Revival of Art Deco?

Structural lines of the design trend are seen as a breath of fresh air compared with the current mix of bohemian and mid-century modern look

If you are tired of tapestries, taxidermy and other crafty kitsch that have taken over mass retail, you are not alone.

The defining design trend of the past five years - a feminine mix of California bohemian and mid- century modern that is ubiquitous on blogs and Instagram - may have crested.

Designer Marika Meyer from Bethesda, Maryland, said: "It's everywhere. It's too everywhere. We're about to see a call for the masculine again, for something more structural and modern."

What fits the bill?

One theory is Art Deco, a style characterised by geometric shapes, strong arches and angles, and high-contrast colour schemes. It first became popular after World War I, in reaction to Art Nouveau's whimsical ornamentation and floral motifs.

A bedroom (above) by Art Deco expert Tim Barber. PHOTO: LAURA HULL PHOTOGRAPHY

Deco, which conveyed strength and industry, was seen as glamorous and bold.

"If you think about what's going on in our country politically, it makes sense that we're seeing it come back," Ms Meyer said.

"A sense of uncertainty tends to drive people to seek structure and stability. Art Deco has that."

The style will have modern adaptations. Expect its signature sense of opulence - often evoked in sweeping marble staircases, pinstriped wallpapers and high-gloss paints - to be toned down in favour of high-tech or sustainable materials. And too much of one look can feel thematic, so designers predict people will stick to a few key pieces.

Mr Mat Sanders, a co-founder of the Los Angeles-based interior design firm Consort Design with Mr Brandon Quattrone and who counts talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel and actress Jessica Alba as clients, said: "Focus on the smaller moments, like a cocktail table or a tray. These pieces are like jewellery for a room and the easiest way to make a statement. No need to overdo it."

Even in small doses, though, it is important not to confuse boldness with flash.

Los Angeles architect Tim Barber, who specialises in Art Deco - he is perhaps best known for helping musician Moby renovate a 1920s castle in the Hollywood Hills - said the style is often misunderstood as luxe or over the top.

"It's under the top," he said.

"It's about scale and exaggerated forms. You'd be surprised at how much drama you can achieve just by playing with proportions."

Art Deco posits that there is power in the unexpected.

A low coffee table can make a neutral room feel artistic and modern. A black steel table with strong angles looks confident against a white wall.

For added visual interest, consider a mirror so tall, it almost touches the ceiling, or a club chair that curves like a shell.

Of course, antiques stores are gold mines for authentic treasures if you are willing to pay big bucks.

But if you are not ready to invest in larger pieces, try playing with patterns and textures.

High-contrast ceramic tiles liven up a kitchen backsplash or bathroom floor, and unusual fabrics such as velvet or mohair spice up canvas sofas and chairs.

Wallpaper is an opportunity to experiment with classic Deco motifs, such as fans and sunbursts, and to add a hint of glamour.

Ms Meyer recently designed a powder room in a Maryland farmhouse for a client who wanted a blend of Deco and Moroccan.

She used a metallic pearl wallpaper called Lantern from Clarence House that was subtle and sleek.

Art Deco's biggest hurdle may be that it does not have enough hard guidelines or rules to follow. There is no catalogue to pull from or uniform to fall back on, and lots of room for interpretation.

"There's definitely a challenge to it," Ms Meyer said, "but I think we're ready for that."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Revival of Art Deco?'. Print Edition | Subscribe