Interior design trend alert: the art of chinoiserie and japanning

Vintage 1970's Chinoiserie mirror available via Dering Hall Martin Pierce Hardware Los Angeles, Ca  90016 The art of Chinoiserie (meaning chinese-esque in french) is re-appearing as an interior design trend for 2015.

In and out of popularity since it was first introduced to western Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, it is often found on wallcoverings, fabrics and porcelain  decorative objects.  Designs included depictions of life in the Orient, exotic birds and insects and plenty of floral motifs.  Its popularity was due, in part, to how well it complimented the then popular Rococo style of architecture and decor.  Chinoiserie represented wealth and luxury and names like Rothschild and Getty, along with royalty,  enjoyed its beauty in many of their residences.

In an attempt to imitate the beauty of Chinese lacquer, the art of japanning was later introduced. This multi-step process is time intensive but will give any item a distinctive style as you can see by the vine design japanned onto our limited edition Ascot tallboy.

Ascot Tallboy limited edition by Martin Pierce Hardware Los Angeles CA  980016

You can employ this trend in large doses as the famed Elsie de Wolfe did in the 1920's in her own residence:

Chinoiserie wallpaper lines the walls of famed designer Elsie de Wolfe's residence Martin Pierce Hardware Los Angeles, Ca  90016

or you can add this historic look through the use of well-curated decorative accesssories such as vases, mirrors and lamps.

To view our entire collection of bespoke furniture and architectural hardware, please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Designers, please stop by our showroom located at:

5433 W. Washington Blvd.

Los Angeles, Ca  90016

Tel: 323 939 5929

Design inspiration from Mother Nature

Martin Pierce custom hardware Mother Nature has certainly given us all a lesson with this year's extraordinary weather throughout the world.  Unprecedented snowstorms and below freezing temperatures have hit the eastern portion of the United States while unseasonably warm weather has wreaked havoc with winter sports at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  But, along with unusual weather patterns, she also provides us with extraordinary inspiration for color combinations, sculpture and other forms of artwork and design.

Limited Edition Ascot Sideboard featuring our dragonfly drawer pull

We often talk about how nature inspires Martin's designs.  For example, our popular Hedgerow  furniture and architectural hardware collections were inspired by the trees and shrubs found in our native England.  Our Ascot series of custom furniture features beautiful patterns of leaves and vines using the ancient japanning technique of inlay.  We offer many custom hardware pieces inspired by insects and other living creatures and Martin is currently working on new paintings that include one of his favorite subjects, the beetle.

If you are searching for design inspiration for a project, it might be a simple as taking a walk in the park, a hike in your local mountains or just open your own back door to come up with the perfect jumping off point for your color, hardware and textile selections.

To view our entire collection of custom furniture and hardware, please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Limited edition tallboy at home

We recently wrote about how to choose between a custom or ready made piece of artwork or furniture.  We shared with you a bespoke version of our Ascot Tallboy designed for a client who wished to display and store their prized collection of 78 record albums and the vintage player.  Custom details included interior shelves and dividers cut to fit the record sleeves. Limited edition Ascot tallboy with japanning detail and custom interior shelves from Martin Pierce Custom Hardware

This limited edition piece is now in place and the client has graciously shared photos of it in use.

Martin Pierce Custom Hardware and furniture

The beautiful wood and japanning details really complement other pieces in the room and no one would guess that those doors hide plenty of convenient storage for easy access to the 78 LP's.  In my humble opinion, the perfect marriage between the old and the new.

If you would like to view other piece of custom furniture or our entire collection of custom architectural hardware,  please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Custom vs. ready made or Why should I buy a custom piece of furniture?

Many people question the value of customizing a piece of furniture or hardware when a similar item may be available for immediate purchase.  Take a look at the latest incarnation of our limited edition Ascot Tallboy and you will clearly see the value of a custom piece. This piece was commissioned by architectural designer Jan McHugh of JBM Designs. Jan works in the Chicago and Indianapolis areas and can be reached via email at jbmdesigns@icloud.com.   This tallboy is intended for her clients who are the proud owners of an incredible art collection.  The interior of the tallboy was customized to hold their prized Victrola and store their valuable collection of "78's".  Coincidentally, this is #78 in a limited edition of 100 and it is going to be used to store 78's...clearly meant to be!

In order to properly support the Victrola and still enjoy the beautiful japanning details we adjusted the placement and allowed the pattern to wrap around the sides of the cabinet instead of across the top.  We also wanted to make the pull more of a focal point so chose to use the medium sized scarab pull from our Animal collection of custom architectural hardware.

martin pierce ascot tallboy number 78 of 100 side view

As usual, the tallboy is crafted from English brown oak and darkened chiseled walnut. You may remember that Martin likes English brown oak for the lovely golden amber hue and the "leopard spots", or dark brown markings that are part of the character of this particular wood.  These brown spots are a result of a fungus that the English brown oak tree suffers from or supports, depending on how you look at it.

