Classic furnishings from the masters that is hand-made or made using specialized equipment continue to influence furnishings in the 21st Century. All antiques are not from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries because in our current time antiques exist from the 20th century.
One furniture designer of this period, what I call the second golden age, is none other than Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, the French furniture designer. His name is synonymous with the French Art Deco movement from the 1920s. Anyone who can remember, or has read about the Exposition International de Arts Décoratifs in Paris, will know of Ruhlmann's amazing work.
His designs feature extraordinary wood species, elegant lines, and masterful craftsmanship. I found this article in a vintage issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine article, which has been eloquently compsed by A.E. Chastain Chapman in my travels last year. I decided not and abbreviate the story with my own version, but rather present its original context. Now, sit back and enjoy this extensive artcle on a master!
The beauty of fine wood inlaid with ivory details are characteristic of Ruhlmann's work.
Ruhlmann was not a trained as a cabinet maker, rather he was "an innovative designer, not a technician. He was adament about what he wanted, and how it should look. Most of his furniture was assembled using traditional joinery methods." Ruhlmann’s work is also celebrated for its veneering, as it presented no limitations in his designs.
Ruhlmann's favorite embellishment was pure ivory. the fillet's were amazingly thin, 1/32 inches wide, and were inset into the arris where the facets meet.
Amboyna wood was a one of the most popular wood species used in Ruhlmann's furniture. The online "Wood-Database" explains, "Amboyna is technically not a distinct species, but is the name of the burl wood from any of the Pterocarpus species.
Most commonly this is Narra (Pterocarpus indicus), but burl sections of Burma Padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) are also sold under the name Amboyna. The name is derived from Ambon Island in Indonesia, where much of the figured wood is believed to have been initially exported.
Amboyna is among the most expensive and sought-after of all burls, and is frequently sold as veneer or as small turning/craft blanks. Some suppliers specify “Red Amboyna” for material with the typical rich reddish brown heartwood, or “Golden Amboyna” for pieces with lighter yellowish brown coloration.
It’s not unusual for pieces to contain sharply contrasting yellowish sapwood. Amboyna is commonly used for fine furniture, turned objects, electric guitar tops, knife/gun grips, and other small specialty wood items."
"Rhuhlmann's carcase pieces are among his most spectacular works. Large carcases frequently have oak frames top and bottom, with separate tops and plinths attached. Carcase sides, tops or plinths are veneered over lumbercore (most often pine or poplar with 1/8-in. mahogany crossbandings) or directly onto solid wood, usually oak. Curved carcase parts and doors are either lumbercore with a coopered core, or veneer over shaped solid oak."
Above, Nick Monjardo works on a late Ruhlmann desk in his shop. The first piece of authentic Ruhlmann furniture found its way into his shop in the late 1970s. Since then, more than half of the work that comes are from Ruhlmann. His finish-preparation procedures are much like whose used by Ruhlmann's finishers. Read below for the details.
"Ruhlmann wanted to build the best furniture in the world. As far as we're concerned, he did."
Shown above, is Ruhlmann's "David -Weil" desk, made in 1918-19 for collector David Weil who collected 18th-Century art. Unfortunately Decorative Arts Restoration is closed, but I can only imagine what their shop looked like on any given day.
If you are seriously into Ruhlmann's work, there is a company that manufactures reproductions. "Since 1988 Pollaro Custom Furniture, Inc. has been faithfully creating museum quality furniture of the master works of Ruhlmann. During this period, Pollaro has built furniture using the original proportions and specifications of Ruhlmann.
Pollaro has created strict reproductions of Ruhlmann’s most precious pieces, possessing the exact details of the originals that were produced in Paris during the period 1913 to 1934. From Pollaro Custom Furniture, Inc.’s New Jersey, USA workshop, you can confidently obtain furniture, which pays proper attention to the fine details that set Ruhlmann’s work apart from all others before or since. The essence of Ruhlmann’s lines, proportions and balance are captured."
I am planning a field trip to Pollaro in the near future. Please contact me if you are considering making an investment, and would like to join me.
These lounge chairs look inviting and note the elegant use of wood and the ball feet.
This daybed would be wonderful in front of a window, or bridging a large furniture grouping.
This bench has THE most elegant lines! Shown upholstered in floral cut silk velvet upholstery.