Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - by Neale Whi­taker

Neale Whi­taker pays ho­mage to the delights of Art Deco.

Which era do you think con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate cur­rent de­sign trends? An­swer­ing “the 1970s” wins you five out of 10 (I’ll ex­plain why later), but an­swer­ing “Art Deco” takes you to the top of the class. Think of al­most any trend you’re en­joy­ing now – from geo­met­ric tiles to gelato colours – and chances are it owes a stylis­tic debt to the pe­riod be­tween 1925 and 1940.

On the Nine Net­work’s new se­ries of The Block, con­tes­tants are get­ting to grips with an Art Deco build­ing in Port Mel­bourne. Built in the 1920s as the HQ of the Symex soap fac­tory, it’s a sleep­ing beauty that’s been empty for decades. Hid­den be­neath years of rub­ble and graf­fiti are pe­riod gems like wood pan­elling, orig­i­nal doors and ter­razzo floors. They’re the de­tails the show’s five cou­ples will need to re­store as their lux­ury apart­ments take shape. If I were a con­tes­tant (and not just an in­ter­fer­ing judge), I’d be pretty ex­cited. Art Deco is def­i­nitely, as they say, on fleek.

So what’s it all about? Bold and glam­orous, Art Deco de­sign was a re­ac­tion to the aus­ter­ity of World War I. Coin­cid­ing with the ar­rival of another sym­bol of early 20th-cen­tury progress, the sky­scraper, Deco ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­ri­ors cel­e­brated the mod­ern era through geo­met­ric shapes, chevrons, zigzags and sun­bursts, as well as ma­te­ri­als such as chrome, brass, mir­ror and mar­ble. Mono­chrome ruled, as did many of the chalky pas­tels now pop­u­lar in con­tem­po­rary de­sign – think blush pinks, and pale greys and greens.

Aus­tralian in­te­rior de­signer Greg Natale is a fan. “To me Art Deco is clas­sic el­e­gance with a mod­ern edge,” he says. “It’s been a big in­flu­ence on my own work through the use of black and white, metallics and geo­met­rics.” American de­sign mae­stro Jonathan Adler agrees: “Deco de­liv­ers a dose of he­do­nis­tic glam­our with­out the hang­over. It’s glossy and luxe and sparkly and deca­dent. Ul­tra-lux­ury mixed with ul­tra-re­fine­ment. It hits all the right notes.”

And this year’s Mi­lan De­sign Week was a feast for Deco fans, from spher­i­cal pen­dant lights (the best were from Brits Lee Broom and Michael Anas­tas­si­ades) to glass screens and sconces, and sleek, lin­ear fur­ni­ture. And why did I men­tion the 1970s? That much-ma­ligned decade was also in love with Art Deco, so ’70s style of­ten has echoes of the era. But no, Block­heads, that doesn’t mean you can swap Deco for disco.

STYLE FILE (from left) London’s Sketch restau­rant’s pas­tels and zigzags typ­ify Deco; a mono­chrome light; brass sun­bursts add glam­our to a liv­ing room.

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