Monthly Archives: February 2020

Guide to Art Deco Style Furniture

Art Deco style furniture is so timelessly chic, it’s hard to believe that a whole century has passed since the Art Deco look first burst onto the design scene. As we enter the new Roaring Twenties, let’s look back at the original Roaring Twenties and see why the sleek Art Deco style is still popular among international designers.

The Art Deco Era

Vogue Art Deco Magazine cover 1928

The Art Deco style became prominent in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was the perfect match for the modern thinking of the Jazz Age.  After the ordeals of World War I, many people were looking to a new future, rejecting the fussy and elaborate Victorian and Art Nouveau styles that had come before. Out with elaborate shapes and ornate carvings, and in with streamlined silhouettes and sleek glossy surfaces! 

Amazing new technologies, materials, and methods of communications and transportation informed this brand new aesthetic too.

It was a very exciting time, and the younger generation got swept up in the energy. The “bright young things” had new ideas about society and they were forward-looking in every way.

Art Deco Flapper Girl

Women started wearing knee-length skirts and dresses – this was scandalously short at the time! These women, dubbed Flappers, cut their hair short too, drove cars, smoked in public, partied and drank alcohol, and generally enjoyed themselves in ways that had previously been considered quite unladylike! They were the perfect icon for the rebellious, shiny, adventurous Roaring Twenties.

Art Deco Inspired Design

Art Deco Oval Chest by Jonathan Charles
Art Deco Oval Chest by Jonathan Charles, faux macassar ebony veneer and faux shagreen with nickel handles. Based on original French designs of the 1920s.

Art Deco style was very inspired by the Age of the Machine, as the new technologies of airplanes, automobiles and transatlantic travel on cruise liners captured everyone’s imagination. This ‘streamline moderne’ look of Art Deco was very inspired by aerodynamic design. Furniture and architecture was designed with clean, dynamic, curved, and sweeping lines to create the feeling of speed.

Picture the soaring curves of the Chrysler Building in New York City and you’ll have a good idea of both the optimistic feeling of the early Art Deco era and the distinctive look of Art Deco style.

In the 1930s, more rectilinear lines and geometric shapes, including fragmented looks, were added. These reflected the Cubist influence of artist Pablo Picasso, who revolutionized modern art.

Why is it called Art Deco?

Do you know why it’s called Art Deco? It was named for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris in 1925. This was a showcase of exciting new design trends and the sexy new Art Deco look made a great impact. In Paris of course the show had a French name: Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. That’s quite a mouthful, so thankfully people picked out the “Arts Décoratifs” piece and then shortened it again to Art Deco, although the term did not become widely used until the 1960s.

Antique 1920 French Art Deco Buffet
Antique French 1920 Art Deco Buffet with mirror back, glass door and marble top, with carved flowers.

The Look of Art Deco Style Furniture

Sleek, chic and not at all meek! That’s the Art Deco look, which relies on well-defined curves and lines. Geometric shapes are sharp and streamlined, and applied decoration is also important to the look, including sunbursts, geometric patterns and stylized floral designs. 

Jonathan Charles Opera Art Deco style side table
Jonathan Charles Opera Art Deco style side table

Influences include the design of modern ships, trains, planes and motor cars. Ancient Egyptian, Aztec and Central American art also creeps in, while ancient Greek designs emerge in Greco Deco.

The streamlined silhouette of Art Deco style furniture is simple, but when emphasized by the use of glossy and shiny materials its looks glamorous and opulent. With the unfussy shapes and lack of ornate carvings, all the luxury comes from the materials and finishes. For example, you will often see a gorgeous slab of marble topping a sideboard, buffet, nightstand or table.

Woods are dark to add to the sense of substance and exotic woods are beautifully grained to give a surface decorative effect.  Gleaming mirror and glass gave a reflective and modern feel too. Chrome finishes are typical of the era. In Art Deco land, it’s always time to shine up your chrome cocktail shaker and start the party!  

Brentwood Art Deco style bar cart
Brentwood Art Deco style bar cart

Early Art Deco furniture designers used colors that were quite muted, including pastel pinks and greens, contrasted with black. But after the 1929 stock market crash in the United States, brighter colors were used for mass producing Art Deco home decor, to cheer everyone up. The popular Fiestaware dishes are a typical example with their bold yellows, reds, oranges, greens and blues. Famous Art Deco furniture designers include Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Jules LeLeu.

Typical Art Deco Style Furniture Features

  • Curvilinear shapes, think sweeping curves, and rectilinear shapes, with straight lines set at angles.
  • The look avoids fussy curlicues and ornate silhouettes. It’s all about the clean lines to create a bold profile.
  • Geometric shapes and patterns, zigzags, trapezoids, chevron, nautical portholes and sunburst patterns.
  • Applied decoration is important. Motifs include female figures, and stylized flowers and animals such as gazelles and birds.
  • Glossy, smooth materials create reflective surfaces, including marble, glass, mirror, and lacquered finishes.
  • Polished metals were also important for the reflective look, including nickel, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, gold and especially chrome.
  • Dark and exotic woods created a sense of substance and luxury, often with beautiful grains to create surface pattern. Popular woods include rosewood, walnut, teak, maple and zebra wood.
  • New man-made materials included Bakelite, plastics and other composites which were considered the bees’ knees at the time and the height of new technology! 
  • Neutrals are chic, while pale pastel colors including pink and green, are accented with black.
  • Upholstery is typically a solid color. If pattern is involved, it might be a geometric or an animal print.
  • Velvet and leather are popular options for upholstery. Shagreen and leather look luxe combined with wood and chrome.

