The Africa Salon and Ruhlmann furniture

Situated in the south-west corner  of the Hall of Honour, matching the Asia Salon on the other side, the purpose of this ceremonial salon, during the Colonial Exposition of 1931, was to house the reception office of the Minister of the Colonies, Paul Reynaud. It was called Africa Salon for the frescoes and furniture used in decorating it. It is one of the spaces classified as a historical monument at the Palais de la Porte Dorée since 1987.

Le salon Afrique
Le salon Afrique
Lorenzö © Palais de la Porte Dorée

The décor of the salon has made it a reference of the Art Deco art movement, which developed between 1910 and 1940, due to its monumental dimensions with a surface area of 90 m², its minimalist design, the rigorous composition of its geometric lines (the perfect oval shape of the salon) and its use of luxury materials (silver-bronze, ivory inlays and shagreen leather…).

The decoration of the salon highlights the figure of the interior designer, a “must” in the decoration world at the time. Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879-1933), a famous Art Deco designer, designed all the décor, conceived as a total system, mastering the entire creative process: the design of the furniture, the patterns on the marquetry floors, the choice of materials for the wood trim of the décor, etc.

The flooring consists in marquetry made from precious wood, whose different shades (from lightest to darkest) allowed Ruhlmann to draw very contrasting and geometric patterns. The woods used were Gabon ebony for most of the marquetry, with diagonal lines in Sycamore maple, while the skirting boards and moulding around the doors and windows were made from Macassar ebony.

The salon is particular noteworthy for the extraordinary Art Deco style furniture created by Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann from Macassar ebony, a precious wood found also on the monumental doors, decorated with warthog tusks. The minister’s desk is covered with shagreen leather (which comes from fish like stingrays and sharks), punctuated with ivory threads, also arranged diagonally.

Raymond Subes designed the two embossed brass monumental vases that echo the fresco.

The salon is decorated with a fresco created by the Lyon-based painter Louis Bouquet, who illustrated the cultural and intellectual contributions made by Africa.

In video

Fichier vidéo
Le salon Reynaud © Palais de la Porte Dorée, 2021

Also to be read

couverture du livre

Jacques Émile Ruhlmann, Florence Camard, Éditions Monelle Hayot, 2009

This richly illustrated book allows the reader to immerse himself in the work of the most famous Art Deco designer, who conceived the décor of the Africa Salon at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, mastering the entire creative process (the design of the furniture, the design of the marquetry floor motifs, the choice of materials for the wooden panelling of the décor).