Bringing Art Deco Home
Art Deco’s simple lines and affinity with modern architecture make it a good choice for contemporary interiors, and it is not a terribly hard period look to achieve. There are many fine original antiques and reissues of Deco furniture on the market. With the right accessories, a thirties-style leather club chair, a streamlined Birdseye maple bedroom set, or a black lacquered cocktail cabinet can anchor a Deco-themed room.
Pair antique or reissued furnishings with period colors – black and chrome or white on white in the living room, cream, beige or pale green in the bedroom – and backdrops like geometric-patterned rugs, faux leopard skins, terrazzo or polished parquet floors.
Deco accents are distinctive, but varied. Bakelite and chrome ashtrays. Frosted glass and silver cocktail shakers. Art glass with Aztec or Egyptian designs. African-style figurines. Modernist paintings.
A lamp in the shape of a nude female figure. The possibilities are as limitless as, well, modernity itself.
Art Deco, popular originally in the 1920s and ‘30s, took its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, an exhibition held in Paris in 1925.
There the style was first seen in the work of French designers who had been experimenting and refining it for some years. With the advent of the machine age, the rounded organic shapes of Art Nouveau crumbled before the angular, streamlined onslaught of Art Deco.
Deco had its roots in the early twentieth century, but really took off after World War I, popularized by films like 42nd Street and Grand Hotel, and made accessible to the masses by modern production techniques.
After the war, people wanted a modern, functional style for their furniture, jewelry and decorative objects. More positively, it was influenced by the streamlined designs of ocean liners and industrial machinery.
The Tutankamun Exhibition, held in Paris in 1922, also had an impact and there was a cross-fertilization of ideas between architects and designers of costumes, stage and ballet sets, jewelry, furniture, ceramics and glass.
The new style paid homage to industrial design, discarding Art Nouveau’s sinuous curves and pretty pastels in favor of clean lines and starkly modern colors. Deco was an eclectic style, drawing on sources as diverse as industrial machinery, Hollywood glamour, Bauhaus architecture, and Cubist painting.
Contemporary fascination with travel and archaeology found its way into the style as well, and the sensational discovery of King Tut’s tomb contributed motifs like papyrus, pyramids, and sphinxes as well as basic Deco building blocks like stepped profiles – the Chrysler Building – and zigzag shapes.During the period between the world wars, Art Deco style was everywhere, from the Radio City Music Hall, the ubertemple of Deco design, to the humble Electrolux vacuum. Decades later, Deco’s glory is undimmed, its elegance still fresh.
Photos above courtesy of Modernism Gallery:
Top: Kem Weber designed this American Art Deco chair, one of a pair and matching sofa, for Lloyd Manufacturing Co. in 1937. Set features Machine Age triple band arms enclosing a sprung seat and back in new black leather.
Bottom: Vitrine, also American Art Deco, features burlwood veneer inlaid with macassar ebony and sycamore. V-shaped top and base of center section are ribbed beech with depressions ebonized. Side compartments rest on reverse pyramid feet.