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Articles: Art Deco  

The Art Deco style, with it's flare, extravagance and risque attitude is the basis upon which modern design is rooted. The design concepts include not only, clothing, home furnishing, architecture, jewelry, packaging design, commercial design and cars, more importantly whole new social sensibility and state of mind.

Art Deco can be defined by the catch phrase "Anything Goes". These few words capture beautifully the spirit of Art Deco and refers to the new bold Radio designs between the two World Wars. It was in stark contrast to, and a rebellion against, the over-done Victorian and Art Nouveau design concepts, with flowery, swirling lines, and busy decorations.

Art Deco can also be defined by purity of form and design, uncluttered by unnecessary decorations. The avant-garde schools took the flowers and swirling lines of Art Nouveau and created a cleaner, more geometric sensibility evidenced in the ziggurats, leaping gazelles, sunbursts and bold prints. Art deco focused on the integrity of the overall concept and no small detail was unimportant when designing an home, hotel, theatre or factory. A keyhole became just as important as the architectural structure. The furniture, lighting, carpeting, art, glassware, accessories, radios, ashtrays and even flower design all became integral parts of the overall feeling being invoked.

At this same time, there was great social reform under way, starting with the fight for women's rights and emancipation by Mrs. Pankhurst and the suffragettes. New fortunes had been created after WW1 and there was a great Glass redistribution of wealth. The 'nouveau riche' had new tastes and wanted new types of homes. Art Deco was a perfect way for the modern chic, with no real social standing to create a totally new look and conceal humble beginnings.

These new design concepts blazoned across all areas of design from apartment buildings, theatres and cinemas to factories. These new design concepts extended to the world of clothing and jewelry design as well, and for the first time in history, fashion became big business, due in large part to improved communications throughout the world. One can't help but conjure up an image of a sexy flapper, with her bobbed hair, a sleek dress showing off her body and legs, with an 8" cigarette holder, dancing the Charleston and flirting - outrageously free and her freedom is what it was about. She was bold, sassy and up for anything. She was liberated after the war, having found her independence after running the country while the men were at the front lines. By the twenties, some of the best known interior decorators, fashion designers and decorative artists were women. She not only found social freedom, but was released from her tight fitting corsets and drab colors. The new style of clothing and accessories (hand bags, hats, buckles, scarves and shoes) were followed quickly by cosmetics and perfumes. A new age had dawned. The sumptuous jewelry and elegant clothing designed by 'haute couture' of the period was also the beginning of ready-to-wear dresses.

Coffee Pot Art Deco objects of the 1920's and 1930's are today classified as serious antiques, highly specialised and considered to have real investment potential. There are shops all over the world, including New York, London and Paris that specialise exclusively in Art Deco. Museums have turned their attention to Art Deco as well, which has resulted in on-going exhibitions on two continents. Quality Art Deco, including design into the 1940's is highly prized by serious collectors like Barbara Streisand, Brad Pitt and others. Deco design is still a favourite for Broadway set design and hotels still borrow on the dramatic and bold lines to create drama and appeal.

Art Deco is synonymous with extravagance and a lavish lifestyle as witnessed in the Golden Age of Hollywood, but was just as popular with the middle class for it's simplicity - you can dress it up or you can dress it down.

Radio Art Deco is one of those design periods that fits with anything and goes anywhere, which is part of it's beauty and appeal. Put your beautiful nude bronze statue, ashtray or lamp in a retro or Victorian designed home and she will look beautiful. Your deco bar ware, radio or furniture interspersed with any style will look great and add style. That favourite deco watch, ring or brooch with your blue jeans and tank top will give you glamour and pizzazz.

written by Andrea Kollo

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