Art Deco's Devotees Keep Style Alive

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 24, 2003 | Go to article overview

Art Deco's Devotees Keep Style Alive


Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

District resident Megan Searing Young's parents dabbled in antiques, but she gravitated to more modern styles. By modern, she means art deco, a design style from the early 20th century that let America greet the rise of the machines with a shimmer of optimism.

Ms. Young, 32, was drawn to art deco's clean design, strong angles and balance. She isn't alone. Ms. Young is a member of the Art Deco Society of Washington, a group that supports and promotes the style.

The art deco movement is said to have kicked off at the 1925 Paris Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts, but its roots likely started years before the event throughout Europe.

Art deco pieces typically feature bold colors, geometric designs and a reliance on glass and plastic materials. The style produced furnishings that evoke a mass-manufactured appearance echoing the machine age. The period peaked before World War II.

Ms. Young, who has a degree in art history from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says she used to buy only authentic art deco pieces for her home. Practical matters forced her to consider alternatives.

"You don't always have the time to search and search and search," Ms. Young says. "There's been a real revived interest in mid-century furnishings," she says of the period that followed art deco. That trend has bumped out some art deco interests.

"Do you want go to Pottery Barn and find something that resembles the style or be patient ... and find the perfect vintage piece?" she says is the question many aficionados ask.

For the serious collectors, couches mark a good dividing point as to how loyal one is to the period, she says. Even an original art deco couch in good condition won't last long, given its age.

"Some people won't buy a vintage couch; others would only buy a vintage couch," she says.

Ms. Young's living room has a modern couch surrounded by genuine art deco furnishings.

"The rest of the living room is vintage, the lamp, the bar, the coffee tables."

Jim Linz of Chantilly also opted for a 21st-century couch from which to watch his equally modern television set. The rest of his home harks back to the past.

"Most of my house is art deco," says the 55-year-old collector. "I've got some art deco appliances; I use Harlequin china every day."

Mr. Linz says part of art deco's charm is its flexibility.

"It can be blended in virtually any home, particularly for people who collect contemporary furniture," he says. "My house is a Colonial-style home in the exterior, but the interior is definitely art deco."

Ms. Young says art deco might seem suited to an older set of collectors, but, she says, many in the art deco society are in their 30s.

"I have encountered some older people who didn't like the style because it reminds them of hard times," she says.

And younger art deco fans tend to like not just the furnishings, but the overall culture from the era.

"It's not a hard and fast rule, [but] there is an aspect of nostalgia," she says.

The art deco movement also saluted the sunny outlook many had toward technology in the initial stages of the 20th century, she says. People had faith that the new machines could transform society for the better.

Gloria Capron, founder of Gloria Capron Interior Design in Kensington, says art deco "catches the pulse of the young people."

"It's definitely on the comeback trail, no doubt about it," says Ms. Capron, adding that several new design lines in recent weeks have echoed the clean look and sweeping curves of the design movement.

A small but loyal group of homeowners may still pine for art deco designs, but finding the genuine article is getting harder, says Greg Golden, 41, of Silver Spring. …

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