Art Deco style for a touch of class
Art Deco gets its name from the ‘Exposition des Arts Decoratifs’ which took place in Paris in 1925.
This particular style was first fashionable between 1920 and 1940. It was often used in cruise liners, and many Hollywood movies of the 1930s portray it perfectly.
Although often confused with the Art Nouveau style, Art Deco style is more modern and clear in its outlook.
As with all styles, it was heavily influenced by ideas and fashions of the time. Archaeologists were making new discoveries in the near East and Middle East. Their influence can be seen in pyramid designs. African safaris were popular, and Latin American culture provided a mystique which Western nations lacked.
The style was influenced by other artist movements such as the Cubist. Many carpets, pictures and fabrics of the time have a certain Picasso look to them.
This was also probably the first time when manufacturing processes influenced a particular style. Chrome surfaces and mirrors were produced which could never be achieved by any handcrafted method.
This was the era of speed: trains, ships, cars and airplanes were all achieving faster and faster speeds. You will often see illustrations of the time showing trains and ships seemingly bursting out of their frames and giving the illusion of speed. Curved edges and surfaces were a hallmark of the furniture and fittings of the style.
One of the key materials used was Linoleum. Today it reminds us of drab and cheap kitchen flooring, but the linoleum of the time was anything but drab.
They used it in striking geometric patterns, often checkerboard, or in a plain color with a contrasting border around the edges of the room. If rugs were used, they would also use a geometric design.
Much of the furnishings of Art Deco were a reaction to the austerity of World War I. Walls were painted cream or brown, and although left mostly plain, would sometimes have a thin border stenciled underneath the ceiling and in corners. Paint finishes such as ragging or stippling were common. Moquettes, velvet and leather appeared as upholstery materials, and furniture had pronounced rounded corners. The visible woodwork was usually in lighter colored finishes.
Having a luxury room did not necessarily mean having sophisticated window treatments, and these were often plain or non existent. Plain cornice boxes (pelmets) were used to keep the whole effect simple. Fabrics were plain or had a geometric design such as Aztec.
This was the era of glass and chrome. Lighting was important, both for the light effects given to a room, and the light fittings themselves. Although electricity was not available for everyone, it was certainly becoming more accessible and affordable.
In keeping with the general theme of the style, light fittings were streamlined. A typical feature was the wall light, in a fan or bowl shape. If shades were used they had deep fringes on the edges, and the lamp bases were often made of figurines.
Art Deco fits in well with our modern homes, mostly due to its simplicity. Because it didn’t use elaborate furnishings or architectural features it’s easy to adapt for use in most rooms.
If you have presentable floorboards, then leave them uncovered. If you want some softness on the floor, then use one or more area rugs with geometric designs. While linoleum would be an authentic feature, we often associate it with cheap flooring, and so tend not to use it.
Plain walls were the fashion, and you can emulate the style by stenciling lines and corner motifs on the walls. You can get ideas for this from many books and illustrations of the time.
This will give immediate clues to the Art Deco style. Colored glass wall lights of geometric design fit well, and you can achieve a good look by having fringes (tassels or beads) attached to lampshades. Make these quite long to get the desired effect.
Venetian or slatted blinds are appropriate, or fabric draped over a pole. If you have curtains, keep them simple. If you want to hide the tops, then use a simple straight cornice box (pelmet). You could tie this in with the rest of the room by using a similar stencil design as on the walls.
- Don't use heavy elaborate frames on mirrors and pictures. With mirrors, don’t have any frames at all, and keep the shape round or stepped. As with any glass in the room, the mirror glass can be colored.
- Use reproduction posters of the Art Deco period. These are readily available, and will give an instant period effect to your room, especially if surrounded by a black frame.
- Cocktails were popular, so a cocktail cabinet would not be out of place. Or just have display of cocktail glasses in a prominent position.
- If you like spending hours in old stores or antique stores, then you'll be able to pick up many bargains for your project. Look out for prints and ornaments featuring panthers, birds (they loved flamingos), palm trees and lilies. On the subject of palms, a large indoor palm in a suitable container on the floor is a must!
Color was influenced by many different factors, including the movement of cultural ideas.
Until the start of Art Deco, creams and beiges were common, but now more vibrant colors became fashionable.
Orange and acid yellow appeared on the scene, as did purple, green and lavender. Metallic finishes and reflective surfaces emphasized these colors.
Black was frequently used for emphasis, such as picture frames, thin lines on walls for a border effect, or surrounds and edging on lamp shades.