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Mexican furniture can be traditional and authentic, or contemporary Mexican- or Spanish-style. It includes a wide range of shapes and treatments, but often is identifiable by a few common elements. While many materials go into the making of Mexican handicrafts and decorative arts, Mexican furniture generally is made from wood. It is also commonly very solid, with heavier or thicker parts and hardware. Paint techniques vary from the vividly bright to flat and weather-worn, with primary color washes or painted decorations that include plants and flowers, animals and food, and people and creatures of folklore.
Hard woods such as pine and cedar are commonly used for making Mexican furniture. Some types are made with recycled wood while others are fashioned from newly-cut trees or composite woods and laminates. Distressed wood often lends a historical or rustic look to a piece, and even when new wood is used, it can be roughed up or sanded and crackle-painted to achieve a worn-in appearance.
Large dining tables and small side and decorative tables might share a similar design in having carved legs or scalloped and uneven tabletops. Dressers and chests may feature many drawers of varying sizes and even different drawer pulls or hinges for added variety. Chairs can carry matching designs in a set or might each feature an original motif that complements or even "clashes" just right with the other chairs in a grouping. Benches and room screens typically feature textural designs or carvings and engravings, and many types of Mexican furniture are designed for outdoor as well as indoor use.
Traditional Mexican furniture is handmade, though pieces with the same style are also factory- or mass-produced in Mexico and elsewhere. Design companies in the southwestern United States, for example, market Spanish-style décor modeled after traditional south-of-the-border types. Handcrafted and original designs are made in Mexico as well as by Mexicans and other furniture makers who reside in the U.S. and worldwide.
Color is another defining element of Mexican furniture. While some pieces are left unadorned with simple engraved detailing, many pieces share bright blocks of color and intricate paint details. Cactus plants or vegetables might decorate cupboard doors, and folklore character paintings and animals may cover bench backs and dressers. Rooms can be filled with Mexican furniture in order to create an authentic regional look, or they can feature a single piece that epitomizes the built-to-last, vibrant and identifiable Mexican style.
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