Amy has a BFA in Interior Design as well as 19 years teaching experience and a doctorate in education.
Have you ever seen furniture that looked liked it belonged in a different era? The furniture of the 1920s was definitely unique. The years that followed the end of World War I (1914-1918) was a time of new prosperity for the American public. Interior decorating associated with this era encompassed a wide variety of furniture styles, sometimes mixed in eclectic ways. However, there were three main furniture styles that dominated the 1920s: Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, and Early Modern. Each of these styles incorporated new elements that were distinct from the furniture that came before.
History and Styles
Art Deco was a dramatic style that embodied the opulence of the ''roaring 20s''. This style featured squared off or angular shapes greatly inspired by the Cubist artists of the day, such as Picasso and Duchamp. Lacquered finishes were popular as were mirrored, chrome, or silver-leafed accents. New innovations of the time made it possible to create these special finishes. Other lavish and exotic touches, such as tortoiseshell; a plastic that was colored to look like the shell of a tortoise, and mother of pearl; the iridescent inner layer of an oyster, also lent to the one-of-a-kind look of the period. Designs for upholstery fabrics were generally symmetrical and geometric with the greatest part of them being variations of squares, rectangles, and diamonds.
Arts and Crafts (Mission)
Also called Mission style in the United States, the Arts and Crafts period focused on clean lines and simple curves. Designs were created to bring the outdoors in so furniture had an earthy feel about them. Furniture was designed to be functional and durable. Oak was the wood of choice with seats of natural materials, such as leather or woven rush. Furniture hardware was made of copper or iron to keep the earthy feel.
The Arts and Crafts style utilized built in cabinetry, such as bookcases, sideboards, and window seats. This allowed a great deal of storage while looking less cluttered by the presence of multiple pieces of furniture.
Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley led the way with furniture design during this time. Wright designed every aspect of a home from the house itself to the furniture and lighting fixtures, and Stickley was the leading designer for Arts and Crafts furniture in the United States.
A dramatic change from both Art Deco and Mission designs, Early Modern furniture used new technologies developed during the Industrial Revolution. Materials such as plastic, steel, fiberglass, and laminated woods were used to create bold new designs reflecting a minimalist, or less is more attitude. Most Modern furniture was very abstract and designed to be mass produced. How would you like to sit in a chair made of plywood?
The art of Japan and Scandinavia influenced Modern design, as did Le Corbusier and Charles and Ray Eames, designers well known for their Modern furniture designs. Le Corbusier designed sleek chairs made of chrome and leather while the Eames designed chairs in their distinct style out of fiberglass and plastic.
From Art Deco with its dramatic angular designs and exotic finishes such as tortoiseshell and mother of pearl, to Arts and Crafts pieces which were designed to bring the outdoors in, to the Modern style with a minimalist attitude, the furniture of the 1920s was highly unique and varied. Each of these design styles reflected the prosperity of the 1920s and an attitude looking towards the future.
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