How Art Deco’s glamorous allure lives on today


The Deco Revival

By Rachel Miller

Feelings that come back are feelings that never left.
—Frank Ocean

 

Because Art Deco is one of the hottest trends in interior design right now, we’ve recently taken a look back at the movement’s birth and revival in the 20th century. Our final story in this three-part series shines a light on the latest iterations on Deco, which have today’s design cognoscenti in full swoon.

Before diving into the new, let’s re-cap the history: In Part I, we saw that the Art Deco style arose in revolt against the large-scale industrialization that transformed 19th-century living environments. In its original form, Art Deco embodied a collective, international desire to return to more soul-nourishing handmade processes, but the movement became quickly overshadowed by the triumph of modernism. In Part II, we considered the generation of designers starting in the 1960s who felt oppressed by modernism and rekindled the Deco approach as a more impassioned alternative.

So why does Deco continue to be one of the most enduring design expressions? Despite its retro-facing tendencies, it’s proven to be a vivacious go-to aesthetic for designers who want to shake up the status quo. In a world where disposable, nondescript furniture flows off factory conveyor belts in mind-boggling quantities, a distinct nostalgia for what came before persists, one that values quality over quantity and demands that design be infused with idiosyncratic panache over docile conformity.

The contemporary designers that follow are some of our favorite talents who are beautifully reinterpreting Deco’s glamorous forms, luxe materials, and devotion to craftsmanship. The inspiration may be a hundred years old, but the results couldn’t be more au courant.

India Mahdavi

Deco-esque interiors have been popping up all over lately, and among the most harmoniously poised yet decadently dazzling are those of Tehran-born, Paris-based architect-designer India Mahdavi. Since establishing imh Interiors in 1999, Mahdavi has collaborated with some of the biggest fashion and lifestyle brands, including Ralph Pucci, Jonathan Morr, Ian Schrager, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton. Though her work often celebrates the masters of modernism, her many divinely Deco spaces hearken back golden days of Hollywood—especially her 2016 chicly streamline RED Valentino boutique in London, which features a soft pink and vibrant ochre palette, plush velvet upholstery, and lots of brass accents.

Anthony Bianco

Archetypal Art Deco designs frequently borrowed from art movements like Cubism and Futurism, and many Deco-inspired designs today have picked up on those angular, faceted, boldly geometric forms. The opulent lighting designs of American designer Anthony Bianco are a perfect case in point. Bianco, who established his Brooklyn-based studio in 2013, reveals, “Art Deco has always intrigued and informed me. I'm attracted to the ideology of the handmade versus mass manufacturing; to the use of symmetry and simple geometric shapes in repetition as a basis for composition.” It’s easy to imagine his Yassin Torchiere (2014) or his Illuminated Series (2016) looking right at home in the interiors of Deco icons like the Chrysler Building.

Michael Schoner

The work of some contemporary designers exude a Deco vibe by way of the Memphis aesthetic, which was itself looking back at the stepped and undulating designs of the 1920s and ’30s. Amsterdam-based German designer Michael Schoner , for example, believes that design has lost an essential haptic quality and advocates for bespoke objects that are possessed of authenticity and character. “I approach my world with a kind of ironic view towards the rich tendencies of Art Deco,” notes Schoner. In pieces like his Sunrise Lamp (2011) the relation to Deco architecture is apparent, but the materials and finishes indicate a Pop Art influence—which, by the way, was also common in the work of Ettore Sottsass.

Hagit Pincovici

For some, it’s all about keeping tradition alive. Tel Aviv-born, Milan-based designer Hagit Pincovici comes from a family of artisans, and she was inspired to pursue a career in furniture design by watching her grandfather at work in his shop. Today, her richly composed, finely detailed designs are handmade to order in a family-owned atelier in Brianza. The ghosts of the Italian Art Deco movement find new life in her Metaphysics Sideboards (2014) and Eclipse Tables (2015). While she doesn’t belabor her connection to the bygone era of Deco style, she certainly never shies away from dynamic silhouettes and graphic embellishments.

