Originally called Style Moderne, it looks like Art Deco is set to become a "moderne" style again, if current trends in film and television are anything to go by (and they usually are). Boardwalk Empire
, the popular series that focuses on the prohibition era is one of the big TV hits of the year; Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris
is set in 1920's Paris, the epicentre of Art Deco; and Australia's own Baz Luhrmann's much anticipated remake of The Great Gatsby
will probably tip the scales completely towards a resurgence of interest in the Art Deco era. And why not? If we're going to go retro, we may as well go Art Deco, an exciting style that is ready for a comeback.
What Is Art Deco?
Art Deco is difficult to describe, but easy to spot. Usually defined as an eclectic style that drew inspiration from a variety of earlier sources, including ancient Egypt and the Mayan culture, it swept the world during the "Roaring Twenties" and even survived through the Great Depression and into the forties. It was such an all-pervasive style, it dominated everything from jewellery to skyscrapers, with New York's Empire State Building being a classic example of Art Deco architecture. Melbourne's Palais Theatre is considered one of Australia's finest examples of Art Deco architecture, but the style caught on in this country with such fervour, it can even be found in many country towns.
Fortunately for Australians who want to go Art Deco, Australia ranks high on the list of countries that embraced the style and there are still thousands of original decorative pieces available. Unlike earlier styles, Art Deco lamps and other decorative items were often mass-produced and although many have vanished, enough are still around that it is still possible to find them at reasonable prices. This will probably change as Art Deco catches on again, but in the meantime, you may even be able to find a bargain or two in your local second hand furniture
shop. If not, or to complement that fabulous stained glass shaded, silver-plated table lamp you picked up for a song, you can settle for faithful reproductions of Art Deco art and other decorative items.
How to Go Art Deco
Art Deco took its inspirations from ancient cultures and applied them to stylised motifs. Some things to look for if you want to go Art Deco include:
- Ziggurats were rectangular terraced or stepped towers built in ancient Mesopotania. This pattern was used in everything from wallpaper to architectural design.
- The Zigzag pattern was taken from Mayan art and was used extensively in Art Deco design. A trend within a trend, it was also referred to as "Zigzag Moderne."
- Stylised "sunbursts" or sunrises were found everywhere in Art Deco design. The distinctive feature of these was that the rays of the sun were geometric rather than naturalistic.
You'll find these motifs on almost all Art Deco items, including mirrors, radios, clocks, furniture and even bathroom toilets and basins. If you can't find them, you can use them as inspiration. Use the zigzag pattern as inspiration for your kitchen tiles
, for instance, or the tiered ziggurat as an inspiration for a custom made piece of furniture by a skilled cabinet maker
. You'll even be able to spot the motifs in modern upholstery, wallpapers
and flooring. To the uninitiated, they may look like the "latest thing," but designers have never stopped being influenced by Art Deco.
The best way to go Art Deco is to immerse yourself in it first. Look at examples online and try to find architectural examples in your area. Once you learn to recognise it, you'll get a feeling for it and will probably fall in love with it. Then it's just a matter of "going Art Deco" and adding some "pizzazz" to your home decor.