Art Deco Furniture: A Cheatsheet For Beginners
Modified: October 10, 2022
Discover the intricacies of art deco furniture: founders, key characteristics, and more. Here's everything you need to know.
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Art Deco was a new style movement born in Paris during the early 20th century. It represented post-war society and its aim was to inspire playfulness, positivity, and hope for the future.
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All original Art Deco pieces tell some sort of story. Art Deco pieces feature plenty of mirrors, perfect symmetry, luxury, rare and expensive wood. The modern feel of each piece, as well as its ability to elevate any space, are where the appeal of Art Deco lie.
If you’re searching for an oversized sofa, a beautifully shaped display cabinet, or any luxurious piece, the Art Deco period has you covered. Let’s dive into every little detail about Art Deco furniture below.
Best 3 Art Deco Furniture Products
History Of Art Deco Furniture
Due to the fast-growing industrial sector that cut across parts of America and Central Europe, Art Deco was a lush era in the history of design. Cars, power supply, and phone companies were becoming more readily available. The French nicknamed this period Annees Folles, which meant the ‘Crazy Years.’
This particular era flourished with the help of high-quality materials and designs. More commonly found in vehicles and architecture, its signature look – a combination of linear lines and sloping curves – was hard to miss.
Beginning Of An Era
The period of the Art Deco (the 1920s and 1930s) was named after a 1925 Paris exhibition. It is a brand new style with bright colors used to complement 3D designs and visuals. After the Edwardian period, Art Deco marked the start of modern style (1901-1910).
The types of wood used for creating the furniture are maple, walnut, rosewood, and oak. Satinwood and sycamore would be used to inlay the furniture, giving every piece from the base material a contrast full of life. Popular designs of furniture from the artistic movement period range from hall tables to bedside cupboards.
Art Deco furniture was seen across the US, Europe, Paris, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. Many renowned Art Deco furniture designers in Britain started utilizing more exotic woods and luxurious inlays to replicate mainland Europe’s style shift. The production rate of Art Deco furniture pieces was confined to small quantities produced by a few manufacturers.
However, different companies rose to advertise front liners during this era. Among those notable manufacturers were Russell’s of Broadway and Heal & Son of London. Both manufacturers used modern designs to create the latest works showcased. Russell’s implemented the use of expensive woods like maple and walnut in their furniture to induce the luxury feel.
End Of An Era
Sadly, the outbreak of World War II also led to the end of the great Art Deco era. Production of all designs was halted, and all resources were channeled towards war efforts.
At that time, the Wall Street crash incident in the United States also resulted in an economic crisis. All these – coupled with bankruptcy caused by the Great Depression – led to a shift in furniture designs to simpler modern designs that can be used in all homes.
Although it is hard to find original Art Deco furniture, many replicas of Art Deco furniture were produced during the 1960s and 1980s. This re-production Art Deco furniture stayed true to its roots by using walnut, maple, and rosewood.
Art Deco Furniture Buying Guide
Using Art Deco furniture is one of the ways to make your home attractive. It gives the house a distinct look with stark contrast and strong lines scattered around the house. Art Deco furniture initially emerged over a century ago and has now re-emerged as must-have items in the home. Their popularity stems from their exquisite craftsmanship and luxurious materials. Here are some important things you should consider when buying Art Deco furniture.
1. Stark, Sharp Contrast
Art Deco furniture comes in white, black, and metallic colors. Apart from the fact that it creates contrast, it also creates a sense of symmetry in your home. Some of the more exquisite kinds of Art Deco furniture pieces may feature jewel tones and powdery pastels.
2. Bold Geometry
When Art Deco furniture came into existence, it initially sought to replicate the geometric art of pioneers like Picasso. For this reason, an emphasis was placed on bold lines and unusual forms. These bold geometries were mostly translated to desks, chairs, and bookcases. Art Deco furniture uses similar shapes to create geometric shapes like arches, sunbursts, triangles, and pyramids.
