If there’s one design style that seems to be constantly fashionable, it’s art deco. The art deco trend first appeared in Paris in the early 20th century, but it didn’t really spread to the rest of Europe until around the time of World War I. It remained popular until World War II, and has enjoyed several resurgences in popularity in post-war Europe.
The Origins of Art Deco
Art Deco became popular in part because it was accessible to everyone, not just the elites. The advent of mass production in the 1930s meant that everyone could enjoy the art deco style, which was characterized by bold colors, glass panel doors, geometric shapes, and light and airy furniture.
Art deco was born out of a time when travel was just becoming popular. People liked to show off their worldliness and their knowledge of other cultures. Safaris were all the rage, every home had ivory, animal skins, and tortoiseshell ornaments, and Egyptian pyramids were worked into every design you could possibly imagine. Hollywood was just starting to take off when art deco became popular, so people wanted to mirror the affluent look, hence shiny fabrics, glass panel doors, mirrors, and cocktail cabinets were on everyone’s “must have” lists.
Art Deco, 21st Century Style
Now that we’re more environmentally conscious, it’s not likely that you’d want real animal skins or tortoiseshell in your home, but you can still get the art deco look without compromising your ethics.
Opt for strong, streamlined furniture made of pale veneered wood. Look for plain fabrics, or fabrics with lots of geometric shapes printed on them (images of the sphinx are a good choice if you’re trying for the authentic look). Popular colors were silver, black, chrome, red, and yellow, but any bold color scheme will work.
The art deco look is very bright and airy, so you’ll want glass panel doors, and lots of lighting. If you can find lights featuring female figures holding the ball of the lamp, then these would be ideal. Original ones are available from many antique shops, but there are lots of inexpensive reproductions that will do the job well.
If you can find original art deco posters featuring Bugatti cars, or ceramics made by Susie Cooper and Clarice Cliff, then these are great investments. There are a lot of designers making “art deco style” ceramics, rugs, and furnishings, though, so even if you’re on a tight budget you should be able to achieve the look.
Ideally, you want things inspired by the big names of the era, which means Cooper and Cliff, as well as names such as Eileen Gray and Rene Lalique.
After the war, people moved away from art deco and went for a more consumerist look, with the focus being on the appliances in the home, rather than on the decor itself. Over the next few decades, the increased freedom of choice, and increased disposable income, that we’ve all come to enjoy has led to more fluid fashions. Your home may be decorated art deco style, your neighbor may have something more country kitsch, and your best friend may have an Edwardian kitchen. The freedom of choice, and range of looks, we have open to us now is unprecedented.