Art deco furniture collections have the ability to complement almost any modern style house or apartment. A couple pieces of art deco can pick up on the historic background of an old converted loft building while still reflecting its contemporary hip style or add some extra vibrancy to the glass and straight lines of a new modernist construction. With an art deco furniture collection and a few art deco decorative objects, you can give your home or a specific room a wonderful vintage flair.
Art Deco Style
Art deco was founded as a movement by several French decorative art creators, La Société des artistes décorateurs (The Society of Decorative Artists) in 1900. In 1925, they held the famous Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art) which launched the movement to the world. Trivia note: They called it 'Style Moderne (Modern Style) and it wasn't until 1965 that it was known as Art Deco.
While we mostly associate Art Deco with sleek and industrial looking lines, Art Deco furniture and decorations were also influenced by Egyptian art (Tutankhamun's tomb, discovered in 1922, was a huge contemporary sensation) as well as African and Central and South American tribal arts. Even some of the Asian designs that had so heavily shaped the preceding Art Nouveau movement still remain.
The most popular Art Deco furniture items today include:
- Leather chairs, usually built with chrome or aluminum frames and black leather, either upholstered or sling-style. These Art Deco chairs typically feature curves that evoke machinery, especially automobiles, or sometimes the human body itself. For extra contrast, the design combines curves and squared off lines. These are often some of the most comfortable antique chairs, as well.
- Cocktail and other cabinets. These are usually very solid, even massive, made out of lacquered wood. Many left the wood natural, to show off strongly patterned and exotic grains such as Birdseye maple, burled oak, or Macassar ebony. The latter has very striking stripes that almost suggest an animal pattern, in vibrant brownish reds and blacks. However, other pieces feature lacquer painting, usually Asian or Egyptian motifs, on black or red lacquer. Sometimes the painting was in secondary colors, different tones of the primary colors, or in metallic tones, usually gold and copper.
- Beds. Art deco beds feature massive headboards and footboards, usually of wood, but sometimes metal. These pieces often display architectural motifs, such as stepped feet or inlays, echoing the fascination with Egyptian and Aztec and Mayan pyramids.
- Cocktail tables. For many, these are the prototypical Art Deco furnishings. These are often made with chrome legs and glass tops, but you also see wood legs and wood or leather tops.
Caring for Art Deco Furniture Collections
Unfortunately, the chrome, lacquer, and glass of art deco furniture and their glossy surfaces demand regular attention to keep them looking smooth and elegant. Polish them with a soft cloth and gentle cleanser.
Most stores that carry a good selection of antique furniture will have at least a few Art Deco pieces. Be sure to go to a dealer you can trust, as many antique reproductions can pass as original. With wood, make sure that it's not veneer or even faux finishing if you're paying prices for solid wood.