Furniture revival styles in the 1920s

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Furniture revival styles in the 1920s
Bird motifs feature prominently in Egyptian Revival design. (vase image by Djapeman from Fotolia.com)

Specific interior design features characterise every era in history. While the luxurious Art Deco style is most often associated with the Roaring Twenties, several furniture styles that originated centuries earlier also influenced the design of that decade, and they came to be known as revival styles of the 1920s.

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Arts and Crafts

Functionality, straight lines, solid oak and leather upholstery are the hallmarks of Arts and Crafts furniture design, also known as Mission style for its resemblance to furniture found in California's Franciscan missions. The original Arts and Crafts movement began in 1900 and lasted until 1925. Essentially, it was a revival of Medieval design, which endured for a thousand years from the 5th to the 15th century. Medieval design is characterised by sturdy furniture made of oak, a wood that was obtainable to most classes of people during the era, and for the utilitarian purpose it served. Gustav Stickley was the premier designer of Arts and Crafts furniture.

Biedermeier

"Simple," "homey" and "bourgeois" are all words that have been used to describe Biedermeier furniture, a German style made during the early 19th century in response to a yearning for a nonempirical lifestyle. However, the skills and techniques required to produce a Biedermeyer piece demanded a price that was out of reach to the middle class. Biedermeier furniture was often crafted from fruit woods such as cherry and pear, as well as maple, birch and ash. It featured clean lines enhanced with pediments and cornices. Chair designs included rounded backs, while lyre and plume motifs added decoration to the pieces.

Colonial

Colonial Revival furniture imitated the distinguishing pieces crafted during the time of the Pilgrims and the establishment of the United States, known as the Federal era. By the 1920s, this neoclassical style once again occupied first place in the world of interior design. In addition to oak, carpenters frequently used mahogany and walnut to build the furniture, and the pieces often featured carvings of wheat, ribbons, swags, fruit baskets, urns, eagles, fans, shields and half moons.

Egyptian

The discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 inspired an interest in all things Egyptian, including furniture design. While Art Deco is regarded as an original design of the 1920s, Egyptian Revival became a sub-style of the movement, as evidenced by dramatic furniture featuring ornate carvings of animals or inlays of precious metals, small ivory chests and the use of rich, jewel-tone upholstery fabrics.

Spanish

During the 1920s, Spanish architecture dominated the wealthy estates of Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Pasadena, and interior designers kept in step by decorating them with Mediterranean or Spanish Revival furniture. Monterey furniture, inspired by 16th- and 17th-century Spanish design, quickly became fashionable and filled the homes of celebrities like Bela Lugosi, Clark Gable, Walt Disney and William Randolph Hearst. The style featured painted finishes on distressed wood with wrought iron hardware. By 1943, Monterey furniture was no longer produced, but antique dealers today especially pursue pieces crafted during the late 1920s.

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