Art Deco was one of the shortest-lived design periods in history.
All about sensational, freewheeling modern living and daring new designs, Deco was hit hard by looming World War II. It was time to pack up the Charleston records, put away glamorous accoutrements and face harsh reality.
But the style never seems to go quietly, or for long.
The reason Art Deco furniture is popular again now is easy to figure, says James Caughman, senior marketing director for Chicago-based Baker Furniture, part of the Kohler Interiors Group.
"Art Deco designers synthesized simple forms, exquisite materials and luxurious finishes to create a truly modern expression. We're comfortable with the familiar shapes and proportions," he says.
Art Deco complements both modern minimalism and classic traditionalism. Many of today's interior and furniture designers, such as Nancy Corzine, Barbara Barry, Jeffrey Bilhuber and Richard Mishaan, use its elements in their work.
When we think of Art Deco home furnishings, we envision voluptuous leather or velvet upholstered club chairs, sleek lacquered cabinetry, gleaming martini sets and mirrored boudoir vanities. Hallmarks include geometric or rounded silhouettes, inlays and veneers, ornamentation such as starbursts and zigzags, and machine age materials such as aluminum, plastic and steel.
Barry has created a collection for Baker Furniture that epitomizes the grace and elan of Art Deco. Look for her curvy upholstered chairs, metallic-leafed tables and a group of smartly tailored yet sexy cabinets and desks (www.kohlerinteriors.com). Local Baker dealers include Robb & Stucky and PJ Newman Fine Furniture, both in Tampa.
Corzine's chic desks and vanities would look right at home in Carole Lombard's suite; at the same time, they're fresh and contemporary (www.nancycorzine.com).
That's certainly Art Deco's appeal to consumers: its versatility.
Pieces originally designed for the dining room or bedroom can now be used anywhere. Wireless devices and laptops give clients even more freedom when choosing furniture, says Lorial Francis of Naples, who, with husband Bryan, has been selling Art Deco furniture since 1998 through their online store, www.decodame.com.
"Art Deco cabinets have become very popular to place under the wall-mounted TV, giving people a place to store audio and video equipment," she said. "Now a collector can enjoy a period Art Deco desk without cutting holes into it for cords."
For those interested in buying vintage as well as reproduction furniture from the period, Decodame's collection includes a pair of crimson and black club chairs, and several vanities and sideboards crafted of lacquer, zebrawood or burled walnut.
One iconic Deco piece, the self-contained bar cabinet, is finding favor with young urbanites. It fits nicely in a smaller apartment. Pottery Barn, with two Tampa stores, introduced its version this year: the mahogany lacquered City Bar (www. potterybarn.com). With space for beverages, glassware, mixing equipment and room for serving, it even features a pop-up mirror.
Homegoods, a discounter with several Tampa Bay area outlets, offers a smart mirrored chest that could serve multiple purposes, as well as chunky crystal candlesticks and a variety of vanity items that echo the style (www.homegoods.com).
More Deco touches for the home are available on the Internet, which offers many sources for reproduction and antique doorknobs, cabinet pulls and lighting fixtures (www.houseofantiquehardware.com, www.clsterling.com).