3. Exotic Materials
As it began to mature, Art Deco furniture used imported exotic materials that were hard to find. Rare materials like mahogany and ivory were generally used. Some of these furniture featured imported hides and furs that pushed the price up. Designers started using materials like leather and faux fur to make Art Deco furniture more affordable.
4. Accents And Movements
Art Deco design is known to be futuristic because it emphasizes a style that captures youth, technology, and speed. Even on large furniture pieces with sleek curves and lines, there is an implication of movement. Art Deco furniture is wonderful for being able to capture a sense of movement and drama.
Best Place To Buy Art Deco Furniture
Purchasing Art Deco furniture for your home or office is one way to incorporate a decadent decor style. You’ll find original pieces at prices that are fairly reasonable if you know where to look. Here are some of the best places to get Art Deco furniture.
1. The Inside
Popularly known for its extensive collection of fabrics, this brand offers furniture silhouettes that would be perfect for a glamorous 1920s-style deco apartment. Visit The Inside here.
2. Jonathan Adler
Jonathan Adler, the king of anything elegant and dramatic, has some stunning Art Deco pieces up his sleeves. Anyone that purchases furniture from his acrylic-and-brass Jacques collection can testify that it adds a luxe element to their space. Visit Jonathan Adler here.
Etsy is everyone’s favorite handmade marketplace. It is a not-so-secret source to get vintage things, including but not limited to Art Deco furniture. Visit Etsy here.
4. ABC Carpet & Home
ABC Carpet & Home is patronized mostly by New Yorkers who know about it. The online store’s collection is every bit as impressive as that of its brick-and-mortar stores. Visit ABC Carpet & Home here.
CB2 doesn’t disappoint in providing furniture that features some key characteristics of Art Deco furniture. Visit CB2 here.
It might come as a shock hearing that Anthropologie (known for ultra-femme and their boho-inspired furniture) carries a fair variety of Art Deco-inspired objects that range from geometric bed frames to glam-faceted mirrors. Visit Anthropologie here.
Art Deco Furniture Designers
Many traditional industries warmly welcomed Art Deco, but it is in furniture designs that the style can truly be admired. The fact that Art Deco furniture designs threw off eighteenth- and nineteenth-century shackles was perceived to be rather austere for this enlightened era. Here is a rundown of some of the most influential Art Deco furniture designers during the Art Deco period.
1. Epstein Brothers (Harry & Lou)
Harry and Lou Epstein were Europe’s two most accomplished Art Deco cabinet makers. They were well-known for their extraordinary avant-garde designs and colored veneers. In 1928, they took over their father’s furniture workshop in East London. Afterward, they decisively set about designing a wide range of avant-garde Art Deco furniture that perfectly represented the mid-1930s Art Deco design.
The designs the Epstein brothers executed were influenced by the designs displayed during the Paris Art Deco exhibition of 1925. Their designs featured flawless curvilinear forms alongside sharp architecture details that were in line with the period’s Modernist ethos.
Salomon Hille began producing furniture in London in the year 1906 and quickly established itself to be a provider of quality handmade furniture in the early twentieth century. In the early 1930s, Hille began to design furniture pieces influenced by that period’s traditional Art Deco designs. He focused on handcrafted quality materials with simple styles and details.
As a brand, Hille is best known for its Robin Day’s polypropylene chair which was created in 1972.
Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, the son of a painter, was born in Paris, 1879. His youthful days were spent learning his father’s craft. By 1910, he was ready to take over the family business from his father.
The Art Nouveau movement initially influenced his style of design. However, he moved on to creating bold Art Deco designs during the First World War alongside a team of talented designers in Vienna. His works, which featured delicate inlays and marquetry, always had an understated sense of finesse.
Also a painter’s offspring, Jules Leleu was born in Paris in 1883 and took over his father’s business in 1909. However, due to the outbreak of war in 1914, the company was forced to shut down. After the war ended, Leleu reopened his business and decided to specialize in handcrafted furniture. Like Ruhlmann, Leleu used the painting skills he learned from his father to create painted Art Deco furniture designs.
