Objects are essential to our daily lives. Far from being simply utilitarian, the chairs, plates, and other furnishings that we choose for our homes provide comfort and delight and indicate personal style and taste. For hundreds of years, artists have explored ways of uniting function and beauty, while creating works that are purveyors of culture and history. The department of decorative arts and design cultivates such diverse object collections originating from ancient Rome and China to 21st-century America with greatest concentration on Western ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, and metals of the last three centuries.
Areas of strength include materials deeply associated with Western Pennsylvania, such as glass and aluminum, as well as seating furniture, which the museum collects in depth. Premiere 18th-century European furniture and ceramics reflect the eye of Ailsa Mellon Bruce, daughter of Andrew Mellon, from whose estate the Carnegie received close to 3,000 objects in 1970. Revival styles of the 19th century, the taste for exoticism, and the development of countless new technologies are represented in depth through major works exhibited at international expositions. The 20th- and 21st-century collections include icons of European and American Modernist design; lesser-known design objects made in Pennsylvania; and significant works of American craft in ceramic, glass, and wood.