Art Deco

Art Deco Design“When a group of leading Parisian artists organized an exposition dedicated to modern industrial and decorative art in 1925, they sparked the birth of a short-lived but highly influential design movement later known as Art Deco. In the 20s and 30s it came to dominate the entire range of decorative arts, in fields as diverse as architecture, industrial design, and, of course, interior design. We can still see Art Deco buildings in many cities and, thanks to a resurgence in the 80s, in hotels and other commercial spaces. To get the complete picture all you have to do today is take a look at any Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical film of the 30s and you will be instantly submerged in the total Art Deco experience. I love the futurist faith central to Art Deco, a faith that now seems whimsical and naïve, but that created a thoroughly unique design language that can add a wistful element of nostalgia and playfulness to contemporary interior design.

“Art Deco was, above all, modern with a capital M. The geometric shapes, sharp angles, stepped patterns and sweeping curves were meant to capture the rapid advances in industry and technology that characterized the early 20th Century. This is why some of the most iconic examples of Art Deco style are the hi-tech symbols of the time: skyscrapers, ocean liners, radios and even phonographs. It’s why the favored materials were aluminum, glass and stainless steel. Even the wood was shiny, either lacquered or inlaid. The floors were shiny as well, marble or tile, often with checkerboard patterns. Rugs featured geometric patterns, while Zebra skin and shagreen (snake skin) covered decorative surfaces. Mirrors were usually round and plentiful. Sunburst and chevron motifs could be seen on everything from furniture to woman’s shoes to radiator grilles on cars. Paradoxically, while Art Deco was the epitome of Modernism, influences included patterns and symbols from Aztec Mexico, Egypt and Africa.

“Poster art was in its heyday, with some of the finest illustrators capturing the Deco style in advertising for consumer products, the performing arts and sporting events. Ivory, jade and stained glass were common materials for accessories, which were usually tall and thin and graceful, with gentle curves. Patterns on wall coverings often featured foliage, stylized animals and nudes.

“The cataclysm of World War II closed the book on Art Deco, as modern technology became more identified with death and destruction than advanced design. And while there has been some isolated resurgence, today Art Deco is mostly viewed nostalgically as a look back to time that is long gone. Due to its ubiquity in architecture and public places, you can still see great examples of Art Deco in cities around the world: the Chrysler Building and Radio City Music Hall in New York are but two of the many examples.

“A few years ago I worked on my sister’s Art Deco apartment in Paris. The living room featured sofas in grey leather with shiny burl wood, the custom cabinetry which hid the TV was done in cream lacquer, the walls were finished in very smooth Venetian plaster in a yellowish palette, and round, heavy mirrors were framed in Zebra and Ebony woods. Window treatments used a simple sheer to cover large windows and the floors were limestone squares. If you’re going to do Deco, you need to follow through with at least an entire room, as the style demands continuity in all the elements of the space. The resulting effect transports you to a different and altogether more glamorous high society, where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced the night away, drinking champagne without a care in the world.”

Leave a Reply »

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.