During an art exhibition at Exposition Industrielle et Arts Decoratifs in 1925, he displayed his works publicly for the first time and went on to win the grand prize. This exposure would prove crucial as he’d later go on to create famous Art Deco interiors for different renowned ocean liners. Two ocean liners he worked on were the Pierre Loti and SS Normandie.
Jacques Adnet was a student at Municipal School of Design in Auxerre. A French Modernism icon, he was known for creating simple but functional designs.
When Adnet met the celebrated Art Deco furniture designer Maurice Dufrene, he was already a successful interior designer himself. During the early-to-mid 20th century, their works were widely known and acclaimed. They designed the private suite of the French President at Elysee Palace and UNESCO’s Paris headquarters meeting room.
How To Identify Art Deco Furniture?
Spotting authentic Art Deco furniture can be difficult, especially for the art amateur. You have to be careful buying from sellers because many will trick you into buying fake goods. Here are some tips to help you identify the real deal:
Wood, lacquer, marble, and metal are materials typically used in Art Deco furniture. You may come across designer pieces that feature plastic details or bold animal skin. The geometric designs and bold colors of Art Deco furniture make them perfect centerpieces for any room.
Most wooden Art Deco pieces are made from exotic wood. If the Art Deco furniture you want to get has bits of plywood or chipboard in it, then it is likely not authentic. Another key characteristic of Art Deco design is a glossy, mirror-like finish that is created using polished metal and lacquer.
Since it comes in the form of chairs, cabinets, and coffee tables, Art Deco furniture can be used throughout an individual’s home. They may serve different purposes, but all contribute to your space’s overall elegance. Art Deco furniture pieces are usually of high quality. They are very durable and will thus remain in your homes and offices for years to come.
Some types of exotic wood used in designing these furniture pieces are Macassar ebony, bird’s eye Maple, or burled oak. Some Deco furniture pieces can be found in metallic colors — like gold, copper, etc. — or secondary colors. Beds were commonly made of wood with hints of metal, with some of them over-sized. Each piece could have detailed motifs that originate from ancient Mayan, Aztec, or Egyptian cultures. A cocktail table with a glass top and metallic legs is one of the most iconic furniture pieces from the Art Deco period.
The best way to avoid buying fake pieces is by knowing how to distinguish fake from real Art Deco furniture.
Look for details, animal prints, motifs, and sleek surfaces. Inlaid materials like ivory and ebony should also be checked. Find out more about the furniture designer and request any document(s) that serve as proof of authenticity.
Finally, the condition of the furniture needs to be thoroughly examined. Carefully check the furniture for any chipping, damage, dents, or replaced parts. An Art Deco piece should be in excellent condition before you decide to buy it.
Even if you don’t mind minor defects/flaws, always determine the amount of damage a furniture piece has incurred beforehand, as any major damage would be difficult to fix/repair.
America Art Deco Furniture
American Art Deco was obsessed with speed, a modern transportation symbol. By the 1930s, it had become dominated by the streamline style. It represented modernity and speed with the use of things such as visual simplicity and automotive styling.
American Art Deco heroes were industrial designers. Paul Frankl was their leader, and the German Bauhaus School served as a significant source of influence. Frankl created the skyscraper line of furniture that used echoes from New York’s famous buildings alongside motifs.
This streamlined style was promoted to the public with the help of large manufacturers and department stores. The designers used this style for everything — overstuffed armchairs, sofas, kitchen, bedroom furnishings, and many more.
Modern Art Deco Furniture
A new era was heralded by the start of the Art Deco movement in the 1920s. In no time, this bold style had cemented its place in furniture designs, architecture, and the decorative arts.
Designs that were exhibited in the furniture industry – exotic materials and exquisite artistry – made a mark. Art Deco was popular in only Europe and the US at first, but its relevance spread to different countries during the post-world period.
Art Deco Furniture Designs
1. Exotic Woods
Rosewood, teak, and ebony are the woods typically used in Art Deco. Designers had to import exotic woods used in making their furniture.
