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The Fascinating History and Characteristics of Art Deco Furniture

History and Characteristics of Art Deco Furniture
The period between World War I and World War II gave birth to escapism through art, which transcended into every walk of life. This luxurious, extravagant, and stylish revolution came to be known as 'Art Deco'. DecorDezine traces the history, popularity, and characteristics of Art Deco furniture from that period.
Mary Anthony
Last Updated: Mar 9, 2018
Pricey Opulence!
Art Deco lovers Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge recently auctioned some exquisite pieces from their prized art collection out of which the famous 'Fauteuil aux dragons' or 'Dragons' armchair created by renowned Art Deco furniture designer Eileen Gray sold for 21.9 million euros or USD 28 million.
Considered as the most creative fusion art movement inspired by a number of art movements like Neoclassicism and Art Nouveau, the 'Art Deco' style revolutionized a whole new era of luxury and extravagance in the history of design. To escape the drudgery and grim realities of World War I, artists worldwide created futuristic, sophisticated, and optimistic pieces of artwork that spilled onto every branch of art, be it fashion, jewelry, architecture, or furnishings. Everything about this era glorified beauty, and it was absolutely in contrast to the austerity of the war ravaged world.

Let us explore further why these new designs acquired the admiration of consumers and art collectors alike.
Artists all over the world wanted to create optimism and hope for the future through their creative designs after World War I, and thus, it reflected in their pieces of work. France has always been the sybaritic epicenter of fashion cults and designs, and hence, to expose and display the talented works of artists, it organized the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Industriels Modernes or The International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925. The exhibition was masterminded by an affiliation of French artists known as, La Societe des Artistes Decorateurs or The Society of Decorator Artists which was founded by Hector Guimard. Eugene Grasset, Raoul Lachenal, Paul Follot, Maurice Dufrene, and Emile Decour, some of them were forerunners of Art Nouveau.

Designers from various spectrum of art like jewelry, graphics, paintings, architecture, fashion, and furnishings displayed their creations in this exhibition. The common factor binding all these artworks was that they were flamboyant and exposed functionality.

The term 'Art Deco' was coined from the title of the exhibition Arts Décoratifs; however, it became popular only after author and art historian Bevis Hiller published his book, Art Deco of the 20s and 30s in 1968, which truly personified the style movement.
Characteristics of Art Deco Furniture
Art Deco became a rage in Europe and America between the 1920s and the 1930s. Artists heavily incorporated themes of sunbursts and fountains―symbolic to the dawning of a new modern age. Geometric shapes from Cubanism form of art―symbolic to machinery and technology, and ancient cultures―prominently inspirations from the civilizations of Egypt, Asia, and Central America. These themes were predominant in all the furnishing designs of this era. The vibrant colors and luxuriant fabrics used in many Art Deco style furniture symbolized felicity and sunniness to the people who were undergoing the effects of the Great Depression. Glamorous mirrors, slick woods, satiny metal finishes, luxuriant leathers, jewels and exotic embellishments are all characteristic of Art Deco style furniture.

Instead of using classic materials for furnishings, designers started experimenting with materials such as aluminum, glass, stainless steel, lacquered and inlaid wood. The daring use of sweeping curves, chevron patterns, symmetry and repetition, and the sunburst motif are distinctive with Art Deco furnishings. Classic Art Deco furnishings are characterized below:
Mirrored Furniture
Mirrored furniture
These furnishings displayed improvisation of beauty and rich reflection! Coffee tables, dressing and vanity tables, and dressers were being manufactured out of mirrors.
Exotic Wooden Furniture
Exotic wooden furniture
These furnishings were made out of rare woods including violetwood, amboina, ebony, and mahogany. Less expensive woods like maple, oak, and ash were also used. The final touch on these furnishings would be a coat of lacquer which would give the piece a glamorous sleek look. The use of lacquer was extensive in Art Deco furnishings especially while making cabinets.
Metal Finishing in Furniture
The 1920s symbolized the Machine Age and Industrial boom, hence it transcended onto the furnishings which received the edgy futuristic look with metal and stainless steel finishes.
Leather Furniture
Furnishings were made with richly textured buttery-soft leathers, armchairs, sofas, and ottomans were upholstered typically in finest black, brown, and tan leather. The leathers were also dyed in gaudy colors like cherry red and tangerine orange.
Wooden Inlay in Furniture
Giving sofas and armchairs a classic wooden inlay for a sophisticated expensive look was a primary characteristic of this era. The colors mainly used for these furnishings were rich tones of metallic, copper, and gold.
Marquetry in Furniture
Marquetry is defined as 'the craft of covering a structural carcass with pieces of veneer, forming decorative patterns, designs, or pictures.' Dressers, armoires, and dining tables were decorated with marquetry patterns such as zig-zags, sunbursts, and chevrons.
Luxurious Embellishments in Furniture
Art Deco furnishings were adorned with accents of luxurious stones, quartz, and jewels like onyx, jade, ivory, and Murano glass. They were mostly used in lamps, chandeliers, wall clocks, and radios for modern and epicurean look.
The Art Deco style persisted as a popular design choice for quite a while, but its prominence began to decline as the world entered into World War II. These furnishings were rendered as too gaudy and extravagant for the economic hardships of World War II. It resurfaced during the 1960s and 1980s and was an inspirational source for Pop Art and Memphis style of art. At present, these pieces are part of elaborate art collections and prized possessions of art lovers, there are Danish and waterfall replicas in the market, but to find and own a genuine piece at exorbitant price, one can refer to online luxury furniture auction sites like 1stdibs, Sotheby's and Christie's.
Mirror Triptych
Metal Birdcage With Ornaments
Metal urn
Empty Old Wooden Bookcase