Versatility keeps Art Deco in style

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Art Deco was one of the shortest-lived design periods in history. All about sensational, freewheeling modern living and daring new design, Deco was hit hard by the looming second World War. 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 simple, says James Caughman, the 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. "That's why Art Deco resonates and endures."

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.

Ms. Barry has created a collection for Baker Furniture that epitomizes Art Deco. Look for her curvy upholstered chairs, metallic-leafed tables and smartly tailored yet sexy cabinets and desks (www.kohlerinteriors.com).

Ms. Corzine's chic desks and vanities would look right at home in Carole Lombard's suite, but 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, says Lorial Francis of Naples, Fla., who, with husband Bryan, sells Art Deco furniture 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 or reproduction furniture, 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 piece, the self-contained bar cabinet, is finding favor with young urbanites. It fits nicely in a smaller apartment. Pottery Barn introduced their version this year; the mahogany lacquered City Bar (www.potterybarn.com).


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