The 1930s were dominated by the Art Deco movement, a style that began in the late 1920s and drew inspiration from cubism, Bauhaus artists, Expressionism, Constructivism, Modernism and Futurism. Taking its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes, a celebration of modern living held in Paris in 1925, the Art Deco movement found its way into every design medium from architecture and fashion to textile prints and furniture.
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The mood of the post-World War I culture demanded a break from dreary wartime rations and minimalist designs, and the Art Deco movement captured the exuberance and desire for excess people longed for. Sofa designs in the 1930s exuded opulence and luxury in every detail. Designers began to incorporate rare woods, such as ebony and amboyna, and veneers in the construction of their designs. Lacquer finishes also became popular during this period. Sharkskin, snakeskin and other exotic animal skins were used more often in lieu of traditional hides, while plush fabrics such as velvet and silk-embossed materials replaced conventional textiles. Forged iron and chrome-plated steel also became widely used in an effort to make Art Deco furnishings more affordable to middle class families without compromising the standards of quality and construction associated with the affluent style.
The influence of cubism during the Art Deco movement is apparent in the abstract geometric silhouettes that define 1930s-style sofas. Dramatic curves and clean straight lines outline the lavish pieces. Sofa arms were usually pronounced curves and circular shapes or very expressive straight lines, creating prominent and well-defined abstract square silhouettes. Sofas were symmetrically balanced on exaggerated tapered legs.
Well known for his architectural designs prior to and during the Art Deco period, Frank Lloyd Wright also designed furniture. His most popular piece is considered his barrel chair design, while his sofa designs consisted of clean square silhouettes and were mild in comparison to other more flamboyant designs of the era. Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann designed exclusive pieces and mastered the technique of creating tapered legs with joints that appeared nonexistent, as though they were crafted from one piece of wood. The design team of Louis Süe and André Mare was known for grandiose furnishings that integrated inlays, veneers, patterns and pictures in the designs. Other notable designers of the Art Deco period included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eileen Gray and Wilhelm Wagenfeld.
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