Tom Thomas

20th Century European Decorative Arts
The Tom Thomas Collection of Maison Jansen

This ON-LINE exhibition is in honor of the publication of James Abbott Archer's JANSEN FURNITURE. Tom Thomas is grateful to have had several pieces chosen for inclusion in the book. Included below are photos of several pieces from our collection of MAISON JANSEN furniture.

From its inception in the late 19th Century to its major projects for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the decoration of the White House for Jackie Kennedy Jansen has been synonymous with quality and elegance in decoration. Many have said the term 'Decoration' came into being from Jansen. From its early beginnings on the rue Royale to the building of its empire of offices throughout the world Jansen had one thing in common: to create an environment that reflected the personality and being of each client. Although the clients were the rich and powerful aristocrats, industrialists and royalty of the world Jansen maintained idealism about its work: the client was the final piece of the design that brought it all to life.

Although Jansen initially contracted out some of its case pieces as the firm grew around 1900 it produced all of its own. The sideboard is typical of the simple elegance with which Jansen approached its solutions: it used the history of furniture but did not allow itself to be weighed down by it. The legs are clean, decoration is at a minimum yet the piece has its own inherent glamour.

Likewise the interior is inspirational in its simple organization and elegance while the contrast between the mahogany interior and ebonized exterior is refreshing. Ring pulls provide the needed detail to make the interior inviting to be used.

Ebonized Sideboard c. 1950, p. 256 Jansen Furniture

Ebonized Sideboard Showing Interior, c. 1950; p. 257 Jansen Furniture

Lighting fixtures were manufactured by Jansen throughout its 100 year history. Chandeliers, sconces (appliqués) and torches often utilized the historical tastes of the 18th and 19th centuries. A larger model similar to this chandelier was installed by Jansen in the Yellow Room of the White House during the Kennedy Administration.

Jansen also worked in new materials with its lighting fixtures such as shell, malachite, rare inlaid woods, Lucite, reverse painted glass (verre eglomise) and rock crystal.

Bronze and Crystal Chandelier, circa 1930               Pair of Verre Eglomise Sconces     

Many people imitated Jansen but few were able to capture the quality of design and execution that set Jansen apart. These end tables are inlaid with lacquered wood and delicately balance on finely tuned finial legs, a Jansen specialty. An example of this finial leg structure is found on p. 297 of Jansen Furniture.

Pair of End Tables with Lacquered Wood

Jansen sought to create a back-drop for their clients own lives. Grand scale and elegant detail was sometimes necessary to create this. The console base is a royally executed in polychromed wood upon which is set a thick purple/green/grey marble.

A classic Directoire form is given life with reverse painted mirror in the form of ribbons and gold leaf.

Verre Eglomise Vanity/Desk p. 217 Jansen Furniture

A fabulous Jansen Dining table using a large continous piece of Mahogany

Dining Table circa 1940-1960 p. 205 Jansen Furniture

This piece is one of my favorite: covered with verre elgomise glass

Ebonized wood and verre eglomise glass top

eglomise glass top

A few Jansen offices had autonomy to design and create pieces for clients. In New York, Jansen Inc. had a large clientele. This screen was a private commission.


Mirrored Screen Inspired by the "Louviers" Series for the Jansen Collection, 1972

2 Drawer Console Similar model on p.264

Extendable Cocktail Table. A drawing of a similar structure (double level) is found on p. 296.


Jansen also hired top designers outside the firm to utilize their innovative ideas in Jansen design schemes. Simply put, Jansen had contacts and contracts with an exclusive world-wide clientele and the talent of these consultants was too good for Jansen to pass up. Serge Roche. Jean Charles Moreux and in the late 1960's Willy Rizzo played prominent roles.

Wrought Iron Chair by Jean Charles Moreux, similar model p. 145

One of a Pair of Serge Roche Consoles, a similar model p.212

Other Jansen Pieces in the Tom Thomas Collection

Classic Console, c. 1940

Ebonized and Bronze Mounted Cocktail, c. 1940

Round center table

Silver Leaf Cocktail Table

24 Arm Bronze Chandelier

Large Onyx Cocktail Table

Not Jansen
Many design companies sought to emulate Jansen ideas and products. Often, while these pieces do serve to create a certain style, the quality of materials or execution of these materials may be lacking and were surely not done by the firm. Style pieces, nevertheless, play a role in contemporary decoration. Just as Jansen used models from the 18th and 19th century contemporary firms used Jansen as a model. Photos: Selected Style Pieces

Jansen frequently used an arrow supporting structure. The quality of materials in this piece does not meet the Jansen standards.

Modern Neo-classic Gueridon             

Jansen used higher quality materials, more elegant legs and thinner finials

Cocktail Table c. 1950 in the style of Jansen


Jansen served an important evolutionary role in the development of interior design and the designer. It served as the gold standard for the trade and had the recommendation of the elite. It adapted well to the social experiments of the sixties and responded with many brilliant creations in the 60's /70's /early 80's which re-invigorated it. The noted French artist/designers Garouste and Bonetti's first exhibition (The New Barbarian Collection) was sponsored by Jansen but ultimately the firm could not survive on the level it had been used to. It was no longer feasible to have its own production and a string of offices around the world. Ultimately it became a victim to the force of interior design which it had earlier brought about. Rather than compromise its standards it closed its doors in 1989. What is left is a legacy, the magnificence of its workrooms, showrooms and creations and the birth of the interior design profession itself.

Garouste and Bonetti 'New Barbarian' Standing Lamp edition of 5


Visit our Jansen collection in more details