From a French cradle stepped the goddess known as Art Deco. The year was 1925, and the world was put on notice as soon as the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes opened. Scheduled for 1915. but blindsided by World War I, the Exposition displayed a new, modern and purely decorative style in everything from furniture to clothing. America, not to be outdone by Europe, soon invented Streamlining, its own industrial spin on the European trend. Deco furniture manifested itself in bold silhouettes and exotic materials, but the style extended far beyond furniture, spinning itself into the fabric of everyday life.
Sleek Lines and Solid Design
Art Deco is characterized by solid foundations, subtle and sweeping arches and sleek and untroubled surfaces that had little in common with the profuse ornamentation and complexity of Art Nouveau furniture. Pared-down chairs lost scrolling spindles; tables subsisted on a paucity of lines and surfaces; desks achieved grandeur through size and smoothness; even chiffoniers, armoires and bookcases adopted a stark and stepped silhouette as the Tutankhamen craze set in. The Roaring '20s revered the largesse of the Deco sensibility; grand and imposing furniture was like having a bit of the Chrysler Building in the home.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Deco furniture embraced many materials, pulling rich mahogany, safari animal skins and the newcomer chrome into the mix. Mahogany furniture with exotic inlays and high-gloss sheens were the industry standard. Chairs with leather, fur and shiny brocade upholstery served to enhance the feeling of posh surroundings. Make-up vanities were oftentimes rendered in chrome and may have splashes of ornamentation such as mirrored tiles. Glitzy furniture engendered a sense of Hollywood glamor in even the homes of the not so rich and famous.
I Deco; Therefore I Am
Art Deco has had a profound staying power. Resurgences of the trend have occurred over the years, and it seems that "Deco" is always mentioned when the discussion turns to enduring chic. Part of Deco's timelessness stems from its pure devotion to decoration as the end. Deco requires no school of thought, and no part of its lifeblood has fallen out of favor throughout its history. Its low, long rectangular dressers without caprices such as claw feet and sofas with slow, self-contained curves reflect respect for their solid and calculated presence. Deco is a mosaic of all kinds of sensibilities, old and new, blending French and Egyptian imagery as well as Cubism and machine-oriented design, so everyone finds something to love.
Investing in Art Deco
Depending upon your budget, you can achieve the Deco look in your home or rental by mixing in reproductions that work with a few period pieces. Modern club chairs with simplistic lines, ottomans with faux zebra fur and cabinets with parquet veneers satiate the eye. Reserve your savings for a stand-out piece from a Deco furniture name known for style and craftsmanship such as Ruhlmann, Legrain or Adler. These brands are well worth your investment, especially if the furniture is in excellent physical shape without modification. Aside from puzzling out values by researching online sales and auctions, hiring an appraiser is the quickest and safest way to guarantee the authenticity and value of your Deco find.
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