We love the Art Deco look and our renovated 1920s vintage bungalow dates to this era. The streamlined style is a kind of interior design royalty, eternally popular because it is so striking to look at and easy to live with. It works in many types of space to create an upscale and sophisticated feel that balances retro appeal with contemporary tastes.  For example, the updated “streamline moderne” Art Deco look in the Architectural Digest photo above checks all the boxes for a home today.

Whether you are looking for original antique Art Deco furniture or high-quality new Art Deco inspired pieces, Greg and I hope you have enjoyed our guide to Art Deco style furniture and that you will check out our other blog posts about Art Deco interior design.

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Aimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

English Regency V. French Regency Style Furniture

People sometimes get confused about the difference between English Regency style furniture and French Regency style furniture. That’s no surprise when they sound so alike, but they are actually quite different in the way they look. Our Guide to Regency Style Furniture tells you all about the English Regency period and its influence on interior designers. Today we’ll talk about the French Regency period too, and show you how to tell the difference between the two furniture styles.

The one thing that both English Regency and French Regency style furniture has in common is that in both countries the term Regency referred to a period when a Prince Regent stood in for the monarch. Let’s start with La Belle France!

French Regency Style Furniture

The French Regency or Régence years were between 1715 and 1723 when King Louis XV was too young to reign and so Philippe d’Orléans governed in his place as Prince Regent. The furniture in this period and also extending out as far as 1730 was a transitional style. It shows the shifting tastes between the previous Baroque styling that was popular during the reign of Louis XIV, and the rising Rococo look that would become fashionable during the reign of King Louis XV after he took the throne as an adult.

French Regency Chest
Bombe shape French Regency Chest by David Michael, with walnut inlays, rosewood, marble top

Furniture design in this transition style Régence era started to develop the curved lines and ornate feminine details that would later flourish into full-blown Rococo styling.
Rococo furniture was very graceful and full of lavish carvings and sensuous shapes. Embellishments drew on the natural world, with flowery, frilly and watery carvings including swirling shells. Furniture designs were often asymmetric, which was an exciting new development at the time.

Louis XV Rococo Bed French Regency
French Regency Louis XV Rococo Bed, hand-carved, bookmatched flame mahogany

Typical French Regency Style Furniture Features

  • Furniture boasted curved lines and corners, and sinuous lines including bombe shapes and serpentine fronts on cabinets.
  • New motifs included shells, mythological beasts, and masques.
  • You also see a lot of flamboyant scrolls including C-shaped scrolls and S-shaped scrolls, and leafy scrolls known as foliated scrolls.
  • Curvy cabriole legs, and hoof feet.
  • Woods included walnut, rosewood and oak, often featuring beautiful surface veneers and marquetry.
  • The wood was accented with marble and with regally gilt bronze or gilded metal ormolu ornaments.
  • Seating became much more comfortable in general, including curved backs rather than rigid straight backs. Cane chairs became popular too. It was all an invitation to encourage you to draw up a chair for some elegant conversation… and gossip!
Rococo Regence Shell Carving on Antique Cabinet
Beautiful shell carving on an antique French cabinet

English Regency Style Furniture

About a century later, across the channel in England, the English Regency era occurred between 1811-1820. During those years George IV served as Prince Regent on behalf of his father George III who wasn’t well enough to govern. But the term English Regency style usually refers to a longer time span than just those 9 years, continuing through to around 1837.

This was at the end of the Georgian period, a booming time for beautiful Georgian furniture design, created to suit the classically proportioned Regency architecture.  

Jonathan Charles English Regency Sideboard Buckingham
English Regency style sideboard by Jonathan Charles for the Buckingham collection

Typical English Regency Style Furniture Features

  • Furniture design retained the Neoclassical look of the Georgian era, inspired by ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian design.
  • Straight lines and clean edges looked stately and dignified.
  • Symmetrical and streamlined designs in contrast to the ornate flourishes and carvings of the earlier French Regency furniture.
  • Dark woods including mahogany and dramatic decorative veneers were the focus to create a sense of majesty and luxury, often accented by gold and metal accents.
  • Classic decorative motifs included rosettes, laurel wreaths, acanthus leaves and lyres, which are U-shaped harps. Lion masks were another decorative accent.
Theodore Alexander Regency Armchair
Theodore Alexander Regency style Armchair with classic Greek key pattern and gold accents on ebonized wood

English Regency Versus French Regency Style Furniture

As you can see, there is quite a contrast between the clean and straight-lined Neoclassical look of English Regency style furniture versus the curvy shapes and decorative flourishes of the French Regency style. Both styles are wonderful, it just depends on your own personal taste and what works for your home and lifestyle.

An English Regency interior design scheme will work terrifically well in a dining room, where the classic and elegant style is sure to impress when you are entertaining friends. A French Regency look is perfect for a living room or seductive bedroom where the curvy lines create a sense of lavish comfort and decorative allure.

Browse our website for furniture in both styles, whether you are tempted by English Regency or French Regency furniture design.

AimeeAvatar

Aimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.