Image Credit: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson from Art Deco Sculpture/Photography © ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock
Ah, Paris… The entire city is an institution of style but Paris’ architecture and interior design? That’s what really interests us. Paris interiors are informed, composed and sensitively adventurous. They’re exactly the kind of thing that parquet-floored, balcony-lined, boiserie-clad dreams are made of.
Ebony, teak and lacquer were all key materials of Art Deco as they spoke of opulence. Marble, which had mainly been used in architecture, became a key element for furniture in this period. It’s a material I have always favoured, along with bronze, which is a signature that I feature in every collection that I design. I use marble and scagliola technique on dining and side tables, as well as consoles. It was these types of materials that became synonymous with Art Deco. All the key designers such as Ruhlmann, Jean Dunand and Marc du Plantier employed luxurious and opulent materials. It is really what the best of Art Deco is all about – working with the best materials, the best craftsmen on the best shapes you can design.
In a city where art is revered, can a home without artwork ever feel fully dressed? Parisian artwork takes many forms but the simplest way to channel the look is with abstract art. The contrast of established Hausmann bones and modern art, with its defiant attitude, is a thoroughly Parisian design move.
“To finish the look, go for a lighting scheme that is moody and worth of a 1920s Parisian bar. It is to a room as highlighter is to a woman’s makeup. Put your most important features in the spotlight with plenty of low-key accent lighting.
Structural wall sconces create a dramatic effect and are very Art Deco.”
“Bold and geometrically interesting pieces command attention in a space and are such an Art Deco trick. A striking console looks stunning placed beneath an angular mirror and enhanced with a much-loved family heirloom to complete the look.”
I usually design a daybed or banquette in every one of my collections. It is a key shape from the Art Deco period as dressing rooms became more indulgent. The banquette sat at the heart of the new boudoir.
“Off-set the style’s angular furniture with rounded upholstered chairs and sofas which are both beautiful and comfortable. Curved designs in plush velvet are perfect for Art Deco inspired spaces.”
Image Credit: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson from Art Deco Sculpture/Photography © Arnold Schwartzman
You cannot mention Art Deco and not talk about the art of the curve in furniture, as in the arts in general. Where Art Nouveau was about the curve which was allowed to operate on its own, unchecked and in never-ending sinuous lines, in Art Deco the curve was adored but it was juxtaposed with the vertical or horizontal line.
Paris likes to keep things simple. Wasn’t is Coco Chanel who advocated “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”? Styling in Paris is careful and never overdone – letting its environment speak for itself. A simple glass vase, a well-proportioned mirror or a simple linen cushion is all a Parisian apartment needs to enhance its timelessness.
From left to right, Francis’ Malpensa cabinet, Anita banquette and Lulu table lamp. Discover more of Francis’ furniture designs at www.francissultana.com.
Here are a few things you should consider adding to your space to give it that Parisian je ne sais quoi.
I have recently launched a cabinet called Malpensa (below) from the Narmina Collection that also uses marquetry which is an homage to this amazing technique at the heart of Art Deco.
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Most Art Deco banquettes and stools were made in heavily embossed bronze. As they were not an everyday piece, they would often be covered in rare and exquisite materials such as leopard skin which had become cheaper to import during this period. Obviously leopard skin is not a material we would use today so, instead, for my Anita daybed (below) and stool I used Kidassia fur – which we dyed teal to give the piece even more presence.
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As a creative who has spent part of his career drawing inspiration from the refined lines, fine materials and grandeur of the Art Deco period, Sultana has brought the style into the 21st century – rethinking it for a modern age. His 2011 debut furniture collection – named “Homage to Art Deco” – featured plush velvet upholstery, gilded bronze and glass and undulating silhouettes which are just a few of the style’s most iconic elements.
Paris design prioritises design integrity. Simple lines are preferred over unnecessary or distracting decoration and serene arrangements are tied together by a sense of relaxed elegance. A sinuous chaise longue, an expertly piped stool (in the colour du jour, pink, of course), a fine marble coffee table or a barely-there console are just a few examples of Paris’ love for the subdued.
