Biedermeier style

The Biedermeier style, first popularized in the early 19th century, is making a comeback.

See: The World of Biedermeier

Its attributes of high gloss finish, classic lines, and beautiful woods first attracted the newly rich middle class of the Austro-Hungary empire.

The style received new popularity during the Art Deco period of the mid-20th century.

Janusz Maszkiewicz, proprietor of Vienna Woods at 351 S. La Brea Ave., has been specializing in restoration of Biedermeier furniture for more than 30 years.

“My grandfather first introduced me to Biedermeier; he was a cabinetmaker in my native Poland,” said Maszkiewicz, who owned shops in London and New York before settling in southern California in 1993.

“It’s the French polish, a combination of shellac and oil, that gives the furniture its high gloss,” the craftsman said.

To maintain that highly polished look Maszkiewicz cautioned against using name brand or furniture oil on Biedermeier pieces. These applications create dirt buildup and attract moisture to the surface.

Instead, he said, use a drop of dishwasher soap on a slightly damp cloth; then wipe with a dry cloth. He also tells his customers to wax the surface two or three times a year with a French-made product called Kiwi Bois.

The Vienna Woods showroom contains tables, chairs, settees, desks and cabinets, but the real nerve center is behind the shop where Maszkiewicz and his associates create and restore furniture.

It is here that Biedermeier furnishings receive that special care that his three decades of experience can provide.

Who was Biedermeier?

“Papa Biedermeier” was a fictitious character, made famous in political cartoons of his day, the mid 19th century. He represented “every man,” and more specifically the newly affluent Austrian society.

The same style, often influenced by Egyptian designs, was known as Regency in England and Empire in France. But Biedermeier style was less ornate and renown for its simplicity and elegance of form.

© Jane Gilman, Larchmont Chronicle