Why can’t we get Art Nouveau furniture made by CNC?

What I wanted for Christmas and did not get is an entire house full of Art Nouveau furniture as seen in the Musée d’Orsay or the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Here are a few images of the collection at the d’Orsay, from our October 2022 trip there:

With modern 3D printing (e.g., for the lamp) and computer numerical control (CNC) routers, what stops the mostly-automated production at near-IKEA prices of replicas of the above works of genius and craftsmanship? An IKEA-crafted bed for comparison:

Maybe the problem is that putting an Art Nouveau piece into a standard American developer-built house or 2BR apartment would make the walls look sadly lacking in ornamentation.


17 thoughts on “Why can’t we get Art Nouveau furniture made by CNC?

  1. One time I went to a store which pretty much does this. It was called “design within reach”. It was too expensive and this out of reach for this bird brain.

    • Part of why DWR is expensive is that they actually pay the designers (or more likely their estates) royalties for the licensing the designs, unlike most knock-offs.

    • DWR’s style is more than 50 years newer than Art Nouveau. Also, they don’t use any innovative manufacturing techniques to bring down the cost. DWR just has 1950s and 1960s stuff built the 1950s and 1960s way and then charges people the 1950s/1960s price adjusted for the labor cost inflation that has happened between then and now.

      What I’m proposing is to go back about 130 years but, since we can’t defrost the craftsmen/craftswomen/craftsnonbinarypeople from 1895 we have robots do what they would have done if they were among us.

  2. Funny, somehow I didn’t figure you for an Art Nouveau kind of man. I thought you’d be more rational, clean, post-modern, etc. Especially after Marie Kondo took up residence. Lol. Anyway that bed in the lower left isn’t too garish (the chair can take a hike) and the desk is….imposing to say the least. But I can just see you in a long black smoking jacket with just that funky lamp, emerging from the darkness to bring us some light about the Swedish in the New York Times.

    And don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! I had that same exact IKEA bed all the way through College and beyond. With the right mattress and box spring it was very comfortable and durable, although the looks were something to be desired. It was simple to disassemble and reassemble and didn’t take up much space, either. I think it may actually still be in a storage area somewhere but goodness knows where the fasteners are to be found. Probably in a box of car parts. Imagine it with one of those Einstein “Imagination is more important than knowledge” or whatever posters behind it and you get the idea. But unlike a lot of IKEA furniture it stayed together and never creaked, the fittings were tight once assembled. If I find it I will dutifully recycle it.

    • Sorry not exactly the same IKEA bed but close. Same material and basic construction. Same look, but the “headboard” slats on my old one were wider and filled more of the gaps between them. Is IKEA cheaping out on the lumber? Pity that I don’t have my original receipt any longer to compare prices on the TARVA. And no, it’s not a HEMNES.

    • Alex: I have always loved Art Nouveau. If we lived in a $30 million modern house on the water in Miami Beach I would be happy to go all modern. But our tract house is Spanish Colonial Revival style. So the modern stuff doesn’t fit here except maybe as an ironic contrast (we actually do have an outdoor table and chairs from https://www.roomandboard.com/ because we could get it custom-fabbed (long and narrow)).

  3. Art nouveau looks like the 1963 Haunting furniture. If only 3D printing was as automated as the 3D printing startup valuations 10 years ago made it seem. Good luck finding any jobs where 3D printing is a valuable skill. The future is chatGPT. We need chatGPT furniture this week.

  4. The problem with Art Nuveau – or any other kind of artsy decor – is that one needs to have at least some taste to pull it off . Having been to a statistically significant number of houses owned by the rich (and thus able to afford the artsyness), I can say the taste is hard to acquire. The usual result of trying to be artsy while having no taste is… nauseating. Art is not something one can buy. It’s innate. It is not unlike status symbols among the people who can afford anything. Material possessions – watches, cars, yachts, castles, etc – are no more signifying one’s quality than kind of sneakers an office worker can buy. The only things which remain significant are what olyou can do yourself and what kind of woman you have with you.

  5. I loved the gushing praise for the 3D printed house fixing Maine’s shortage of low income housing. This was coming from the same politicians blocking construction of any other prefabricated housing options.

  6. This is probably not so trivial. Most modern furniture (fancy designs, not the IKEA bed) are 2D routed, glued and veneered MDF. In addition to being cheap and easy to machine MDF doesn’t bend in the routing plane.

    3D routing of a 2 meter long thin hardwood part would probably be a completely different story as it’d bend (or break?) as it’s machined, not to mention completely different price for hardwood (most of which would go to waste) and probably 5x tools and time cost above MDF. Even if it can be successfully machined within 1-5mm range, it’d take a lot of skilled manual labour to finish it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlaNMuuLWbk gives a good idea how making a long curved hardwood part (much much simpler than the ones in your photos!) looks like with the machinery the industry has.

    Sourcing second grade pine on the IKEA bed photo is a lot easier on industrial scale than the proper wood too.

    (Source: made a copy of a modern-style designer table by making CAD drawings, contracting parts manufacturing and then did finishing and assembly; the total came out 20x cheaper of the list price, but haven’t really saved anything time-wise.)

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