Art Deco Dining Suite


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Art Deco Dining Suite


 Although many people in the 1930s furnished their homes in a fashion reminiscent of the distant past, others embraced new styles and materials.

 The idea of a matching suite of furniture grew up alongside the new methods of mass manufacture in the 19th century.
The typical Victorian suite for the dining room - table, chairs and a sideboard - tended to be made up of dark and heavy furniture.

 As the 20th century progressed, however, so ideas began to change. Lightness, cleanliness and spaciousness became the new bywords, and fashions in furniture slowly changed from the solid and imposing to more practical, straightforward styling.

 This trend reached its peak between World War 1 and World War 2, when the desire for uncluttered elegance of design coincided with the introduction of relatively new materials plate glass, plywood and chromed steel - to create whole new ranges of handsome, practical and informal furniture.

 By the 1930s, the traditional dining-room suite had changed its make-up.  The sideboard often doubled as a cocktail cabinet or bookshelf, while other matching items - a serving trolley, occasional tables, even a revolving bookcase - were advertised alongside the usual table and chairs.


 The designers of these suites tended to draw their inspiration from the two broad art and design movements that flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, art deco and modernism.

 Both favoured streamlined geometric shapes and unfussy decoration; the main difference between them in furniture terms was in the materials used to achieve these ends.

 Deco designers tended to work in wood, achieving smooth, satiny finishes with the use of fine veneers, while modernists sought to achieve similar effects with tubular steel and with woods laminated with other materials.

 Famous designers like the Frenchman, Jacques-Emil Ruhlmann, or the Finn, Alvar Aalto, produced pure art deco work, and their ideas were adapted by makers such as Bowmans, Ray and Miles and Heals into elegant and practical suites of furniture.

 The iiifluence of modernism was carried into British furniture primarily by the firm Practical Equipment Ltd, or PEL, a subsidiary of Tube Investments.

 PEL's products, which drew on the example of European designers such as the Austrian bentwood manufacturers, Gebruder Thonet, and the German Bauhaus, ranged from sophisticated suites in chromed steel tubing and wood to fairly cheap, utilitarian pieces such as stacking steel chairs.

 The pale veneers and reflective surfaces so typical of 1930s' art deco furniture were to some extent a reaction against the gloomy formality of so much Victorian taste.


 What we think of as typical 1930s furniture was not the only popular style around. The semi-detached and detached 'Tudor' villas that were built in great numbers in the suburbs of major cities between the wars were often furnished with mass-produced, heavy, dark-stained pieces in a vaguely 17th-century style known as 'Jacobethan'.

 A new finish, cellulose enamelling, was used on deco tables. When done well, it gave a smooth shine, that was easily wiped down.

 Put on badly, though, it gave an unpleasantly thick, rather treacly effect or it would 'craze' - become covered with fine cracks. Pieces affected in this way should be avoided.

 Tubular steel chairs generally had backs, arms and seats covered with fabric. Make sure the fabric has not split or pulled away from he steel supports. If buying a whole suite, check that all the pieces match.


PEL & Tubular Steel Furniture of the 30s (Catalogue) Tim Benton, et al; Paperback

Art Deco Reading List

Warman's Depression Glass: A Value & Identification Guide 2000 by Ellen Schroy

Mauzy's Depression Glass by Barbara Mauzy

A Pocket Guide to Pink Depression Era Glass by Patricia Clements

Depression Glass & More: 1920S-1960s Identification and Values, 12th Ed
by Gene Florence

Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass, 15th Ed
by Gene Florence

Kitchen Glassware of the Depression Years: Identification & Values, 6th Ed
by Gene Florence

Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era: Identification and Value Guide, 9th Ed
by Gene Florence

Anchor Hocking's Fire-King and More: Identification and Value Guide Including Early American Prescot and Wexford by Gene Florence

Commemorative Bottle Checklist & Cross-Reference Guide - featuring Coca-Cola Bottles
by Richard Mix

Kovels' Bottles Price List, 11th Ed
by Ralph Kovel, Terry Kovel