What is Marquetry?

Marquetry is the art of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs, or pictures.


Marquetry is a highly skilled decorative technique that dates back centuries and has been used to adorn furniture, flooring, and various art pieces. The process involves the meticulous arrangement of thin slices of wood veneer, but can also include other materials such as shell, ivory, and metal. These pieces are carefully cut and fitted together to create intricate patterns or depict scenes and imagery. Unlike its cousin, inlay, where materials are set into a surface, marquetry pieces are applied atop a structure's surface.

The beauty of marquetry lies in its versatility and the range of effects it can create. Artists and craftsmen can select from a vast palette of natural wood colors and textures to bring their designs to life. Additionally, materials like mother-of-pearl or tortoiseshell can add an iridescent glow or unique texture to the artwork. The complexity of a marquetry design can vary from simple geometric patterns to elaborate landscapes or portraits.

The art of marquetry requires precise craftsmanship and a keen eye for detail. It involves several steps including designing the pattern, selecting and preparing the veneers, cutting and piecing together the design, and finally, applying and finishing the surface. Marquetry has a rich history and has been a favored decorative technique in various cultures, including the intricate Italian and French marquetry seen in Renaissance furniture, and the Islamic art form of geometric patterns seen in architecture and furnishings.


Marquetry is commonly found in high-end furniture, particularly in pieces such as cabinets, tables, and desks where the decorative surface plays a significant role in the item's appeal. It is also used in flooring designs, musical instruments like guitars and lutes, and in decorative art pieces. In interior design, marquetry can add a touch of luxury and craftsmanship to a space, creating focal points and adding depth with its detailed designs.


  • Is marquetry durable?

    Yes, when properly cared for, marquetry can be very durable. The finish applied over the veneer pieces helps protect them from wear and damage. However, like any wood surface, it can be susceptible to scratches, moisture, and excessive sunlight.

  • Can marquetry be repaired?

    Yes, marquetry can be repaired, but it requires a skilled craftsman familiar with the technique. Repairs may involve replacing damaged pieces of veneer or reapplying loose pieces.

  • Does marquetry only use wood?

    While wood is the most common material used in marquetry, other materials such as metal, shell, and ivory can also be incorporated for added texture and color.

Practical Application

When incorporating marquetry into your interior design project, consider using it in statement furniture pieces or as part of a feature wall. Ensure that the marquetry complements the other elements in the space, such as color palettes and fabric textures. For a contemporary twist, look for marquetry that uses unconventional materials or depicts modern imagery. Regular maintenance, including dusting and avoiding direct sunlight, will help preserve the beauty of marquetry pieces.