During the period between the two World Wars, an eclectic design style now referred to as Art Deco developed. The name was coined in the 1960s from the French “Exposition Internationle des Art Decorifs et Industriels et Moderne” which was instigated in 1925 by the French Government to prove that despite the First World War, France was at the forefront of style and design.
The Exposition launched a new look which celebrated living in the modern world. Almost instantly a catalogue of recognisable motifs and materials which could be applied to anything from a cup and saucer to a New York skyscraper became popular.
The term “Art Deco” is used today to refer to a mixture of styles from the 1920s through to the 1940s.
Art Deco… an era of contradictions
Throughout the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Art Deco style infused the everyday world with an elegant style of cool sophistication.
Singers and songwriters entertained audiences through the new medium of radio, and Hollywood musicals offered hope of better times and a temporary escape from daily troubles.
Speed became a metaphor for modern times Travel was in the news, with great ocean liners racing the Atlantic, trains crossing continents and cars and planes being developed.
Despite its short life in the era between the two World Wars, “Art Deco” was very much the style of it’s time. Exciting, vibrant, dynamic, decorative, popular, successful, and always surprising, it is a constant source of inspiration to designers even today. Art Deco was universal and more important, it was international, crossing frontiers and bringing together styles drawn from all sorts of sources.
The really great thing is that it was for everyone. Whether you lived in a suburban cottage or a mansion, whether you shopped at Woolworth’s or Tiffany’s, Art Deco was there for you. And, in a period of uncertainty, the appeal of a universal modern style was certainly understandable.
Characteristics of Art Deco design
The term “Art Deco” represents a “graciousness of form” and features sleek geometric designs and simplicity geared to mass production, often combined with vibrant colours and simple shapes and celebrating the rise of commerce and technology.
Luxurious objects made of exotic materials to mass-produced streamlined items became available to a growing middle class.
For Art Deco, look for…..
- clean uncluttered lines in furniture and shapes
- bright geometric shapes, such as shells, sun rays, thunderbolts, chevrons and ziggurats
- use of new materials such as plastic, steel, tinted glass, wood veneers, leather, sharkskin, fur and exotic woods
- sophisticated colours like purple, mauve, peach, grey-green, turquoise, orange ,black silver, and eau-de-nil.
Davidia Williams 2006