Art Deco Scotch Cabinet

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and I’ll refrain from the typical apologies…I never was enthusiastic about writing. Fortunately, I am enthusiastic about furniture. And this week, I came across the wonderful idea of importing from furniture manufacturers China some really ornate furniture for the living room. I’ll share that with you shortly.

Here’s some recent work from my shop. It was designed as a scotch cabinet, the kind that those Don Draper types (or perhaps, some highly placed European politician) might keep in their office where they keep the good stuff in a decanter for those important meetings with their VIP guests. It’s inspired by the work of Parisian Art Deco designer Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (28 August 1879 – 15 November 1933), who was renowned for his elegant designs in rich materials (ivory, macassar ebony, ambonya burl veneer, shagreen…) Here is a famous example, the Meuble au char (1922), clicking on the image will bring you google image gallery of many other of his designs:

You may have noticed the references to Monsieur Ruhlmann have been as “designer” not maker, as he did not make his own design, but apparently was meticulous in design, redesign, modeling, and specification of each of his designs, relying on his hired makers to figure out the how. In my (somewhat less than exhaustive) investigation, many of the construction methods used in many of these case pieces is a mystery, though many have speculated. It seems that the aesthetics his works were paramount, the structure well-hidden, not on display as a mark of craftsmanship.  The veneers are often laid-up for visual effect, where we are accustomed to seeing the grain running in structurally-relevant ways, as seen in many other styles. Some have speculated that the joinery is hidden because its inadequate, but I’ve seen little evidence for that claim, and would be surprised if one so obsessive about the design would accept less of his makers.

A late call for entries for The Furniture Project show sparked a 5-week push to design, build (and show) an interpretation of the iconic chimney cabinet form: tall, narrow, and with at least one door, with the added twist of a very short timeline to encourage makers to not overthink (something I’m prone to do).  Inspired by the art deco theme, and in particular the use of vertical grain Macassar Ebony veneer, combined with light/white accents, I created a sketch then set to making.

In the tradition of Ruhlmann, I won’t detail the construction methods, other than to say it pushed the limits of my abilities, and added several new techniques to my arsenal.

The end product combines elements of Ruhlmann aesthetics (minus the real Ivory) for a rich, elegant piece in which to store your finest libations or other special contents. Vertical Macassar Ebony veneers wrap a gentle serpentine facade and add some flame to this chimney cabinet. Some details include faux-dentil accents of dyed maple, Holly feet on faceted fusee legs, Apple pulls, reclaimed piano Ebony shelf supports, and a rich interior of mottled Sapele. It has two drawers for storage of additional glassware and sundries, and two glass shelves for display and storage. The overall dimensions: 10″d x 21w” x 67″h.

If you’re an aspiring Don Draper, or perhaps a European diplomat, and need to furnish your home or office, this piece is available for sale: $6200.

Please email or call for more information.

This piece was well-received at the Furniture Project show, and was selected as the “People’s choice” at the event.

About Nick

Nick Roulleau is founder, craftsman, designer, joiner, finisher, floor-sweep and all of the other roles at Mansfield Fine Furniture. A woodworker for more than a decade, Nick started the company with the goal of filling the need for heirloom-quality furniture hand-made from premium woods. Every piece is designed to suit the customer's needs and desires, hand-picking each piece of wood, and built one piece at a time, using both modern and centuries-old traditional methods to yield furniture to last for generations.