The machine age – just as in Cubism or Futurism – was taming the natural world. In much of my work I love to use the curve – especially in my upholstered pieces – but often I accent the piece with a straight formal line to work alongside the more sensuous curves. It was this use of the curve and the straight line that was seen in much of the work of Eugene Printz in tables and upholstery.
There can be nothing more Parisian than an antique ornament, a gilded fireplace mirror or a decorative bergère paired with modern counterparts. The city seems to have a knack for elevating a space via unique combinations. Despite the traditionality of these pieces, everything maintains a slightly nonchalant vibe – architectural prints are either propped up on the floor or mantlepiece, soft furnishings have a “lived in” look and classical additions feel authentic.
Influenced by exotic motifs from far-flung locales, old Hollywood glamour and sleek geometric designs, the Art Deco epoch offered some of the 20th century’s most iconic and glamorous interiors. Design maestro David Collins shares his tips on how to get the Art Deco interior design look.
Of course, Parisian interiors include table lamps, floor lamps and pendant lights but wall sconces (even the word is French!) are particularly Parisian. Mounted in the apertures of the city’s home’s trademark wall panelling, these pieces take on a life of their own. Translucent alabaster crafted into simple geometric shapes (like these Kelly Wearstler designs) or statement-making urchin offerings are particularly evocative of Paris style.
Francis Sultana, the designer and tastemaker expounds on the ever-popular twentieth century style
“Anything maple, silver, gold, ebony or ivory is Art Deco incarnate. Glamorous gold leafing, high-gloss lacquers and geometric woods are all characteristic of the revolutionary style.”
The colonies (especially the French colonies of Africa) were incredibly influential on this period. The Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris was built for the great 1931 colonial exhibition which aimed to show the cultural exchange between France and her colonies. Themes and motifs spread to architecture and sculpture as well as decorative arts.
In my Lulu collection I used palm tree motifs, stepped in bronze on legs and lamps in a style that is very much influenced by this exhibition and of Africa. Salons and pavilions were so fundamental to the spread of Art Deco during this period and was really how its influence grew so fast and so wide.
Learn about the French tastemakers who mould the design world in our “Top Ten French Interior Designers” article.
3. Choose furniture with soft lines and interesting textures
David Collins’ sage advice for perfecting the trending 20s look
French styling is inherently pared back but sculptural additions are a staple of Parisian interiors. Give your space a dose of Paris chic with a striking mirror design, a sculptural ornament or a unique light installation. Something as simple as a coffee table fruit bowl can and should have a considered design.
Here, the designer highlights some key characteristics of Art Deco style which have inspired his designs (and the world) for many years.
One of my favourite stools was designed by Armand Rateau in his sunken bathroom design from the 1920s. The bathroom had been designed by Rateau for Spanish aristocrat Totó Alba as part of a three-room suite in her 18th-century residence, Palacio de Liria in Madrid.
Francis Sultana – interior designer and CEO of the David Gill Gallery – has carved a prestigious spot in the industry for his cerebral furniture designs, out-of-the-box arrangements and high-art installations for the HNWI set.
But, despite their ingenuity, his designs are most definitely rooted in the past.
Marquetry is one of the most recognisable looks for the Art Deco period. Art Deco was all about strong linear symmetry and colours. Marquetry would allow furniture to follow these ideas as well as offer the sense of decoration which is core to Art Deco. From cars to jewellery, homes to boats, decoration was everything and marquetry allowed designers such as Ruhlmann, in his famous “Donkey and Hedgehog” piece, to offer this to the audience of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes of 1925 in Paris. The series of rooms he designed for the concept of a Hotel du Collectionneur included many of the key themes of Art Deco.
“We love the mesmerising radial patterns of the woods used in Deco interiors which instantly add interest to a room. If you want to start slowly, think about incorporating your patterns into your accessories like cushions and trinket boxes.”