By Lis King
If you haven’t been closely watching design influences, you might have missed Art Deco making a huge comeback. With its nod to early Hollywood and the Jazz Age, Art Deco brings welcome glamour and attainable luxury to the world of home furnishings — and lighting designers are right out in front of the trend. Many interior designers even feel the style is set to replace Mid-Century Modern, which has been the mainstay of Modernism for several decades.
“We’re looking for a more robust, exuberant form of Modernism to embrace,” comments renowned interior designer Mary Douglas Drysdale, whose eponymous design firm is headquartered in Washington, D.C. “Art Deco is the perfect answer. The materials representing the style are rich and elegant. They include velvet, marble, leather, glass, antiqued mirror, metals, lacquer, gloss finishes, gold tones, and deeper, sexier colors. And yet the style is clean-lined and sleek.”
Drysdale notes that while fine Art Deco antiques have always been in demand, it’s the style’s migration into new products that’s now attracting attention. She points to such examples as new Art Deco cabinetry by Rutt, strongly geometric tiles by Ann Sacks, the squared-off arms and rectilinear backs of Jean Michel Frank furniture pieces, and lighting fixtures from studios like McEwen Lighting, Hubbardton Forge, and Alison Berger.
“Art Deco is absolutely the new Mid-Century Modern,” agrees Ashley Troup, Marketing Manager of Lighting New York, which operates two showrooms featuring designs by such firms as Hudson Valley, Quoizel, Troy Lighting, Corbett, and Visual Comfort. “The geometric, metal-mixing fixtures that evoke the Art Deco movement are gaining a lot of momentum,” she reveals. “Right now the style is more popular with interior designers, but we find that consumers who like modern design also appreciate those clean lines, fun plays of metals and color, plus the vintage vibe. With Art Deco, they get both the elegance of the past and the modernity of today.”
Libby Langdon, Donny Osmond, Kelly Wearstler, John Rosselli, Niermann Weeks, and Ian K. Fowler are well-known names that Troup singles out for especially popular Art Deco interpretations.
Why the revival?
What exactly happened to make Art Deco so relevant again? Kichler’s Jeff Dross, Corporate Director/Education & Industry Trends, points out that style changes don’t occur in a vacuum. There the Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles, and a steady diet of TCM classic movies, we tend to think of the style as an American phenomenon — but it actually originated in Paris in the 1920s and emigrated to cities all over the world.
Roberta Nusim, Director of the New York Art Deco Society, reminds us that the style’s elements involve inspirations from global cultures, ranging all the way from motifs from King Tut’s tomb to futuristic movements like Cubism, Bauhaus, and Fauvism.
Today’s product designers can find plenty of inspiration in the Art Deco movement. Audrée Larose and Félix Guyon of Larose Guyon Studio in Quebec, Canada, say that the flapper clothes and jewelry of the ’20s inspired them to create the celebrated Otero chandelier. Hand-crafted and sculptural, the lighting fixture’s design features delicate copper chains that form a curved shape. The light itself comes from two copper rings and flows through the chains.
“We wanted to create something romantic and magical that also contrasted femininity with masculinity,” Larose remarks. “The sparkling dresses with curved ornamentation of the 1920s was one of our main inspirations, mostly because of the geometric, simple forms and the graceful movement. We feel that Art Deco is so well-loved because it allows us to escape and dream.”
Will Art Deco have lasting power? Dross and Drysdale feel that it’s so compatible with other styles that it will always be around in some form.
“Both Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern are softer versions of the geometric-based contemporary look,” Dross comments. “That’s why they fit so easily with other styles. The only style I would worry about pairing Art Deco with is the Cottage or Farmhouse look. Despite the excitement of Art Deco, it does have its limitations.”
Drysdale feels that Art Deco may be a transition to a more global interest in design. “The richness of Morocco and India, for example,” she says. “However, there will always be room for Deco because it refers to the past, but with a view to tomorrow. I think the style works well in transitional rooms and is most effective as accents. I have always thought that an Art Deco bedroom was a dream. Apparently that “dream” is one that is increasingly being shared by many in the world today.