Marquetry Furniture: Delicate Decoration with Wood Veneer

wood veneer

Artist: Warren Snow

If you have a penchant for truly distinct furniture, you have undoubtedly admired a number of standout pieces enhanced by the special art of marquetry, where beautiful patterns are cut from wood veneers and assembled upon a structure, such as a table, chest or writing desk.

When it comes to decorating furniture, marquetry is one of the most traditional and interesting techniques. The art form itself is similar to parquetry, where wood is placed in a geometric pattern that is often used for flooring. Marquetry, on the other hand, is the creation of a mosaic of wood veneers that differ in color and texture, used to create a simple or involved pattern upon the surface of a structure.

Wood Veneer Marquetry and its Applications

The compelling thing about marquetry is that it can be used to decorate all sorts of furniture items, including tabletops, chairs, cabinet doors, trunks, desks, wardrobes, and even clocks. Each example of marquetry is essentially a unique and sophisticated work of art, and furniture pieces decorated using this technique can fit surprisingly well into either a more formal and traditional or décor scheme or one that is highly contemporary and casual. Anyone who loves art and enjoys beautiful, inspiring surroundings will be captivated by marquetry furniture.

wood veneerAntique French and Italian inspired marquetry furniture pieces often used wood veneer from maple, walnut or mahogany, along with other materials, such as mother-of-pearl, ivory and ebony.

It displayed images of musical instruments, flowers, and landscape scenes. Some examples of marquetry even have the remarkable appearance of having been “painted” in wood.

Marquetry is a striking and intricate art that demands time and patience. A skilled artisan of the craft needs to be precise in cutting and shaping the veneer wood to fit a particular design. It is exacting work, to be sure, but also extremely gratifying.

Let the Furniture be Your Guide

wood veneer

Artist:Leland Leonard, Pensacola, FL

Marquetry can be as simple as a bold starburst pattern or elaborate as an intricate flower in a detailed garden scene. Whether a realistic or abstract image, a major part of successful marquetry is about choosing and creating just the right design for the kind of furniture it will embellish.

Step back and consider the overall style of the piece; is it classical or more contemporary? Are its lines curving or sharply angled? Rather than consider your inlay pattern and tones in isolation, let the furniture itself inspire your marquetry design and enjoy choosing an array of rich wood veneers to bring it alive.

Consider joining the American Marquetry Society or a local marquetry group to learn techniques and share ideas.


Sabrina Parisette-HerzogSabrina Parisette-Herzog is a 5th generation wood veneer specialist. Owner and President of Herzog Veneers, Inc., and a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, she and her husband Sam started the company in High Point, NC in 1982.
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