Originally, the young Louis Majorelle planned to become an artist. He studied painting in Nancy and at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, under Jean Millet. However, upon the death of his father, in 1879, he left Paris to return to Nancy to oversee the family furniture factory and pottery production.
In the late 1880s, he began to design “modern” furniture, quite a departure from the historical classicism that the Majorelle firm had previously issued. By mechanizing his factory he produced quantitites of highly decorated commercial furniture and more elaborate pieces using expensive materials such as mahogany, burled walnut, and ormolu. The firm’s catalog included a wide range of furniture models in both historicist Art Nouveau styles. Influenced by the glass and furniture of his fellow Nancy artist, Emile Galle, Majorelle was inspired to take his furniture production in a new direction. He became the most dynamic practitioner of the School of Nancy - his Art Nouveau furniture was designed from nature – plant stems, foliage, tendrils, dragonflies, tree roots – and often decorated with beautiful marquetry in exotic woods. He became known for his “unconventional” furniture and designed pianos, desks, armchairs, dining and bedroom suites and, when he later added a metalworking capability to his workshop, wrought iron banisters, iron mounts, lighting, and ormolu.
Majorelle exhibited exquisite pieces of furniture at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris and in 1901 he became vice-president of the Ecole de Nancy. Majorelle’s studios were heavily damaged during the bombings in World War I and much historical information was lost. After World War I Majorelle moved into the early Art Deco idiom with more severe forms and restricted ornamentation. He died in 1926 and a retrospective of his pioneering works were organized. The firm continued into the mid 1930s, managed by Alfred Levy, its artistic and technical director.