Gerrit Thomas Rietveld was born in Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1888.
After working in his father's joinery business, he apprenticed at a jewellery studio.
In 1911 he started his own cabinet-making firm, which he maintained for eight years. In this same period, he studied architecture.
Through his studies he became acquainted with several founders of De Stijl.
In 1917 Rietveld designed the Red Blue Chair, which signalled a radical change in architectural theory.
His unusual furniture designs led to several housing commissions which he invariably designed in a Neo-plastic style. The designs utilized the free and variable use of space and showed a profound understanding of dynamic spatial ideas.
In the late 1920s architecture in the Netherlands focused on the idea of "dematerialization". This idea influenced a series of terrace houses with which Rietveld was involved.
In 1928 Rietveld acted as a founding member of CIAM.
With a few exceptions, the 1930s and 1940s were not particularly productive for Rietveld.
Between 1942 and 1948, Rietveld taught at several institutions in the Netherlands.
In 1963 he was elected an honorary member of the Bond van Nederlandse Architecten and in 1964 he received an honorary degree from the Technische Hochschule in Delft. Rietveld died in Utrecht in 1964.