Why is this a piece of art?
Decorative arts (furniture, jewelry, other household items) are now frequently included in art museums. They're included in museum collections for various reasons such as their high levels of craftsmanship, their innovative designs and uses of new materials, as well as what they can tell us about the lives of people in other eras.
This set is very typical of the 1930s "Art Deco" because of its black-and-metal palette and its streamlined forms. You may see how it "fits in" with the paintings and sculptures installed nearby if you think about its simple shapes.
How did you keep this so well preserved?
That is a fantastic question! This Vanity with Mirror and Stool
designed by Kem Weber and manufactured by Lloyd Manufacturing Company was, in fact, made for everyday use and shows some signs of that. When objects come into museum collections, their condition is reviewed and can be restored for display. To keep items in good condition, the curators and conservationists work constantly to ensure all items are properly cared for in the Museum space.
Why is Kem Weber's Vanity with Mirror and Stool identified as gender specific?
Great question! Historically, vanities were part of a grouping of furniture found in the boudoir, an elite female-gendered space in the eighteenth century. By the 1930s, the dressing table had become a common component of a bedroom set for girls and women at all social levels. As the name implies, “vanities” were associated with superficiality and preoccupation with appearances. At this time, the interest in decoration and beauty was thought to be within the exclusive purview of women; makeup was marketed with increasing force and “putting on one’s face” was a common activity. In 1933, the Vogue Book of Beauty stated that, “A dose of new beauty acts just like a cocktail, breaking down inhibition and putting new fun into life.”
We are wondering about the drawer to the right of the handle, it has a glass panel? What's that about? Like what was it used for that you would need to see inside?
Great catch! That is such an interesting detail. We don't know the exact answer but it could just have been a design choice. In the same way that the mirror is asymmetrical this glass drawer to the right is also asymmetrical but together, they balance each other out.But that is just a theory! Another option would be to display objects such as perfume bottles, jewelry or even makeup!
Woah, yeah we hadn't noticed the asymmetry, we like both these theories, thank you!
You're welcome! Do you have any ideas? It is certainly an interesting design element.
Perhaps it adds a drawer pull without additional hardware. otten ball drawer and the glass is so you know when you're running low!
You're welcome! Those are both great theories!
Tell me more.
Kem Weber was a German-born furniture designer who moved to California in 1915 and became a leader in modern American design. The vanity was made by the Lloyd Manufacturing Company, which opened in 1906 in Menominee, Michigan.
Why is the palette so minimalistic?
This is unlike some earlier vanities that might be wood or glass and incorporate painted details or other decoration. This was called the "Machine Aesthetic." It was believed to point the way to a productive and efficient future where everything would be streamlined (literally and figuratively) for maximum effect! Chrome was used for automobiles first, because it does not rust. And then it was incorporated into home decor! This was a futuristic style when it first began.
Tell me more.
This is a dressing table. By the 1930s, the dressing table had become a common component of a bedroom set for girls and women at all social levels. Historically, vanities had been part of a furniture group found in the boudoir, a private female space only found in more elite homes.
Are these materials (wood, metal, glass, et cetera) considered gender specific?
In this case, the focus on lightweight tubular steel was more because it was easy to clean and cheap to manufacture. It capitalized on the machine aesthetic that was popular at the time. The gendering of this furniture has more to do with its function as a vanity where one might sit to apply make-up or style your hair; activities primarily associated with women in the 1930s.
I really like the mirror and how its connected only on one side!
That asymmetry was considered especially modern. The materials are also modern. Chrome had been used in automobile production but it was something new for home design! The shapes of the table and stool are very "streamlined." There's no ornament or texture, just lots of long lines and smooth surfaces with rounded edges. In the 1930s the "machine aesthetic" was a crossover from industry...seeing the beauty in mechanical forms and introducing it into other parts of life (not just industry).
For the vanity, what was so appealing about it?
It was made in the Art Deco style of the time, featuring sleek, black and silver design elements and streamlined forms. The vanity was also popular at this time among women of various social classes, not just wealthy women as they had previously been. At this time, makeup was being marketed with increasing force to women, so they began to dedicate a piece of furniture to their cosmetic ritual. Lastly, objects like this could be cheaply mass produced with materials like tubular steel.
Is the Vanity with Mirror and Stool from Ikea?
I wish I could find something like this at Ikea! It was designed by Kem Weber and made by Lloyd Manufacturing Company in 1934, 9 years before Ikea was founded!