It’s easy to imagine the appeal of Art Deco coming as it did on the backs of years of war-time constraint. Gatsby-esque parties, fanciful fashion, and frivolous fun, all paired with the elegance of old-world Hollywood.
From furniture to interior design, this opulent style is infinitely adaptable in your contemporary home.
The Roaring Twenties was a decade characterised by change. The sheer pace of things must have been intoxicating. The spirit of optimism that grew out of World War I gripped the globe (okay – maybe not in Germany). Europe engaged in excess. America ignored Prohibition, choosing to give in to the zeitgeist instead. The world was exuberant.
There were speakeasies popping up everywhere. The silver screen played host to the likes of Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Anita Page, as well as Charlie Chaplin and his leading lady Edna Purviance. Then in 1927 silent movies gave over to the talkies. It was a time of extravagance following the relaxation of morals in the post-war years. A provocative Gloria Swanson, one of its biggest stars, collected husbands (six in total) and lovers (including JFK’s dad) like they were stamps, and the public loved her for it.
Women’s liberation saw more women entering the work force than ever before, earning the right to vote and partaking in radical dances like the Charleston. The lines of fashion became simpler – the emphasis was sleek and functional. Skirts got shorter, and splits travelled up the sides of low-waisted shift dresses. They kicked the corset to the kerb.
Coco Chanel cut her hair and donned trousers. The world cheered. Bobs and Edna crops and marcel waves were all the rage. Cloche hats and feathers and fussy adornments crept in – it was beads and rhinestones and fringing all the way.
Materials became more luxurious – silk, velvet and satin took centre-stage. In fashion and in the home. It was the hey-day of interior design, emerging as a new industry that catered for the upper classes obsessed with creating spectacular and fanciful backdrops for their lavish parties.
Syrie Maugham made her name styling light-filled rooms in shades of white. It was a revolutionary move back then in the wake of the Victorian concentration on low-lit intimate spaces decked out in dark hues. Maugham created designs for Noel Coward’s plays and Edward VIII + his American socialite wife Wallis Simpson. Edward VIII himself abdicated to marry Simpson. She returned the favour by gifting the world with gems like, “You can never be too rich or too thin.”
Exotic woods, chrome, glass, mother of pearl, and mirrored finishes replaced the austerity of the preceding years. The look was bohemian and showy. Maximalism was the name of the game. Bauhaus attempted to create some balance with its stripped-back forms but Parisian born Art Deco was the definition of en-vogue. Prosperity brought with it a focus on home-improvement, with everything from radios to dressing tables receiving the Midas Touch.
Art Nouveau’s organic forms gave way to new geometric-inspired designs. Natural motifs grew more stylised, adding glamour to everyday objects, alongside Oriental accents. Le Corbusier reinvented the living area with the angular lines of his sofas and lounges.