Category Archives: History of American Made Furniture

Come Join Us for the Bassett Book Signing!

factory-man

Come join us Thursday, May 21, 2015, from 5:30pm-8:30pm, to hear John D. Bassett III of Vaughan Bassett Furniture speak about keeping manufacturing in the USA and saving American jobs. He’ll also be signing copies of the New York Times Best Seller “Factory Man”, written by Beth Macy, which chronicles history of the Basset Family and their rise to domination of wood furniture manufacturing in the USA throughout the 20th century. It also addresses American furniture manufacturer’s brush with extinction as global capitalism led to outsourcing and the massive loss of 73,000 jobs, as well as the crippling of many southern furniture towns. It finally details John D. Bassett III’s years’ long Capital Hill fight to save these American jobs from Chinese takeover. The book is getting special treatment as Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman plan its production as a miniseries for HBO.

 

Books will be available for a discounted purchase of $20. All proceeds from the book sales will go to the Dean Michael Clarizio Cancer Foundation, a New Jersey charity, and Suburban Furniture will be matching the donation to the foundation. Also Vaughan Bassett Furniture will be giving away a bedroom set valued up to $2000. All non-furniture attendees will have a chance to win!


Suburban Furniture on Rt. 10 in Succasunna has long been a Made in America bedroom gallery by Vaughan-Bassett, Bassett’s bedroom manufacturing company. Vaughan-Bassett is known for its quick delivery in the customers’ choice of many finishes and sizes. Like Vaughan-Bassett, Suburban Furniture has been family owned and operated for over 50 years.

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American Modern (1925-1940)

We’ve spent quite a while recently exploring the history of American made furniture and we’ve almost made it through the years and ages.  Last time we met, we took a look at Art Noveau but what came next?  Next up was the American Modern movement – sit back, relax and read on to learn more!

American Modern was a distinct American design aesthetic formed in the period between 1925 and World War II.  Created by a pioneering group of designers, architects and artists, this movement is distinguished by the absence of traditional ornament, the use of new technologies and materials, and the application of mass-production techniques to create affordable objects for the expanding middle class.  The impact on the lives of the everyday American is exemplified through a wide array of objects from furniture to graphic arts.

In the beginning, most of America’s modern design reflected the widespread influence of the Paris fair which brought to international prominence the chic French luxury style of Art Deco, with its emphasis on costly materials and fine workmanship. Dramatic economic, industrial and technological changes, however, would significantly impact design during this time of drastic growth in mass production and mass consumption.

America’s most innovative designers adapted the clean lines, pure geometric forms and machine-made materials of Germany’s Bauhaus movement which forged an alliance between art and industry. The onset of the Depression served to enhance the aim of the Bauhaus to create objects that were both attractive and affordable.

Interestingly enough, an important factor in the start of American design influence and dominance was an influx of foreign talent.  More than a third of the designers involved in the American Modern movement were immigrants drawn to America by the promise of economic opportunity or escape from political oppression.  Not only designers and manufacturers, but department stores, museums and galleries joined in an effort to promote innovative work in overcoming the country’s generally conservative taste for traditional forms which pushed the movement further.

This movement lasted until the 40s when the American taste moved from streamlined to comfort which ushered in the next movement of Scandinavian Contemporary.  And that concludes our look at the history of American made furniture!  We hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the past and we’re glad you joined us!  Don’t forget to check out our website or stop by our store to find the furniture style that best suits your taste!

Art Noveau (1890-1910)

Today we’ll take a look at another piece of design history as it pertains to furniture that was around during the same era as the Arts and Crafts movement which we discussed in our last blog.  This movement was called Art Noveau and was a naturalistic style characterized by intricately detailed patterns and curving lines.  While it did find its way to the States (where it was also referred to as “Tiffany style” due to its association with Louis Comfort Tiffany), this movement is most often associated with France where the period truly began in 1890 and is seen as the first truly original design style to come along in almost a century.  Art Noveau is also considered a “total” style, embracing architecture, graphic design, interior design and the majority of the decorative arts, including furniture.  According to the philosophy of the style, art should be a way of life.

Although Art Nouveau acquired distinctly localized tendencies as its geographic spread increased, some general characteristics are indicative of the form.  One description described it as “sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip”, which became well known during the early spread of Art Nouveau.  Subsequently, not only did the work itself become better known as The Whiplash but the term “whiplash” is frequently applied to the characteristic curves employed by Art Nouveau artists.  Nature was advocated as a source of inspiration for artists looking to break away from styles of the past.  The unfolding of Art Nouveau’s flowing line may be understood as a metaphor for the freedom and release sought by its practitioners and admirers from the weight of artistic tradition and critical expectations.

Art Nouveau was a concerted attempt to create an international style based on decoration. It was developed by a brilliant and energetic generation of artists and designers, who sought to fashion an art form appropriate to the modern age. During this extraordinary time, urban life as we now understand it was established. Old customs, habits, and artistic styles sat alongside new, combining a wide range of contradictory images and ideas. Many artists, designers, and architects were excited by new technologies and lifestyles, while others retreated into the past, embracing the spirit world, fantasy, and myth.

Although international in scope, Art Nouveau was a short-lived movement that was a precursor of modernism, which emphasized function over form and the elimination of superfluous ornament. Although a reaction to historic revivalism, it brought Victorian excesses to a dramatic finale. Its influence has been far reaching and is evident in Art Deco furniture designs, whose sleek surfaces are enriched by exotic wood veneers and ornamental inlays. Dramatic Art Nouveau—inspired graphics became popular in the turbulent social and political milieu of the 1960s, among a new generation challenging conventional taste and ideas.

To learn more about the exact styles incorporated into Art Noveau furniture, visit this handy guide here. And be sure to stop by our showroom today so we can help you find your personal furniture style!