Louis C. Tiffany launched his decorating business in 1878, founding Louis c. Tiffany & Associated Artists out of the Bella Apartments at 48 East 26th Street. Previously scholars believed Associated Artists was a collaborative effort between four equal partners, Tiffany, Candace Wheeler, Lockwood de Forest, and William Pringle Mitchell. However recent findings suggest that Tiffany was the sole proprietor of Associated Artists and that he was independently partnered with his three associates. Decorating commissions with various partners followed, including the Seventh Regiment Armory, Madison Square Theatre, and the Union League Club. Lacking documentation that proves otherwise, it is generally assumed by scholars that furniture made during this time attributed to Tiffany was in fact designed by Tiffany himself. Furniture designs created for the Havemeyer residence, another important Tiffany commission is credited to Samuel Colman.
Tiffany as an interior designer, prior to establishing facilities to produce his own designs, collected an eclectic mix of European, Moorish, and Oriental furnishings. Much of Tiffany’s furniture that he created for his clients anticipated the aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement by fifteen years. Pieces exude a rustic hand-crafted quality which was a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and mass-produced designs. Much of his furniture was created to match the rooms they were housed in to form a cohesive design scheme. A chair from the Havemeyer residence has interlaced strapwork repeated throughout the chair, the same pattern can be found on the mantel, architectural trim, and stenciled wall pattern in the room.
Louis C. Tiffany was at the forefront of developing American style in his early years. As noted by English critic Cecilia Waern, “As for American style, that all we Europeans look for so eagerly when we first come over, we soon learn that the elements of it, if they exist, are still in fusion… A Tiffany room is a thing apart, with an unmistakable American note – in spite of its eclecticism.”
No documentation survives that suggests Tiffany offered furniture designs after the close of Louis C. Tiffany & Co. in 1885. The firm did continue to offer a range of period revival interiors, including reproductions of popular furniture styles. It is thought that these pieces were created by the Schmitt Brothers Furniture Co., which was absorbed by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co. in 1898. In 1902 Allied Art Co. was established, consolidating both Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co. and Schmitt Brothers Furniture Co. under their umbrella until setting up on its own in 1907, presumably retaining the Tiffany account.