Early Modernism is a purer, more stripped-down form of Mid-Mod. It started in Germany and the Netherlands with international style architecture, and it was highly radical in its day and did not appeal to the masses at first. This furniture is minimal—taking inspiration from industrialization and the machine age. You will not find organic curves or plush seats in these pieces. It took Mid-Century designers to make modernism more accessible and comfortable for the everyman.
Early Modernism was developed by forward-thinking minds. Towering figures in the world of architecture created the most iconic furniture designs of the period. Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer are the most important to study up on. Van der Rohe gave us the Barcelona chair in 1929—probably the most well known and often copied piece from the period.
This is a minimal style with simple lines. Curves are not flowing or organic—they are geometric and structured. Seat backs are straight, and there is minimal cushioning support. This is the era of ‘Form Follows Function’, so look for pieces that do their job without any decorative frills.
Think three key ingredients: chrome, glass and leather. Look for glass-topped tables on steel frames—whether they are cocktail, dining or console. Textiles and wood are exceedingly rare.
These bold pieces add edge to a space that may otherwise feel too traditional. They can be used similarly to Mid-Mod but should be applied in smaller doses as they pack a powerful punch.
Art Deco was developed in France and was quickly embraced in America during the 1920’s. It’s an eclectic style taking inspiration from almost everywhere including Asia, Africa and Meso-American cultures. It is defined by its great energy, modernity, and sophistication.
Key figures of the style include tastemakers Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Jean Michel Frank. Both designed furniture and interiors with great attention to detail. Ruhlmann loved sinuous lines and Frank preferred simple squared-off forms, but both embraced richness and exoticism. Frank often covered every surface of his interiors in one luxurious material.
Look for pieces with energetic lines. Sunbursts, fountains, and stepped pyramids were all popular motifs. The stepped pyramid became most iconic when it was adopted by designers of skyscrapers like the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. The form was freely adapted in furniture, lighting, and even barware designers.
Materials are often decadent and unusual. Shagreen (sharkskin), gypsum, and parchment were used to veneer casegoods. Exotic woods such as Ebony and Rosewood were common in this era. Polished metals in rose and chrome, as well as bone or shell are used as delicate accents and inlays.
Deco is a formal, elegant style that adds contrast in spaces that feel more casual. Consider a Deco chair or cabinet in a space that is mostly Mid-Mod or California Bohemian for eclectic impact.
Developed in the 1930’s, Hollywood Regency references traditional lines with modern materials and a glam spirit. Decorators to the stars created fantastical spaces worthy of a studio set. Homes mimicked studio lots with high ceilings and vast rooms, allowing for large-scale, dramatic furniture. Think starlets lounging on plush settees next to devilishly handsome studio execs.
Designers causing a stir in Beverly Hills and beyond included Billy Haines, Dorothy Draper and Syrie Maugham. Draper made her mark as the first female designer to work on large scale commercial projects including many iconic hotels such as the Greenbriar in West Virginia.
Forms are often taken from Neoclassicism, with the greek key pattern and klismos style chair making a comeback alongside heavily tufted sofas and channel back chairs. Baroque elements with oversized scrolls and flourishes are often done up in all white. There is an Asian element here too, in repeating latticework applied to dresser drawer fronts and open chair backs. Sunbursts are used heavily in light fixtures and the occasional white porcelain animal is a popular accessory. Sofas, chests and cabinets are large and imposing to fill those Hollywood mansions.
Lucite, plush velvets, and lots of mirrors speak the language of Hollywood Regency. Look for lacquered furniture. The key color scheme is black and white with pops of bold color.
This style works with traditional and modern interiors alike, adding an element of the unexpected and playful. In a space filled with antiques, a mirrored table creates drama. In a minimal space, an acrylic cabinet with saber legs feels bold and a bit futuristic.