In the early 1940s, Tenreiro was among the first designers in the Brazilian furniture industry to adopt a European modernist vernacular. His initial efforts, including the 1942 "Poltrona Leve," met with considerable success, and in 1943 he established his own firm with factories in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. One of his main clients was Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, for whose houses a number of pieces were originally commissioned.
Taking advantage of indigenous Brazilian hardwoods and designing with the Brazilian climate in mind by keeping pieces light, and often using wicker or cane, Tenreiro evolved a distinctive style suited to local conditions. His 1947 "Cadeira de Embalo" (Rocking Chair) is still in production. An example of his iconic "three-legged chair" sold at auction in 2008 for over $90,000 USD.
- Joaquim Tenreiro: esculpinturas, Galeria Bonino, (Rio de Janeiro 1975).
- Ascânio MMM; Ronaldo do Rego Macedo; João Fortes Engenharia: Joaquim Tenreiro: madeira/arte e design, Galeria de Arte do Centro Empresarial Rio, (Rio de Janeiro 1985).
- Tenreiro: Soraia Cals; André Seffrin; Maria Cecília Loschiavo dos Santos; Mário Grisolli, Bolsa de Arte do Rio de Janeiro (1998).