Art Deco first appeared after World War I in the 1910s and then proceeded to sweep across Europe and the Globe in the 1920s, 30s and 40s as a school of design. It increased in popularity alongside the frivolity, exuberance, freedom and penchant for jazz and travel in the 1920s. Art Deco fell out of favour after World War II when functional and practical, lasting pieces became more desirable. It became associated with extravagance that no longer seemed obtainable but instead a vulgar reminder of the countries past dreams.
Suggestive of sophistication, glamour and luxury, it embodied the glamour and opulence of Hollywood. Art Deco was a global design movement, which encroached across all areas of design; elements of this style could be found in everything from furniture, textiles, jewellery, car designs, clocks, to phones.
A very creative period, it was enjoyed across the classes; due to mass production it was affordable and accessible to all. The Savoy, in London, embodies the Art Deco style.
There were two schools of thoughts of the Art Deco movement, those who favoured the individual highly, skilled craftsmanship that had been in favour during the Arts and Crafts period, and those who brought into the mass production pieces available due to technological developments.
Art Deco pieces often had intricate and ornate detailing. Geometry and symmetry were a central part of the Art Deco design; pieces often had very angular shapes, with rich and bold colour schemes. The style featured motifs depicting nature, rather like Art Nouveau, including botanical scenes and shells; there was however a move away from the organic, flowing lines favoured by the previous movement.
Art Deco moved away from its predecessors Arts and Crafts and the Art Nouveau movements; in the sense it did embrace technological advancements and the increase in mass production that came alongside industrialism.
With the increase in popularity of travel, came influences from abroad, and different materials became commonplace, such as mother of pearl, tortoiseshell, ivory, and animal skins. Materials featured in pieces included glass and chrome. There was an emphasis on contrast, with lacquered wood in glossy black set next to furs or satin for example.
The discovery of Tutankhamen’s Egyptian tomb in 1922 caused a sudden fascination with all things Egyptian and this influence can be seen in many Art Deco designs. The movement also combines elements of lots of different design movements, including Cubism, Modernism, Art Nouveau, Neoclassical and Bauhaus.
Names of note from the Art Deco period include Eileen Gray for furniture, Raymond Templier for jewellery and Clarice Cliff for chinaware and Rene Lalique for jewellery and glassware.
Art Deco Furniture, Jewellery and Silver
To achieve an Art Deco look in ones home furniture should be strong, singular pieces with streamlined, bold forms and prominent lines. Geometric patterning was also favoured. In the living room fireplaces were bold rectangular features and there was a light airy feel to a room.
Furniture designs were initially fairly classic, however over time they gradually became more grandeur. Ebony and ivory were employed as materials in furniture, as well as enamels and stained glass additions. By mid 1920’s furniture was made from Bakelite, plastic, stainless steel and chrome, these materials worked favourably alongside the geometry and symmetry that characterised the Art Deco style of design.
Exotic woods such as teak and ebony were also imported and used to make furniture, mahogany wood was also popular. Marble was a welcome addition to furniture during this period, as was polished metal. An alternative to expensive, exotic woods was furniture painted with black gloss lacquer. Art Deco furniture makers of note include Pierre Patout, Edgar Brandt, Christian Krass, Eileen Gray, Raymond Sbes and Rene Prou. Investment pieces include original Art Deco rugs and Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper ceramics.
Popular Art Deco items of furniture included cocktail cabinets and cocktail tables, which were often associated with this particular period. Art Deco chairs incorporated the contrast of angular and curved lines in the designs. Cabinets were larger pieces either lacquered or the natural wood grain left exposed.
In terms of beds, headboards and footboards were generally big in size, often made from wood although occasionally metal.
There is a wide array of Art Deco silverware available, at the time cigarette holders were in fashion, seen as glamorous, there are some attractive silver cigarette cases available. It is possible to pick up Art Deco silver spoons, mugs, sugar casters, dishes and vases, among other items.
Art Deco jewellery favoured diamonds and onyx; they often had the same geometric style like the furniture from the period. Ostentatious, elaborate, with bright pops of colour, jewellery was beautiful and bold and Art Deco pieces create a classic look. Jewellery pieces sometimes featured rockets and cars; speed was represented.
Later Art Deco jewellery was made from Bakelite, plastics, and affordable gemstones. Retro Art Deco jewellery was made later, when there was a revival of the style post 1960. Art Deco silver, furniture and jewellery creates an angular, sleek and modern appearance in the home and is sure to bring glamour and sophistication to the forefront of people’s minds when they enter one’s home.