Both techniques fell into the design abyss come the twentieth century; seen as outdated and unfashionable, the crafts were overtaken by more minimalistic interior styles. However, these once cast-away production techniques are now reappearing; through slicing and embedding, and creating kaleidoscopic patterns, designers are creating exciting new designs through updated methods of inlay and marquetry.
Traditional symbols of opulence
Marquetry and inlay have always been highly skilled practices and, as such, good quality antiques have been hard to come by. Traditionally, marquetry furniture was a symbol of opulence, as only the wealthy could afford to buy it. In today’s world, traditional marquetry and inlay objects still fetch extremely high prices due to their rarity. For those keen to get their hands on a genuine antique, the likelihood is that they would need to take out a loan in order to afford themselves a good quality piece of vintage marquetry as, in their heyday, marquetry pieces were made with their target wealthy audience in mind; designs were often highly elaborate and acutely artistic and required a huge amount of production time, hence their high prices. These days, however, designers have introduced computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling technology, which allows faster and easier production, as well as a whole new array of bold colours, materials and digitally-inspired patterns and geometrics. Purchasing a piece of marquetry or inlay furniture in the modern world is much more achievable due to their more affordable prices. Furthermore, there are a whole host of designers that are playing privy to this new trend, each of them eager to put their own stamp on the revival of the production technique.
Marquetry coffee tables by Patricia Urquiola
|Uriquiola's Fishbone Tables for Moroso|
Spanish designer, Patricia Urquiola, has designed a range of beautiful coffee tables using the art of marquetry. Urquiola’s Fishbone Table, designed to accompany her M.a.s.s.a.s. range for Moroso clearly contains elements of the bold interior design of the 1960s, but adds a modern twist. Her signature style contains a decorative herringbone motif, which consists of a range of unique finishes and patterns. She uses a new acrylic material that is designed to look like natural substances such as marble, horn and tortoiseshell. To contrast this, she layers these with solid blocks of bright colours to provide a truly contemporary take on inlay. These exquisite coffee tables are available at a comparatively reasonable price compared to their antique counterparts.
Swedish design studio, Front, provides another interesting modern interpretation of inlay. The designers use many different colours of natural wood to make a series of cupboards and chest of drawer units. These doors are covered in a concoction of geometric shapes; squares and rectangles are layered on top of the original surface to create a 3D pattern effect. Sharp corners, straight lines and harsh edges give Front’s pieces a bold and distinctive finish, bringing the inlay technique out of the past and into the present.
Bethan Laura Wood furniture
London-based designer, Bethan Laura Wood, uses inlay and marquetry to express the inspiration that she draws from the solar system, the moon and volcanoes. The collection, which consists of coffee tables and cabinets, was created especially for the Nilufar Gallery in Milan. Wood hand crafts each piece, using layers of laminate. Although she likes to use some hand-crafted traditional means of production, Wood says that she combines this with cutting-edge new techniques in order to achieve her highly individual designs. Modern technology processes such as laser cutting and laminating make something new out of an old fashioned style.
The beautiful coffee tables and cabinets by these cutting-edge designers are proof that marquetry and inlay are no longer outdated. The production methods are once again creeping onto the design scene; but this time they have been positively revamped, proving that they can produce chic and contemporary masterpieces that are truly suited to twenty-first century living.