It’s this apparent modernity, an influence of Cubism, that is part of French Art Deco’s appeal for collectors and designers. “This furniture with its sober, clear and clean lines corresponds to the expectations of the many enthusiasts who wish to integrate an older piece into contemporary interiors,” says Gérald Remy, heritage curator of the exhibition Le Chic! French Decorative Arts and Furniture from 1930 to 1960.
And now, these collectors’ items are cropping up in the swishest of homes. In a mid-century house by architect Lionel Pries in Seattle, US design firm Hoedemaker Pfeiffer put in a sideboard by Charles Dudouyt – one of French Art Deco’s most famous exponents, who is best known for designing pieces that have a rustic and modernist nature; and a pair of crushed velvet chairs by Guillerme et Chambron, who designed in the post-Deco era but still held to many Deco forms.
“Many early 1970s furniture designs took cues from the Art Deco shapes and forms,” Peak Petersen, project manager at Hoedemaker Pfeiffer, explains. The firm also installed an 18th-Century Swedish Baroque cabinet, which “has the beginnings of repetition in form that fuelled later Art Deco masters,” he adds.
Tim Pfeiffer of Hoedemaker Pfeiffer got the French Art Deco bug when he was working at Ralph Lauren in Paris from 1997 to 2008, and took to scouring flea markets for pieces. “I fell in love with the elegant discipline of shapes inherent from the era in both architecture and the decorative arts.”
Meanwhile, for a loft in New York’s SoHo, design firm Jesse Parris-Lamb took as their inspiration that New York City Deco landmark, the 1930s Chrysler Building, and brought in pieces by Dudouyt and Paul Frankl. The reupholstered Dudouyt dining chairs are “robust, beefy, and incredibly comfortable”, says Amanda Jesse, adding of the designer, “he had a way of embellishing chunky proportions with elegant carvings that is unmistakably his own.” The fluted glass sconces at the bar are from the late 1930s.