The interior of the cabinet was also customized to house the sleeves of the unique record collection.

martin pierce ascot tallboy number 78 of 100 interior view customized for client record colleciton

As you can see, a ready to purchase cabinet would not have met the unique needs of this client but being able to request specific design and function details will make it possible for them to enjoy not only a beautiful piece of furniture but store and display their prized record collection.

To view other items from our custom furniture collection and our bespoke hardware collection, visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

The secrets of woodworking Part 3: specialized wood and veneers

If you have read our previous posts in this series on woodworking then you are familiar with veneers and solid woods and how the selection process is made by Martin Pierce. This takes us to specialized veneers like Tamo, English brown oak and Myrtle burl. Tamo

We started our search for Tamo around the year 2000 when we were just beginning to develop our Seicho designs.  We were seeking a veneer that was pale in color and had a strong directional quality  for the armoire designs we had in mind.  We found this remarkable veneer at Herzog Veneer, a supplier of rare and exotic woods.  Tamo is, coincidentally, given the name of a line of Japanese Ash and typically prized for it’s busy “peanut” clusters of swirly grain. We found 4 logs that had a beautiful luminescent quality caused by the unusual fiddle back character of the grain.  There was just one problem, the logs were of special value to Herzog as they had been in the family  for decades, dating back to the 1950’s when the owner acquired them in Europe before relocating to the US.  Herzog  did not want to sell just one log so we bought all 4 logs and then had to build a wood shed just to house them.  However, we have made extensive use of this veneer ever since. Due to the relatively old age of the trees, milled some time before 1950, the veneer is really quite thick, measuring over 1/32” thick whereas most veneers today are typically 1/64”.

English Brown Oak

We also like to use logs of English brown oak as opposed to American red or white oak. We prefer the amber color with the dark brown spots of the English brown oak over the America Red.  English brown oak is the prime wood used in all of our Ascot japanned pieces and the brown oak is the background over which we create our autumnal  leaves.

Ascot sideboard with vine japanning detail from Martin Pierce Custom Hardware


The oak's brown color is as a result of a parasitic fungus that makes its home in the tree. Thankfully, this fungus does not kill the tree, simply turns its color to a warm brown amber color.  When buying a log of this wood species we are looking for the right color and also for logs that have been cut into quarter sawn.  In this instance, the tree is cut into quarters and then milled into veneer. Because the tree is quartered the veneer has a very straight direction grain and we use this feature to run the grain vertically on most of our tallboys and armoires.  In the sideboard shown above we use the quartered walnut and we lay it up vertically to create a strong straight direction that helps reinforce the upward growth of the Aspen trees. 

When choosing this veneer we also try to locate logs that have “leoparding”, a fleck of darker color in the wood that adds to its character.  It is so named because the flecks look a lot like leopard spots.

We have covered only a small portion of veneer terminology.  For those interested in other veneer terms you can check out this site: http://formwood.com/veneer-glossary.html.  And for those hobbyists who do not want to buy a whole log, Certainly Wood offers an outstanding wood veneer selection to meet your needs.

To view our entire collection of custom furniture and architectural hardware, please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Limited Edition Aspen Buffet finds a new home

Thanks to ASID  interior designer Margo Montgomery Deane  (650-329-9087) of the San Francisco Bay area,#21 of our limited edition of 30 Aspen buffets has found a new home. martin pierce aspen buffet

Ms. Deane has great appreciation for the craftsmanship and beauty of this piece and has admired it for many years.  She purchased it from Gaul Searson showrooms, long time supporters of Martin Pierce Hardware.   She was happy to be able to specify it for this special client and felt it "created a visual peace."  Her clients will be retiring and moving to the Lake Tahoe area where the Aspen buffet will happily reside.

A true work of art, the legs and frame of this buffet is crafted of solid walnut with the face and panels made from a vertical grain walnut veneer.  We purposefully lay up the walnut veneer to create a strong vertical direction allowing the piece to visually flow upward.  The natural tones of the wood are then gently lightened with a bleach solution to allow the delicate silver tones of the Aspen trees to stand out.  We apply the ancient japanning technique of inlay to create the aspen trees.  This process certainly makes these pieces edition worthy as it is a bit like buying a limited edition print except that in the case of furniture, each piece is a true original;  unlike a print where copies are created from a master.  We finish it off with our small chiseled pulls in a natural polished bronze.

If you would like to view our complete line of hardware and furniture and get the latest news on what is happening at Martin Pierce, please visit us at www.martinpierce.com.  And don't forget our new product naming contest.  You might be the lucky winner of two of our mushroom pulls.