Homes and Antiques : Art Deco

More 1920s fabulousness for February’s Homes and Antiques magazine.

Striking, dynamic and oh so fabulous, Art Deco is as fashionable today as it was nearly one hundred years ago.

If there was ever a style that perfectly encapsulated the era from which it was borne, then it would be Art Deco. Sandwiched between the horror and disarray of the two World Wars, there was a glorious, golden time where society chose to forget the austerity and conservatism of the past, and turned sharply towards the decadent, the glamorous and the thoroughly modern.

With the economy booming and a renewed sense of hope and aspiration in the air, the 1920s roared in on the bloodied coat tails of the Great War, bringing flappers, jazz and the rise of the silver screen alongside a bold, new aesthetic.

Taking its name from the 1925 ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne’, a huge exhibition held in Paris and featuring all the key designers of the day, Art Deco quickly became a global movement, the first of its kind. With its dynamic, streamlined forms, geometric patterning, and use of rare and striking materials such as ebony, tortoiseshell and jade, Art Deco was as distinctive as it was universal, the look including not just furniture and architecture, but also mirrors, lamps, barware, wallpaper, tiles, rugs and bronzes.

Authentic pieces are in huge demand today. Art Deco dealer and restorer Jeroen Mackies explains why he believes the style is still so popular.

‘The pieces still have a contemporary feel about them, bridging a gap between the antique and the modern. They are a great look for today’s home.’

While there is no doubt that Art Deco exudes a sense of the avant garde and an enthusiasm for advances in technology, engineering and motion, many of its stylistic influences are rooted in the past and include touches of the ancient and the foreign with Egyptian, Aztec and African motifs all leaving their mark. The combination of the modern with the exotic is one of the reasons that Art Deco is so distinctive.

‘This is the first time that something totally new and fresh came on to the market and that’s what makes it so exciting today,’ says Mackies.

While original French pieces by some of the styles most notable designers like Jacques Rhulmann or René Lalique can exceed hundreds of thousands of pounds, pieces from the English Art Deco stable are far more affordable, with chairs or tables by distinguished names such as the Epstein brothers and Hille realising between £2-3,000 at sale. Smaller items such as mirrors or lamps can be bought today for as little as £200-300, a reflection of the movement’s shift into the 1930s when mass production ensured that objects could be made in greater quantities at a lower cost.

But what we really love about this remarkable look is the sense of glamour and elegance that it evokes. When we see a beautifully curved, walnut cocktail cabinet or a sleek angular lamp, we are able to picture ourselves in that drawing room, at that party, during a time when pleasure and enjoyment was a fundamental antidote.

‘There is a growing nostalgia for Deco at the moment,’ Mackies concludes. ‘The 1920s and 30s seemed to be a lot more fun with all the parties and the cocktails. Why not own a piece of that?’