What is Art Deco and where did it come from?
The Art Deco style first appeared in French architecture and design some time before the start of World War I. In the years that followed, the style's popularity grew exponentially, inspiring the design of buildings, furniture, and jewelry around the world.
The Art Deco aesthetic is perhaps best known for its striking combination of modern design and superior craftsmanship. This iconic style features geometric patterns, precise edges, and decorative structures that evoke a sense of both luxury and stability. It didn't take long for the Art Deco aesthetic to become synonymous with a glamorous lifestyle and, by 1920, it was seen as a symbol of both social and technological progress.
The Art Deco movement is best understood today as a transitional period between Art Noveau and Modernism. Art Noveau design is a style rooted in the pursuit of natural forms and structures. Thus, the style typically incorporates flower and plant imagery coupled with flowing curved lines to create a truly unique look. The sharp geometric patterns of the Art Deco style are a significant departure from the natural aesthetic that preceded it, and are instead notably bold and defined, incorporating a profound sense of realism despite their decorative nature. This realism would ultimately be abandoned in the wake of World War I as industrialization took hold and Modernist artists turned their focus inward to find new sources of inspiration in abstraction.
Pioneers of the Art Deco movement:
Pierre Legrain is credited as being one of the foremost contributors to the Art Deco movement in France during the early 1900s. He garnered the highest praise for his bookbinding, cabinetmaking, and production of robust pieces of furniture constructed from fine and unusual materials. Legrain carved massive pieces of furniture out of exotic woods like ebony and palm, as well as decorating pieces with leather, oilcloth, metal, and even ice. As a designer, Pierre Legrain put great emphasis on boldness and often used his pieces to bring a rich, African-inspired aesthetic to the room.
An innovative master of architecture and design, Pierre Chareau is best known for his complex designs and masterful manipulation of the light inside buildings. He is credited with constructing the Maison de Verre, which is largely recognized as the first home in France to be built with steel and glass. The home offers a striking balance between industrial and traditional decor, as heavy light fixtures hang high above rubberized floor tiles. The use of glass in the structure is meant to promote variable transparency as the sun illuminates the building throughout the day.
Rene Lalique was a French designer who found success in the adaptation of Art Deco style to jewelry and glassmaking. Lalique was gifted from a young age, enrolling in college drawing classes when he was only 12 years old. From there, he developed his craft and ultimately found work as a freelance artist. By 1895, Lalique was designing jewelry for respected French jewelers like Boucheron and Cartier which helped grow his reputation as an artist. Quality, beauty, and fine details are the prominent traits of his work as evidenced by the use of flowers, plants, and smooth flowing lines in his later pieces.
How to incorporate the Art Deco aesthetic into your home:
1. Focus on symmetry and geometry
Strong angular patterns, prominent curvature, and symmetrical balance are the time-tested recipe for Art Deco design, catching the eye's attention and promoting a luxurious sense of flair in any home. Geometric furniture is one interesting and beautiful offshoot of Art Deco, but symmetrical balance applies not only to the furnishings and pieces themselves, but also to their arrangement and position in the room.
2. Manipulate lighting to set the mood
Atmospheric lighting is at the core of the Art Deco style. It accentuates the other furnishings in a room, and is widely considered to be the most influential factor in establishing a mood. To achieve your desired atmosphere, use decorative sconces to manipulate shadows and add texture to the room. The sunburst pattern is one of the most iconic Art Deco designs, and is used to reflect ambient lighting in a way that captivates and dazzles.
3. Make bold color selections
Nothing suits the glamorous feel of Art Deco design quite like a black and white color scheme. The sharp contrast creates a timeless look of elegance and sophistication that simply cannot be matched. For those in need of something a bit bolder, vibrant colors like purple, green, and yellow can add a regal feel to any room.
4. Balance neutral color palettes with luxurious fabrics
When it came to Art Deco decor, early advocates sought to mimic the drama and grandeur synonymous with Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s. To create this atmosphere, neutral color palettes were often paired with low-level lighting and luxurious fabrics. Try hanging some rich, flowing fabric in the bedroom and enjoy the calm and comfort it brings.
5. Emphasize the sleek and shiny
Art Deco design reflects the sense of progress so inherent to the society of the 1920s, and symbolizes the stability and success of the industrial world. As a result, many Art Deco fixtures are built to shine. Accentuate your room with glossy paints, gleaming metals, and polished woods to achieve these forward-looking, optimistic overtones.
6. Furnish with mirrors and other reflective surfaces
Mirrors and other reflective furnishings are an excellent way to optimize an Art Deco aesthetic. A few strategically positioned pieces can be used to bounce light around the room and create a desirable sparkle.
7. Use artwork to accentuate the room
Art Deco-inspired paintings and sculptures are among the simplest additions one can make to liven up their home decor. Showcase brilliant oil paintings, one-of-a-kind glasswork, and intricate sculptures as a celebration of quality and beauty.
Exclusive Art Deco-inspired pieces to take home today:
Lalique: "Mossi" Candle Vase, crystal- €66.67
Designed by Art Deco pioneer and legendary glass designer, Rene Lalique, this candle vase features a mesmerizing kaleidoscope effect. The vase is constructed of clear crystal and the frosting of the base creates a beautiful contrast. This striking piece offers classic elegance for any modern home.
Floria Schulz Licht and Objekt: Table Lamp "Toa"- €775.00
This piece is sure to catch the attention of all who enter the room. A polished nickel-plated brass desk lamp, this piece reflects the futuristic and lavish aesthetic of Art Deco decor. There is a dimmer at the base of the lamp which allows the owner to achieve the optimal amount of lighting for their Art Deco-inspired room.
For a more opulent feel, wall sconces add the perfect touch to dining rooms and studies with an Art Deco aesthetic. This Oceanside Wall Sconce ($235.00) provides a subtle yet authentic '20s atmosphere, while a Plume Glass Sconce ($1,670.90) brings an altogether more glittering vintage elegance to those looking to make a bolder statement.
The peak of the Art Deco movement may have come and gone, but while the optimistic glamorization of industrialism has faded over time, the profound influence of the Art Deco style remains. The prevailing themes of beauty and quality continue to shine through as modern Art Deco pieces have become a staple of elegance and better-living. For those looking to bring Art Deco decor home, be sure to focus on bold colors, prominent geometric designs, shiny mirrored furnishings, and ambient lighting to achieve the desired aesthetic.