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VINTAGE or ART DECO – Which to collect?

Updated on October 14, 2013


This may be easy enough with clothing; however when it comes to decorating and styling our homes, standing out from the crowd takes a little imagination. Vintage style is always popular, representing true class and some of today’s leading trend setters are looking to the past for inspiration and finding ways of bringing vintage styling into the 21st Century.

Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean ‘antique’ it can also be used to describe classical style, describing mature or superior items of all types of styles throughout the ages. We often hear the terms ‘vintage’ and ‘art deco’ bandied about, so we’re taking a look at these terms more closely.


Art Deco

Art Deco refers to the visual arts design style that began in France at the end of the First World War and spread through Europe and the USA during the thirties and forties. The eclectic combination of machine age materials with traditional craft motifs is characterised by bold geometric shapes, exuberant ornamentation and opulent colours. The term ‘Art Deco’ was coined by architect/urban planner Le Corbusier who began experimenting with furniture design in 1928. Le Corbusier used a recurring ‘Open Hand’ (La Main Ouverte) motif within his architecture to symbolise ‘peace and reconciliation’ and this is epitomised in his Open Hand Monument in Chandigarth, India which is a 26 meter high sculpture. Le Corbusier began experimenting with furniture design, collaborating with fellow architect Charlotte Perriand and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret to provide tubular steel chairs for two of his architecture projects. Le Corbusier was most influential in the sphere of urban planning and was one of the first to realize how the new automobiles would affect urban agglomerations.

Art Deco - 1930's

During the 1930’s Art Deco style was used abundantly in public works projects such as railway stations, ocean liners, theatres and picture houses. Its popularity and sheer elegance led to Art Deco treatment in all areas of design, especially in the new consumer products which were becoming increasingly available. Jukeboxes, telephones and radios – all new fangled gadgets for a new era – were prime candidates and the Art Deco style lent itself extensively to household items such as furniture, kitchenware, china, jewellery, textiles and toiletries. Glassware is a particular favorite for Art Deco designers – the fluidity of glass lends itself magically to the sleek and streamlined pieces that typify the elegance of the era.

Rejecting Traditional Classical Influences

Art Deco style rejected most traditional classical influences to concentrate on streamlined geometric forms and bright, metallic colours. New technology enabled daring new designs with stainless steel, aluminium, chrome and glass. Fabrics, mirrors and animal skins all combined for a whole new look which was avidly welcomed in the post World War 1 years. The wartime austerity was replaced with the sheer luxury and brightness of this whole new look that combined the best of the past with all that the future seemed to offer.

The Impact on Motor Cars

The motor car, that brand new means of transport that was the prerogative of the wealthy, lent itself beautifully to Art Deco style and some of the most beautiful cars the world has ever seen are the vintage motors of yesteryear. Indeed, cars pretty much followed this design right through to the sixties and seventies.

Art Deco style furniture combined exciting new shapes with innovative use of textiles to offer a range of stylish furnishings that really pushed the boundaries of imagination. Sleek and elegant, Art Deco furniture was leading the way in contemporary modern décor to offer an avant garde new look that screamed luxury and exquisite taste.

Art Deco Furniture

Genuine Art Deco pieces are still available today, a testament to their quality and the craftsmanship that gave birth to these fabulous specimens of style. Although the furniture may be beyond the pocket of all but the truly wealthy, it’s quite possible to pick up some signature pieces of glass or china and these are always a wise investment. Reproduction Art Deco furnishings are often available from bespoke furniture makers with the added advantage that the customer can often specify modifications in both style and upholstery to get exactly what they want. This enables aficionados of the Art Deco movement to style their homes in the hedonistic fashions of the inter-War years for a fraction of the cost of sourcing real antique pieces. A few well chosen antiques, some great artworks on the walls and reproduction Art Deco style furniture will ensure an opulent and relaxed atmosphere in this busy modern world.


Vintage - What is Vintage ?

Vintage is defined as “denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind”. This really does mean that anything old is vintage, but when we use the word vintage when describing furniture, we generally mean something classic. We’re imagining a stylish piece of furniture, rather than something that is shabby and well past its heyday. A vintage car is one from the period 1919 – 1930, quite a narrow categorization that you can rely on. However, everything ‘vintage’ seems to be enjoying quite a revival at the moment so how do you get it right when looking for vintage clothing, fabrics and homewares?

These are popular items and buying vintage pieces online is relatively easy, especially when you’re looking for clothing and fabrics. Homewares too, especially smaller items, can be fairly easy to find. There are sellers on eBay who specialize in sourcing and selling vintage items. On some of the creative websites such as Etsy and ArtFire, there are plenty of people who sell vintage items, usually specializing in a particular category such as sewing notions, fabrics, handbags or clothing.

A great way of bringing a vintage look into your life is to concentrate on collecting one particular category – crockery, fabrics, glass or clothing. You can then use your collection as an important feature in the décor of your home and giving it a very individual look. Vintage collections add an extra soupcon of interest and there are plenty of ways of achieving a comfortable and stylish atmosphere without breaking the bank.

Vintage Scarfs - Wall hung for effect
Vintage Scarfs - Wall hung for effect

Vintage - Being Creative

A collection of vintage scarves can look great when displayed on a wall, just group them together, each hanging from a curtain ring fixed to the wall for a really arty look. A vintage style leather sofa makes a great display stand for a collection of vintage cushions and throws can be draped over the edge to finish the look. Obviously, vintage clothing should be worn whenever possible (and very carefully laundered!), but why not hang a few fabulous pieces on swish hangers on a wall – great looking little pieces of artwork that you can take down and wear when you want. If you collect vintage household items, why not go for the vintage look in one of the rooms, or throughout the whole house. You won’t need to change all your furniture, just a few statement pieces and your collection could do the rest of the work for you, especially if your favourite pieces are utilitarian, such as crockery, kitchenalia and fabrics. When you do need to buy a new bed, go for something in a vintage style and your bedding should then add a really authentic feel.

Vintage collections can be accumulated over time as you find bargain pieces – the trick to making them look good is to show them off in a cool way. Use vintage pieces to bring a quirky look into your home life. Don’t hide your much loved vintage pieces away – let their glory brighten you up on a daily basis. Use a prized vintage cup and saucer for your morning cuppa – a much more elegant way of starting the day than a mug of tea.

Vintage or Art Deco?

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Vintage or Art Deco - Whats your preference ?

So Vintage or Art Deco – whichever floats your boat, there are easy and inexpensive ways of bringing both styles into play. Collecting seems to be the name of the game here and building a collection can be an interesting and enjoyable hobby, with the added bonus that you can use your collection to add some pizzazz to your surroundings. Whether it’s vintage soft furnishing fabrics or Art Deco dinnerware, your collection is sure to bring an increased sense of elegance into your daily life.


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