When it comes to being and staying à la mode, it is easier achieved with your wardrobe than with your home.
Whether you buy a few staples (not office stationery, we are talking clothes here) in the latest cuts and colours or have a complete wardrobe overhaul (not the cheapest affair, though) the result will be a trendier version of you.
But like I said, it is easier — and cheaper — done with your clothes than with your décor. So what if you want a modern look but do not want to have to constantly keep up with the trends?
Two words: Art Deco
As an art and design style born out of the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art held in Paris in 1925 to show the evolution in French decorative arts and break the mould of what had previously defined them (curves and florals; naturalistic but stylised forms) Art Deco, with its geometric shapes and streamlined style, internationally became the ultimate representation of modernity and elegance and the perfect balance between eclectic and functional.
The excitement and optimism of a post-war world formed the basis for this ornamental style and through the 1920s and early 1930s, became synonymous with the luxury and opulence that defined the famous Jazz Age.
Now, with the history lesson out of the way, let us look at what characterises this style and maybe get rid of the scepticism of how a style almost 90 years old can still be modern.
As a style born in the 1920s, Art Deco was heavily influenced by the Machine Age, technology, previous art movements, and archaeology (a popular interest during the 1920s — the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, for example, birthed a global fascination with all things Egyptian).
These influences translated into streamlined designs; the use of materials such as steel, chrome, aluminium, glass, and lacquer; motifs with heavy Egyptian and Aztec influence such as the chevron, zigzags, sunbursts, the staggered tier, and sweeping curves.
Together, all these elements embody the eclectic style that is Art Deco.
Art Deco’s colour palette consists of neutrals, cool and bright colours, and black and white.
Neutrals, such as muted shades of cream, beige, soft brown, grey, and taupe, are favoured as the primary colours.
They create a canvas for more dramatic accents and help achieve the modern look. Cool, muted colours, in shades of blue and green combined with canary yellow, amethyst, and coral pink, work great as accents, especially on fabrics and accessories, while black and white in checkers, chevrons, or zebra print are perfect for a dramatic effect.
If you want to keep it simple, go for a monochromatic scheme of different shades of a neutral.
Luxurious is one way to describe Art Deco furniture; streamlined, rounded corners, light woods, chrome accents, mirrored surfaces, a dark lacquer finish, and a layered wood effect known as waterfall are the characteristics to look for.
Art Deco furniture tends to be large in scale, so do not be afraid to buy big pieces. Sideboards, armoires, and generously sized chairs are all typical of the period.
Aside from the obvious choice of painting walls in Art Deco colours, wallpaper, with its vast choice of colours, patterns, and textures, definitely ups the glamour ante.
When looking for wallpaper with authentic elements of the Art Deco style, look out for metallic finishes in gold or silver and geometric patterns like sunbursts, zigzags, chevrons, sweeping curves as well as motifs with Egyptian influences.
Black and white combinations, which are classic Deco, or wallpaper in bright colours like emerald green, canary yellow, amethyst, peacock blue, and ruby that literally mimic the post-war optimism are also fitting choices.
Where budget is not an issue, ebony stained wood panelling is a luxurious but well-worth-it choice
“Polished, lacquered (so shiny you can see your reflection) and decorative” is the definition of Art Deco floors, with hardwood (usually in parquet) and marble being the most common materials.
Black or white marble, highly polished dark parquet or black-and-white checkered floors (a bold choice best appreciated in vast open spaces like foyers and corridors) are typical choices.
Decorative inlays in geometric shapes made form marble, wood or aluminium are great additions to create a focal point or add visual interest.
Rugs in black, brown or grey with swirls or geometric flower prints are the perfect complement to the sleek flooring.
Artworks and accessories
When looking for artworks and accessories, go for pieces with the female form as the subject as well as geometric forms which incorporate not only Egyptian motifs, but also Mexican and African tribal-art themes that glorify natural wonders like the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Photographs of buildings in this style like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building will also be good additions to your space.
Art Deco art uses either bright colours (particularly those earlier mentioned) or pastels, so look out for this.
Light fixtures in this era were dramatic, elegant, and futuristic looking.
When selecting table lamps, chandeliers, and walls sconces, those made of steel, chrome, and polished bronze will achieve the shiny, sleek aesthetic of Art Deco.
Go for lamp shades made from porcelain, white glass, and stained glass.
Shades, posts, and fixtures engraved or framed in symmetrical and repeated angular designs like chevrons will definitely add to the authenticity.