In 1932 the young, handsome and flamboyant Maharajah of Indore commissioned a magnificent Art Deco bed for his palace “The Temple of the Rubies”. The bed was designed by the leading French designer Louis Sognot and made in aluminium and chromed metal.
In 1991 I designed a similar bed in light blond burr ash for Sir Elton John. I have just designed and delivered a bed almost identical to the Maharajah’s bed for a leading Rock Star. This bed, however, is made not of aluminium, but in green lacquered wood with a large panel of Shagreen (sharkskin) on the headboard.
A remarkable example of how furniture design can reflect great historical events is provided by the emergence of the Biedermeier style after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The mood of Europe changed - and the style of furniture altered dramatically to match this mood. As Napoleon had conquered most of Europe, the pompous, magnificent Empire style with its grand, monumental mahogany furniture had become extremely fashionable, and palaces and houses were accordingly redecorated throughout the continent.
But after Napoleon's final defeat, Europe settled down to a long period of peace. The middle classes, who were prospering, wanted a simpler style, which could be functional as well as beautiful. This style, later as 'Biedermeier', is essentially Empire furniture shorn of its ormolu mounts, excessive gilding and aggressive self-importance. Its original geometric shape often leads it to being described as the forerunner of modern furniture.
Like most styles, it did not have a name while it was being made, but was only given one after it had been and gone. The term 'Biedermeier' is often wrongly assumed to be the name of a cabinetmaker or designer of the period. During the late 1840s in Austria and Germany, the preceding era (1815-1848) was subject to a barrage of satire, which finally led to the very furniture being mocked. The painter-poet Josef Victor von Scheffel published in 1848 cynical poems with titles as 'Biedermann's Evening socialising' and 'Bummelmaier's Complaint' in the Viennese satirical magazine 'Fliegende Blätter' (Flying Leaves). These names were combined into the pseudonym 'Gottlieb Biedermaier' by Ludwig Eichrodt, who together with Adolf Kussmaul published poems by the schoolmaster Samuel Friedrich Sauter under this name. The spelling finally changed into 'Biedermeier' in 1869 when Eichrodt published 'Biedermeier's Liederlust'.