ST. PETERSBURG — The art deco style grabs people. Its sleek lines, lacquered woods and geometric designs won't let go.
As those in the throes of deco know, vintage pieces by famed designers of the 1920s and '30s can be difficult to find and too expensive for the average pocketbook.
To make it easier on deco lovers, a number of furniture companies have introduced modern versions of art deco pieces. Echo Interiors, 48 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N in St. Petersburg, is one of the local shops that offers new deco. Echo is owned by Marcia Hamburger and David Richards, who sell custom-made deco pieces through their company, Richam Corp. Their shop also offers vintage deco chairs, sofas and decorative arts, and stocks both vintage and new Heywood-Wakefield Streamline furniture as well as other antiques.
"People get back to deco when nothing new really sets them on fire,'' Richards said. "It's just so great."
Echo's style of deco furniture is called the Cloud. The shop offers sofas, love seats, club chairs and ottomans in the style.
Richards says the Cloud style "screams art deco. These chairs are witness to the decadence of the time." The original Cloud style came out in 1929, which he considers the height of the deco craze.
Between the two world wars, art deco designs in all their forms were seen in architecture, furniture, clothes, jewelry and decorative arts. The Chrysler Building in New York City probably is one of the best-known examples of a building in the deco style.
"Developed in Paris and later promoted in Hollywood as the style of the stars, art deco made the transition in a few short years from a primarily French style to a universally understood symbol of glamour,'' Susan A. Sternau wrote in her history book, Art Deco: Flights of Artistic Fancy.
The Cloud pieces are elegant, the sides rounded and sweeping to the floor. Most of them are covered in fabric or leather, or have leather on the back of the chair and fabric on the interior. A veneer of wood traces the silhouette of the sofa or chair and provides a base with tiered feet.
Before Echo Antiques, as the shop was then named, opened in downtown St. Petersburg in 1991, Hamburger and Richards had an antiques business in New York. Richards was in a warehouse there one day scouting for pieces for their shop.
"I was looking around and saw this stuff piled up in the corner,'' he said. He asked the owner to get the pieces down so he could see them. They were a sofa and two club chairs in the deco Cloud style, made of mahogany with caramel leather.
"I loved it,'' Richards said. "I wanted it for myself.'' He bought the pieces and put them in their store. "I kept looking at it and looking at it, wondering if I could make it." Richards decided he could after talking to leather and fabric dealers and finding a manufacturer.
Meanwhile, a customer bought the Cloud suite that Richards found in the warehouse, but not before Richards' manufacturer made a copy for him and templates for future production. When Hamburger and Richards moved to Florida, they stopped production of the Cloud line. Then, several years ago, they decided it was time to begin again.
Echo Interiors has only a few pieces of the Cloud furniture in the shop because each piece is made to the purchaser's specifications when ordered. But its Web site, cloudfurniture.com, shows various combinations of veneers, leather and fabrics.
More than 100 leather colors are offered, and there are hundreds of fabrics, including those by designers such as Kravet, Knoll, Maharam and Robert Allen. Fabric prices range from $35 to $175 per yard. Veneers are made from any sort of show wood, Richards said. Choices include Brazilian rosewood, birdseye maple, walnut and eucalyptus.
Prices for each piece vary according to what a customer chooses. For example, the base price for the club chair is $2,500. In full fabric, the cost for 7 yards of material would be added to the base price. The club chair in full leather is $2,940.
Sharon Bond is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg.