Did You Know Art Deco Came From France?

     Art Deco


    Know-How It All Began...

    It began in Paris in the 1920s.

    Some of the most collection of furniture today was crafted by the first Art Deco interior designers, who were inspired by the 18th and 19th-century cabinet makers of Paris.

    These elegant items of fine craftsmanship were first noticed at the 1925 Paris "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes" by which Art Deco got its name.

    These makers included popular names as Paul Follot, Jacques Emile Ruhlmann, and the Sue et Mare partnership.

    Pieces by these designers are currently finding their way into museums and the collections of the international elite. 

    Other collectible Paris designers in the "artiste decorateurs" tradition include:

    Pierre Chareau -- An architect and furniture designer with his own shop -- Maison de Verre

    Pierre Legrain -- Produced furniture with a strong African influence

    Armand Albert Rateau -- Influenced by the Egyptian and the exotic and frequently used Bronze.

    Jean Michel-Frank - Sharkskin, loved pale woods, vellum, and soft leather.

    Eileen Gray - A reclusive Irish woman that launched in Paris. Her tubular pieces and lacquered wood items were traded in her own Galerie Jean Desert.

    In Britain, the few designers that worked in the high-end Art Deco design included:

    Gordon Russell - His job combined the early Arts and Crafts movement with Art Deco influences from Paris.

    Betty Joel - Her womanly Hollywood inspired pieces attracted elite customers from the British Royal family and classy hotels like the Savoy.

    Art Deco Furniture - Materials

    1920s French high end Art Deco furniture

    Image source: metmuseum.org

    1920s French high-end Art Deco furniture was created from the most excellent woods such as ebony and maple, ash, or burl walnut.

    Towards the end of the 1920s, ebony and other fascinating woods were becoming rare and fascinating veneers from overseas, such as calamander, zebrawood, palmwood, and Brazilian jacaranda. Veneers like sycamore, mahogany, amboyna, and violet wood were also famous.

    Inlays were of brass, ivory, and mother of pearl. Pieces were varnished with shagreen, (a sort of sharkskin that was perfect for dressing table or desktops) oriental silks, snakeskin, pony skins, and other animal hides.  Le Corbusier is known to use hides in chairs and chaises.

    Wrought iron and glass were merely some of the other costly materials used by such designers as Charles Picquet and Edgar Brandt for architectural components and lighting.

    Art Deco furniture was always finished to a very large sheen that gave it it's brilliance. Japanese Lacquer was typically used to achieve a very tactile, hard, and shiny finish.

    Eileen Gray, an Irish furniture manufacturer who resided in Paris, traveled overseas to master oriental lacquering, and her furniture was highly regarded after. The lacquering process comprised up to 22 layers of lacquer applied in a painstaking procedure, which made it too costly for most. It was majorly replaced by the 1930s by the advent of synthetic varnishes.

    Art Deco Furniture of this quality wasn't made a great deal outside Paris. Department stores like Galeries Lafayette started stocking luxury furniture so that it would be more widely accessible, but this exceptionally opulent style did not really take off outside France.

    Exceptions were a few shops in Britain, for example, Heals of London and Gillows of Lancaster, who carried quality imitations.

    The First Interior Designers

    A few British designers were inspired by high-class Art Deco like Ray and Hillethe Epstein Brothers who used veneers and walnut, but it was only in the 1930s when mass production methods and more economical materials became available that Art Deco became a style for the middle classes rather than only the aristocracy and the fabulously wealthy.

    Art Deco Furniture Reaches the USA

    By 1930 Art Deco furniture had entered the USA, and shops were filling with a more modernist style of furniture with a compact appearance. Donald Deskey, who made the interior of Radio City Hall, made countless accessible furniture layouts for department stores, which reached into the homes of ordinary people.

    Paul Frankl was making an inexpensive variety of skyscraper furniture in Manhattan influenced by the ever-rising skyline of New York. He provided for the new high rise apartment dwelling trendsetters, and his pieces were in black and red, chrome and steel, and basically the forerunners of smart, space-saving modular furniture. Nowadays, his compositions are making a fortune!


    Bauhaus and Modernist Architects

    In the 1930s, particularly in the USA, modernism from the Bauhaus school and architects such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier took over.

    There was also a great inspiration from the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Lloyd Wright barrel chair of 1908 resembles like Deco!

    Other 1930s Furniture manufacturers in the USA included Norman Bel Geddes and Warren McArthur.

    A few other states had their Art Deco designers that are now highly collectible. Several Scandinavian designers utilized pale curved plywood, which was a new method for the 1930s and was the starting of a Scandinavian furniture style. In Finland, the husband and wife team Aino Marsio Alvar and Aalto are gathered today for their curved and compact, or geometric laminated Birch furniture.

    If you want to learn more about Art Deco furniture and its designers, We recommend you do a search for Judith Miller's Art Deco or Art Deco Complete by Alastair Duncan. Both contain plenty of information and photographs on the different national designs of Art Deco furnishings.

    There has been a resurgence in the prevalence of 1930s Art Deco furniture in Europe, Australia, and the USA. Design classics like the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair and the Le Corbusier chaise are still being rebuilt and even sold in miniature versions as ornaments!

    New Art Deco style furniture is being designed today by some high-quality craftsmen, with dark forests, streamlined looks, and light upholstery. It has a look of Hollywood charm with sparkling polished woods and curved form.

    Another trend we have noticed lately, which owes its influence to Art Deco is mirrored furniture having chrome accessories. Some of it is so over the top, it is a must-have thing for a high bling factor!

    Don't be fearful of looking outside your own region, because shipping & delivery may not be as expensive as you might think. And sometimes it may be worth the splurge to get that one unique piece to add to your own home.


    How to Buy Art Deco Furniture

    There are some good bargains if you know where to look, so here are several shopping tips.


    One can search and find get a dining table for around $20 -$40 on eBay or even try Craigslist.  Not everyone likes Art Deco furniture and some people just want to get rid of old stuff. 

    Garage Sales and Charity Shops

    Don't forget that many a piece of furniture can be found at garage and yard sales, as well as charity shops. Not all of the resale charity shops have furniture, just the bigger shops, so do call ahead before you drive too far. 

    Some of the larger cities have thrift stores that have an excellent variety of Art Deco Furniture to buy, but they're starting rising the prices. Today, some of them are charging antique shop prices. So it might be a great idea to keep checking your local paper and trawl the garage or yard sales. Select areas where several older houses are more likely to have vintage furniture.

    Collector's Pieces

    For really high-class pieces, you may have to visit the best auction houses in major cities like Christies or Sothebys. But often smaller auction houses will have good quality Art Deco furniture to buy, and lots of them have online bidding too.  Estate sales are another option, so get on the auction houses email or newsletter list.

    Local Auctions

    You can buy a glass-fronted cupboard with a Bakelite door handle and a mirrored back at an auction. You do not often find this such good condition with none of the glass broken. 

    You can often pick up a beautiful Art Deco wardrobe dressing or table for a song. So many people have fitted wardrobes and no room for dressing tables, that they may be affordable. It’s a significant investment, and they will last for quite a long time and add a fantastic touch of style and glamour to your bedroom.

    Art Deco armchairs or sofas are probably more popular, so you might need to pay a little more for one in good condition, but there are some beauties out there if you are prepared to shop around.

    You will often find smaller items such as smoking stands, end tables, mirrors, and lamps at auctions, and these can be excellent value. 

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