Kostas Neofitidis

Speaking of graphic embellishments inspired by the Deco era… The lively work of Cypriot artist-designer Kostas Neofitidis aims to bring art into everyday life, a philosophy near and dear to the hearts of many of the original proponents of Art Deco. Neofitidis loves that new production methods make it easier and more affordable to create objects that bear the mark of the artist’s hand. “Our production focuses on limited-edition, functional-art collections that emphasize quality and emotion,” he explains. His KOTA collection of ceramics, textiles, and prints, launched in 2013, have the sort of joyously geometric compositions found in the paintings of Bauhaus professor Wassily Kandinsky.

Cristina Celestino

The delicate, sophisticated, and sensual designs of Italian architect-designer Cristina Celestino are in high demand right now, and she’s become a high-profile reference for the resurgent Deco trend. Look no further than her acclaimed Happy Room, which was designed for Fendi and debuted at Design Miami/ 2016. This 12-piece, jewel-toned collection includes tables with mixed marble inlays and oversized brushed brass bases, folding screens with mink transfixed in resin, and generously proportioned seating with velvet upholstery and fur trim. The Deco connection is also easy to notice in her feather-inspired Plumage Vases for BottegaNove (2016), her disco-tastic Piccolo Principe Lamps (2017), and her plush Calatea Armchair for Pianca (2017). Celestino’s most recent foray into Deco aesthetics is the fabulous concept store she designed for Sergio Rossi (2017).

Studiopepe

Milan-based Studiopepe is another contemporary design tour de force that successfully draws on the forms of Art Deco. Founded in 2006 by Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, Studiopepe works across design disciplines for a range of trendsetting clients, from Alessi and Tod’s to Elle Décor. The duo’s uniquely curated interiors bring a contemporary sensibility to classical design elements, with an emphasis on illuminating the inherent beauty in fine materials. Lelli Mami has this to say about the influence they’ve found in the historical: “Art Deco to us means elegance—in its deepest meaning—where every detail is curated and involves not only design but architecture and fashion as well. I personally live in a neighborhood of buildings that dates back the 1930s. It's amazing how every detail is so gorgeous and [can become a] source of inspiration.” About their latest project, The Visit (2017), located in the Brera Design Apartment in Milan, she adds, “We felt we wanted to tell the tale of not just a place but also a gesture, a ritual, more specifically, the visit.” The apartment includes designs by the likes of Jean Prouvé, Ettore Sottsass, Gio Ponti, and Angelo Mangiarotti.

Gabriel & Guillaume

Today’s best takes on the Deco style are much more restrained than the iterations from the last century. While the materials, textures, and layering nod to the richness of the Deco era, the spaces have taken on a greater degree of airiness. Few achieve this contemporary interpretation of Deco as well as Lebanese-Parisian dealers Gabriel & Guillaume. The interiors curated by this dynamic duo masterfully mix vintage and contemporary objects with just the right amount of complexity. “Art Deco is undoubtedly a reference for contemporary interiors,” says Guillaume Excoffier, who began his partnership with Nancy Gabriel in 2013. They cite Jean-Michel Frank, Henri Samuel, and Gio Ponti as strong influences, admitting, “We are more attracted to a lighter style of Art Deco. People don’t live the same way they used to. From the past, we are taking elements that we like in order to create a definitively modern home that fits the 21st-century way of life.”

 

If you'd like to know more about the history of the Art Deco style, please check out our eariler stories in the series, All That Jazz: 100 Years of Deco Glamour and An Affair to Remember: Deco Glamour from the 1960s to the 1990s.

 

 

 

 

  • Text by

    • Rachel Miller

      Rachel Miller

      Rachel is a California native who's currently in Berlin getting her Master's in Lit. In the rare moments when she's not reading and writing, she's on the hunt for Berlin's best craft beer. Her passion for travel has inspired great adventures—around the world and at home in her kitchen.

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