman cabinet-maker was also an influential architect, moulding together unique structures within elegant forms. This includes the sculpture pavilion at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller at Otterloo and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Rietveld spent his entire life in Utrecht, the city of his birth. His early career was as a draftsman in a goldsmith workshop. By 1917, he had opened his own furniture venture.
In 1918, Rietveld joined the “De Stijl” movement, which continued the trend started by cubist painters to breakdown compositions and dismantle the norm. This included being firmly nonrepresentational, using horizontals and verticals as an unstinting geometric expression. They also favoured primary colours, and the use of white and black. The group was greatly influenced by the architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Such was Rietveld's influence, The Gerrit Rietveld Académie - an international university of applied sciences for Fine Arts and Design in Amsterdam – is still the source of unexpected and innovative creations.
One of Rietveld’s earliest chairs (1919) was his iconic "Red and Blue". Others that have inspired modern manufacturers and craftspeople include Zig-Zag (1934) and the linear Utrecht (1935).