Deco look revives for a new age

Home & Garden


Like a little black dress, art deco has a timeless appeal. Its sleek curves and gleaming finishes achieve an exquisite balance between minimalism and ornamentation, masculinity and femininity. More than most period styles, deco has cycled around many times since its heyday in the 1920s and '30s.

But the latest resurgence is more than a passing fashion. Designers and retailers say art deco fits in with several contemporary lifestyle trends: urban living, entertaining at home and a desire to soften the perceived "hard edge" of modernism. Therefore, they say, it is influencing the direction of contemporary design in a lasting way.

Buyer Carolyn Day of Halls in Kansas City, Mo., says she's seeing lots of interest in deco-inspired housewares, particularly barware. "It works really well in the loft concept," Day says. The original art deco movement was a very urban look, favoring exotic and designed materials over natural, familiar ones.

Day, who used to work in South Florida, thinks interest in the revival of Miami's South Beach district could be another factor pushing deco back into the spotlight. "They've taken all those boutique hotels and ramped them up into the 21st century. They've taken deco and given it a twist."

Kirby Upjohn's 1929 home in Kansas City is also a time capsule of art deco styling. It has escaped any significant renovation or remodeling under its three owners. The house is full of exotic materials and fine finishes: Belgian glass tile on kitchen and bath walls, intricately carved wood panels in the dining room, stainless steel kitchen counters with integrated backsplashes. Ceiling lights and wall sconces throughout the house have the stepped profile that screams "deco."

Designer Eric Negrete carries vintage and contemporary deco-inspired furnishings at DEN, his Kansas City studio. Negrete says many people are familiar with machine-age deco. (The Chrysler Building in New York is a good example.) But the look that is driving today's neo-deco interiors comes from the earlier French deco period, characterized by craftsmanship and fine finishes.

Helping the new deco look along, Negrete says, is the availability of better woods, especially walnut, and veneers, including zebrawood.

Richard Olmeda, executive vice president of Magnussen Home, says the Ontario-based company's new Sunset Boulevard Collection is "purely art deco in inspiration." The line, part of the company's Christina Ferrare brand, connotes the glamorous bygone era of Hollywood in the '30s and '40s.

Olmeda says part of the current buzz surrounding the deco look comes from young consumers who think it is a brand new look. "They don't realize what's being classified as `urban' today was very prevalent in the '30s and '40s," he says.

Cindy Hoedel writes for The Kansas City Star.

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