Art Deco is a style of visual arts, architecture, and design made popular in the 1920’s and 30’s. It is characterized by opulence, luxury and geometry, often including rich colours, luxury fabrics and metallic finishes.
The Art Deco movement began in approximately 1920 and is known for the style of visual arts, architecture and design that appeared in France right before World War I. It’s name is short for Arts Decoratifs from the Paris exhibition where French designers reimagined the traditional style into a new modern design. Back in the 1920’s Art Deco furniture features rare and expensive materials such as ivory and ebony which were known for being luxury and rich materials.
A rise in decorative artists in the late 19th century influenced the name of this movement as designers of furniture, textiles and other decorative items emerged. The first exhibition focused only on decorative arts happened in 1902 in Turin where these artists would exhibit their work based around the trend at the time. Magazines in Paris started to devote the articles to decorative arts, sections were introduced to annual salons and later in the Salon d'Automme in France, French designers challenged themselves to compete with the German furnishings. Paris fashion designers such as Louis Cartier and Boucheron began designing jewellery that was more modern and department stores started working with decorative artists to design their studios. In 1912, no copies of old styles was permitted and only modern and new styles were produced and this style was known as Deco.
The art movement Cubism appeared in France between 1907 and 1912 which heavily influenced the Art Deco movement itself. Cubists were inspired by geometric shapes such as the cylinder, sphere and cone. The geometry from Cubism very much continued through into the Art Deco movement but with a wider range of shapes for a larger audience appeal.
Art Deco is a collection of different and contradictory styles, continuing to explore the geometric elements and forms but adding simple shapes such as triangles and squares to the arrangements. Combining modernistic forms with expensive materials, pieces of furniture started to incorporate ivory and silver inlays and these pieces were first used to furnish deluxe trains and skyscrapers. In the early 1930’s this style was introduced in great movie palaces and Art Deco jewellery which had diamonds and combined with platinum and jade. Luxury fashion design Jeanne Lanvin had her house designed in the Art Deco style and a room was reconstructed in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.
Furniture from 1910 until the early 1920’s was a traditional French style until the French manufacturers felt threatened by the growing popularity of German manufacturers and styles. French designers saw the new style the German’s had produced and decided to meet and exceed this challenge. Presenting new and updated styles, the traditional French styles took a more angular turn inspired from the Cubism movement and added brighter colours. Painter, Andre Mare and furniture designer, Louis Sue, both took their knowledge and experience with shape trends and shifted this movement from the Art Nouveau style to Art Deco. Furniture pieces that started to transform would be made from rich materials including ebony, mahogany, rosewood, and other exotic woods, decorated and detailed with inlays of ivory, tortoise shell, mother of pearl and silk pom poms would be handles of drawers and cabinets. Furniture would be finished with a veneer and polished and only a few handfuls of pieces from each design of furniture was made, making it highly bespoke and luxurious. The average price for a famous Art Deco piece of furniture could have been more expensive than the average house.
The most popular types of furniture from the Art Deco period include console tables, display cabinets, dining tables and chairs, and bedroom furniture such as bedside cabinets and dressing tables. In Britain, lots of well-known designers started to use more exotic woods and lavish inlays to replicate the trend and lots of manufacturers marketing the products being ‘hand-made’ and aimed for the upper-class market however there were a few manufacturers that promoted the furniture for everyone. Each piece was designed as grand as possible with the highest quality veneers to produce only unique pieces.