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French Art Deco Furniture

1925 - 1935

Art Deco History in France

The "Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes", or Art Deco Exhibition, opened in Paris in 1925 and the art deco movement was ushered into existence. The term itself, "Art Deco" was, however, coined retrospectively in the nineteen sixties. In the time of the nineteen twenties Art Deco was generally referred to as "Art Moderne" or "Modernistic".

Art Deco Stool
Art Deco Stool, by Andre Groult, 1920.
Ebony and stained maple, upholstered in brocaded silk.
This stool is part of a large suite of bedroom furniture made for a Paris apartment. It was probably used as a dressing table stool. Its combination of exotic woods and luxurious, richly coloured fabric epitomises the Art Deco style of the mid 1920s. The brocaded silk was also used for curtains, hangings and covers in the bedroom.

Art deco evolved from a variety of influences including the austere German Bauhaus movement in architecture, cubist styles in painting, and the International Style of design.

In many respects as well Art Deco was a response to, and rejection of, the flowing, natural lines of Art Nouveau furniture of the first decades of the twentieth century and it also incorporated many of the discoveries that had been made at the tomb of King Tutankhamen in Egypt.

Art Deco Armchair
Art Deco Armchair, by Paul Follot, 1928.
Amboyna, with ivory inlay and velvet-like upholstery.
Paul Follot was a leading designer of furniture and interiors in the transition from Art Nouveau to Art Deco before the First World War. He was also a leading figure in the popularisation of the Art Deco style in the 1920s. A similar chair to this one was illustrated in the 1928 Exhibition of "Modern Art in French and English Decoration and Furniture".

Art Deco Style Furniture

The characteristics of French art deco furniture are sleek, smooth, streamlined lines, geometrical patterns, and experimental use of industrial materials such as metals, plastics, and glass. Art deco furniture is modern and functional.

Mirrored Dressing Table
Mirrored Dressing Table, 1920.
Oak carcase, veneered with Andaman padouk (on base and vase) and purpleheart (on top and mirror back), with solid purpleheart columns, inlaid with ivory and ebony, and mahogany drawers, and silvered bronze mirror frame and fittings.
The form of this dressing table is loosely based on early 19th century examples. They too had a pivoting mirror attached to a table top. Here the contrasting ivory and ebony inlay of the top creates the illusion of a fine textile draped over the table.

Woods used by art deco furniture makers were very often of the exotic kind such as ebony, frequently used as a veneer, and also much use was made of the technique of laquering. Snakeskin, parchment, and sharkskin were sometimes used for decorative effect. Art deco French furniture was sometimes made of chrome plated steel and forged iron, deliberately modern materials. One consequence of this use of rare or unusual construction methods and materials was that Art Deco furniture of this era was generally very expensive.


Some of the prominent and famous French Art Deco furniture designers include Paul Follot, and especially Jacques Emile Ruhlman whose company was to become one of the most famous interior design firms in France. His furniture is distinguished by its ideal proportions and the delicate tapering legs of his smaller pieces. Some pieces were so elegantly and expertly made, with joints so well-covered, they appeared to have been made from a one piece of wood.

Art Deco Movement & Contemporary Furniture

Art Deco furniture style in France evolved in difficult times, with great political conflicts and economic disasters, and consequently was an essentially escapist, fantasy style of furniture design, grown up in a spirit of exuberance and beauty that was in contrast to the world around it.

As the movement developed over time, and exported itself to other countries, for example in American Art Deco furniture, it was refined and normalised to the point where it became a hugely popular style of furniture. The movement attempted to provide a comprehensive system of design, for architecture, jewelry, scultpure, and interiors.

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