The Art Deco design was inspired by transportation technology. Transportation was advanced at the time, so designers could actually see their creative ideas in motion. The reason for purely using exotic woods is because they could hone straight edges to create Art Deco motifs. Creating this with regular furniture wood (e.g. pine) was difficult as those tend to be soft.
2. Lacquer: A Less Expensive Option
The two types of wood that were beyond the reach of most households were ebony and rosewood. Since ebony furniture was too expensive for some, it was substituted with cheaper options like lacquer. Lacquer shares more or less the same qualities as ebony, including its warmth and shine.
3. Restoring Art Deco Furniture
Getting Art Deco furniture in your home is an incredible idea. However, most people forget that modern Art Deco furniture can get worn out with use.
Upon initial examination, a piece of antique furniture may look flawless. However, you might see rips and tears upon closer inspection that could shorten your furniture’s lifespan if left untouched. Here, you’ll learn some ways you can use to revive your vintage Art Deco furniture.
Firstly, identify any damaged areas by carrying out an extensive inspection of your furniture. Act fast if you find something wrong with it.
Use tightening bolts and nuts to strengthen any wobbling joint in your Art Deco furniture. Re-upholstering, although not exactly cheap, is another way to restore your vintage Art Deco furniture. You could also use bold colors or vibrant patterns from the era that your upholstery was made in.
How To Clean Art Deco Furniture
Art Deco furniture is made up of highly polished woods, leather, lacquer, and aluminum. Since it is made of different materials, the cleaning processes would be quite different for each component.
Here are some general tips that will guide you when cleaning your Art Deco furniture.
1. Always begin with a light touch when polishing, cleaning, or buffing.
2. Excessive use of water on leather should be avoided.
3. Ensure you use certified products when cleaning because any dubious entities may cause corrosion.
4. Avoid hard polishing and take a break regularly when polishing the furniture to avoid over-polishing the furniture and applying excess pressure.
1. Glass Art Deco Furniture
Exercise caution while cleaning Art Deco furniture made of glass. Make sure you use mild products like soaps and sprays that when cleaning glass Art Deco furniture. If there’s any dust, use a soft cloth to wipe it off.
2. Leather Art Deco Furniture
It is normal for leather Art Deco furniture to get stained. All you need to clean it is to scrub it gently. However, ensure that the leather is not too wet and always use a soft cloth.
3. Chrome And Aluminum Art Deco Furniture
Furniture made of chrome and aluminum are beautiful, but maintaining them can be difficult. You will need dish soap and polish for scratches to clean Art Deco furniture made from metal.
4. Wooden Art Deco Furniture
Art Deco furniture made out of wood are very popular. This style is common for people looking to add some Art Deco furniture style to their space. A mild polish is required to clean your wooden Art Deco furniture.
Versatile Art Deco Furniture Pieces To Consider
The Design Toscano Film Noir Art Deco Mirrored Accent Table is a handcrafted mirrored glass tabletop. It weighs about 13 lbs, with dimensions measuring 18 inches x 18 inches x 26 inches (Wx D x H). It will be the first thing your guest will notice when their eyes scan your room. It is the perfect way of adding style, elegance, and luxury to your house. It’s also the perfect throwback to 1940s films.
Hillsdale Furniture Canal Street Metal Vanity Stool features a stunning golden bronze finish with an upholstered seat. Its overall dimensions are 26 inches x 17 inches by 17 inches (H x W x D) with seat dimensions of about 16.5 inches x 15 inches (W x D).
Moreover, it is easy to put together: it only takes about 15 minutes if you strictly follow the instructions. It is made of sturdy tubular steel and polyester/linen blend that can accommodate a weight of about 250 pounds.
Janine Mirrored 3-Drawer Art Deco Side Table measures 26 inches x 21½ inches x 17 inches (H x W x D). This three-drawer side table was inspired by Art Deco and designed by the studio 55D. Its drawers measure 21½ inches x 7 inches (W x H) on the outside and 18 inches x 13½ inches x 3½ inches (W x D x H) on the inside. This side table’s drawers feature marbled mirrors with a champagne finish. The good thing about this art deco bedroom furniture is that it requires no assembly.
