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Art Deco design spawned from the wealth and prosperity of the roaring 1920s. It took the traditional utility of furniture and combined it with elements of futurism and modernism. The 1920s shifted views as young people began experimenting with traditional forms of dance and dress. Prohibition was at the forefront of this new, experimental era and these combined elements paved the way for Art Deco to form as another act of defiance and self expression.
Unlike its predecessor, Art Nouveau; Art Deco took elements from movements like futurism, constructivism and cubism and bundled them together to create the unique and visually stunning pieces we’ve come to understand and recognise today. Geometric and cubed designs were common place on both a large and much smaller scale during this time. From vanity cases to bar carts, Art Deco took total control.
How can I tell if it’s Art Deco?Bold, opulent and futuristic. Theses are three of the keys traits that the Art Deco movement champions. Everything should be grand to the point of vulgarity, and you will see this reflected in many of the pieces from the time. From windows and wine glasses to ladies’ compacts, nothing was deemed too sacred for Art Deco. If it wasn’t Art Deco then it wasn’t worth looking at.
Key traits include geometric motifs, lines, edges and curves in terms of pattern. Colours vary but black, navy, silver, white and gold were very prevalent as these colours were considered luxurious. Art Deco should first and foremost look opulent. In terms of materials, chrome and brass were often used as a subtle nod towards traditional forms now being used in modern, futuristic ways. Art Deco chairs and bar carts with bold, circular frames were commonplace as this was one of the many ways Art Deco wanted to stand out stylistically.
Original Art Deco lighting relied on sharp angular shapes, with chrome and glass materials. Bold black and white or gold and navy contrasts were common colour choices used to create a dramatic effect.
An Art Deco table would focus less on the counter itself and more on the shape and legs of the piece. Furniture was either slick and curved or sharp and blunt so it’s not always overtly clear whether a piece may be Art Deco at first without some kind of panelling or geometric decoration.
It was the stock market crash of 1929 that would be the slow but sure demise of the Art Deco style. What had previously been seen as futurism became a fake and tasteless imitation of luxury. By the 1940s, the Art Deco movement had been left behind. It is its duality of tradition and futurism that has however stood the test of time and endeared it to us all these years later. Societally were now more stable and better able to appreciate the overt lavishness of the Art Deco design.
Each piece of Art Deco furniture is a wink to a wilder, more prosperous time when people of all classes and means were able to participate in a movement that celebrated what they had and challenged the traditional expectations that ruled them. The defiance and celebration is engraved into each piece of furniture and now within our homes.