Appraiser’s Diary: Art Deco Furniture; A Quick Study

UnknownBy Rachel Hoffman

As progress and industrialization took over the world, Art Noveau fell out of favor. The world was become more fast paced and dangerous, and the things that inhabited the world did, too. Art Deco, short for Arts Dècoratifs, began to emerge along with other styles of modern art after about 1914. The Art Deco movement really began in 1925, during the Paris Exposition. By the 1930s, it was in full swing, and by the 1950s and 60s, Art Deco was popular in furniture, painting, sculpture, architecture, home furnishings, fashion, jewelry and house wares. Art deco even had its own iconic film, Metropolis.

Unknown-1The clean, industrialized lines and fluid, geometric shapes that characterized the movement lent themselves well to architecture, like The Chrysler Building, The Golden Gate Bridge, and Modjeski’s I-74 Bridge, so named later as it linked Illinois and Iowa, and to furniture. Even Frank Lloyd Wright influenced art deco when he designed angular accessories like his stained glass, lamps, and tables. His 1908 barrel chair looks like art deco, and showcases that Wright was a strong influence on the modernist, aka, art deco movement.

Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfus created clocks and radios with the signature angular lines. Many collectible radios from this era are made of Bakelite.

Furniture from this era involved dark woods, chrome, futuristic designs, and fur. Ebony and ivory were popular for making furniture, and Asian influence showed in some pieces. Ruhlmann created a square and rectangular day bed of gilt, bronze, and rosewood that was typical of the era. Eileen Gray made lacquer furniture and tubular pieces while Armand Albert Rateau often used bronze to create furnishings in Egyptian-influenced styles.

Unknown-2Gordon Russell merged Arts and Craft designs with art deco Parisian designs. Betty Joel’s style was influenced by Hollywood and was very popular with royals and commoners. Many of her pieces were used at The Savoy Hotel. Inlaid pieces and exotic woods were characteristic of the furniture created. In America, the Bauhaus movement and modernist architects began to influence art deco furniture.

During the 1930s, the name of the style morphed to Streamline Moderne, and more steel, chrome, and plastic were used in furniture and furnishings. Curves and flowing lines were more popular at this point than the earlier angles and sharp lines. Today, the clean lines and distinctive styling of art deco is as popular as ever, and its influence is strong in jewelry design, haute couture, architecture, and home furnishings.

Unknown-3To learn more about Rachel Hoffman’s appraisal practice, visit

Cutline for pictures:
Chrysler Building Spire by James Maher
Big Ben alarm clock, by Henry Dreyfuss
From “Our Modern Maidens”

Metropolis film pic has no cutline.

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