The Cotton Craft Jaipur Accent Table is painstakingly handcrafted by skilled artisans from 100% solid mango wood. This antique brown round table is capable of holding up a weight of about 50 pounds. It requires minor assembly that will take barely 15 minutes. Furthermore, it features four 18-inch high folding panels and one 18-inch round tabletop. It also features four folding panels that can be used for easy storage.
The Ashley Furniture Signature Design – Elissa Accent Stool is a white and gold stool that will give your home a stylish makeover. It measures 19 inches x 19 inches x 16 inches (W x D x H), making it the perfect fit for your office, bedroom, and living room. This accent stool’s high-shine finish unleashes all the dramatic flair you could ever need. Its eye-catching gold-tone frame and white faux fur makes it a true shining star.
Art Deco Furniture Ideas
Here are some Art Deco furniture ideas you can draw inspiration from to fine-tune your style.
1. Display Artwork and Sculptures
To get a luxurious feel in your home, make a statement using oil paintings, elaborately styled accessories, and sculptural elements that epitomize 1920s and 1930s interior design. They create a richly layered feel in any home they’re used. Blending retro with modern materials is the best way to instantly achieve an Art Deco effect.
In modern times, the heart of Art Deco furniture lies in lush, symmetrical art and graphic prints and patterns. These styles are capable of adding an intoxicating yet elegant flair to a room.
2. Add A Modern Twist
Although nothing beats the original Art Deco furniture, you can still use replicas to freshen up any room in your house. The best way to get the perfect look for your home is to find the right decorative elements and materials.
If you’re looking to add Art Deco furniture on a limited budget, consider ones made from modern yet dependable materials. To get that one-of-a-kind look and feel in your home, you’ll need to bring in a mix of retro Art Deco and the regency styles of Hollywood.
3. Elegant Art Deco Furniture
Whatever Art Deco furniture idea you come up with should offer beautiful, quality designs that give a handcrafted feel and echo the joy of contemporary artistry. You can design your living space to have a sophisticated feel with the help of those appealing materials.
Another way of bringing Art Deco furniture and elements into your home is to paint your wall in moody colors and create contrast by using furniture with high-sparkle materials and finishes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Art Deco Furniture
1. What Are Some Common Art Deco Furniture Characteristics To Know?
In Art Deco furniture designs, you will discover geometries, zigzags, circles, and triangular patterns. You may find round, wood tables top sitting on horseshoe-shaped legs by wandering away from the rules of cut and dried styles. Instead of a regular bed frame, be bold and choose a thin iron bed frame that has magical designs of vertical oval shapes and is outlined with square brass tabs.
2. What Materials Are Art Deco Furniture Crafted From?
2. 1. Wood
Durable and pretty, wood is an excellent choice when it comes to Art Deco furniture. Manufacturing of Art Deco furniture at a reduced cost requires fewer substantial wood materials to be utilized. When covered with veneers, wood furniture can assume the appearance of solid wood.
The gleaming surfaces of glass and mirrors are arguably representative of the roaring 20s. Glass/mirrors are usually decorated with thin metal strips to create intriguing geometric patterns.
Tables flanked with marble or wood of extraordinary designs and shapes are held up by stainless steel or powder coating.
3. Which Styles Go Well With Art Deco Furniture?
Breathe new life into your mundane, uninspiring home by adding Art Deco furniture. Regardless of your home’s existing style, small changes in furnishings can uplift your living space dramatically. These styles go especially well with Art Deco furniture.
Modern transitional decors accept Art Deco furniture warmly to include creative design, straight lines, join triangular shapes, and intriguing fabric colors.
3.2. Urban Industrial
Bar stools, cabinets, and lamps are some Art Deco items that work well with the Urban Industrial style. Wall embellishments can also help to convey the theme further.
Art Deco furniture are presently being made for use with Southwestern and Country styles with a distressed rustic appearance. Armchairs from the French Art Deco period make the perfect complement to leather couches.
Art Deco with chic is a dream come true. Add charm to your chic decor by using painted wood, large circles, or retro skinny metal legs.