How to decorate your home with 1920s art deco antiques

Now we've entered 2020, Kate MacDougall looks back 100 years and discovers the dawn of a striking, dynamic and oh-so fabulous movement that would come to be called ‘art deco’

Art Deco walnut display cabinet; bold, colourful tiles

Can you think of a style that better encapsulates the era from which it was born than art deco? Sandwiched between the horror and disarray of the two World Wars, there was a glorious, golden time, where society chose to forget the austerity and conservatism of the past and turned sharply towards the decadent, the glamorous and the thoroughly modern. 

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A twenties-style mirrored trolley and glassware; Art Deco Dancers

With a new consumer economy booming and a renewed sense of hope and aspiration in the air, the 1920s roared in on the bloodied coat tails of the First World War, bringing flappers, jazz and the rise of the silver screen alongside a bold, new aesthetic. 

Taking its name from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a huge exhibition held in Paris and featuring all the key designers of the day, art deco quickly became a global movement – the first of its kind.

1920s geometric clocks; Layered Turkish rugs

With its dynamic, streamlined forms, geometric patterning, and use of rare and striking materials such as ebony, tortoiseshell and jade, art deco was as distinctive as it was universal. The look included not just furniture and architecture, but also mirrors, lamps, barware, wallpaper, tiles, rugs and bronzes. 

Unsurprisingly, authentic pieces are in huge demand today. Art deco dealer and restorer Jeroen Markies explains why he believes the style remains so popular: ‘The pieces still have a contemporary feel about them, bridging a gap between the antique and the modern. They are a great look for today’s home,’ he says.

Art Deco walnut display cabinet; bold, colourful tiles

While there is no doubt that art deco exudes a sense of the avant-garde and an enthusiasm for advances in technology, engineering and motion, many of its stylistic influences are rooted in the past and include touches of the ancient and the foreign, with Egyptian, Aztec and African motifs all leaving their mark. The combination of the modern with the exotic is one of the reasons that art deco is so distinctive. ‘This is the first time that something totally new and fresh came on to the market and that’s what makes it so exciting today,’ says Jeroen.  

Geometric vases; Art Deco walnut dressing table and frosted glass bottles

Although original French pieces by some of the most notable designers such as Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann or René Lalique can exceed hundreds of thousands of pounds, pieces from the English art deco stable are far more affordable. Chairs and tables by distinguished names such as the Epstein brothers and Hille can fetch between £2,000 and £3,000 at auction. Smaller items like mirrors or lamps can be bought today for as little as £200-£300. This is a reflection of the movement’s shift into the 1930s, when mass production ensured that objects could be made in much greater quantities at a lower cost. 

Art Deco desk and vintage typewriter

But what we really love about this remarkable look is the sense of glamour and elegance that it evokes. When we see a beautifully curved, walnut cocktail cabinet or a sleek, angular lamp, we are able
to picture ourselves in that drawing room, at that party, during a time when pleasure and enjoyment were fundamental antidotes. 

‘There is a growing nostalgia for deco at the moment,’ Jeroen concludes. ‘The 1920s and 30s seemed to be a lot more fun with all the parties and the cocktails. Why not own a piece of that?’ 

Photography: Philip Sowels

Styling: Jaine Bevan


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  1. LEFT: A Masked Ball watercolour and gouache on paper by Walpole Champneys, £2,900 for a pair; Epstein cloud chair, £8,900 for a three-piece suite, both Jeroen Markies. Jacket on chair, stylist’s own. Art deco mirror glass cocktail trolley, £750, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. On top shelf: art deco Champagne cooler, £690, Matthew Foster Art Deco Gallery London; art deco Champagne bucket, £650; art deco cocktail glass, £365 for six, both Gazelles of Lyndhurst; Napier cocktail shaker, £950; art deco cocktail shaker, £1,150, both Jeroen Markies; French perfume bottle base c1930, £440 for complete bottle, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. On bottom shelf: white bowl, stylist’s own; Bristol Blue Glass wine glasses, £30 each, Focus on the Past; art deco cocktail glasses, £365 for six, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. 1920s Turkish Panderma silk rug, £3,200, Rare Rugs. RIGHT: Art deco gilded dancing lady lamp c1920, £1,200, Regent Antiques. Art deco bronze study of a dancer c1925, £8,950, Jeroen Markies. Art deco bronze and marble figure by Demetre Chiparus c1925, £8,200; art deco bronze and marble dancer with a thyrsus, £3,900; art deco bronze and Brazilian onyx figure of a dancer by Josef Lorenzl c1930, £4,500, all Morgan Strickland Decorative Arts.
  2. LEFT: Art deco console table c1928, £8,800, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. On table (at the back): Süe et Mare art deco clock, £2,250, Jeroen Markies; Charles Catteau stoneware vase with painted stylised leaves c1920, £1,975, Matthew Foster Art Deco Gallery London; green-and-white Bakelite table lamp with matching shade, £785, The Design Gallery. On table (at the front): books, stylist’s own; Lalique glass clock, £4,650, Jeroen Markies; French marble mantel clock, £285, Savoy Art Deco Collectables. Caucasus Kuba soumak kilim, £2,450, Rare Rugs. RIGHT: 1920s Egyptian Revival appliqué rug, £1,950; 1920s Turkish rug, £1,450, both Rare Rugs. Geometric rug c1930, £1,250, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. 1920s Ghiordes rug, £2,700; silk Turkish rug c1920, £750, both Rare Rugs.
  3. LEFT: A Masked Ball watercolour and gouache on paper by Walpole Champneys, £2,900 for a pair; Epstein cloud chair, £8,900 for a three-piece suite, both Jeroen Markies. Jacket on chair, stylist’s own. Art deco mirror glass cocktail trolley, £750, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. On top shelf: art deco Champagne cooler, £690, Matthew Foster Art Deco Gallery London; art deco Champagne bucket, £650; art deco cocktail glass, £365 for six, both Gazelles of Lyndhurst; Napier cocktail shaker, £950; art deco cocktail shaker, £1,150, both Jeroen Markies; French perfume bottle base c1930, £440 for complete bottle, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. On bottom shelf: white bowl, stylist’s own; Bristol Blue Glass wine glasses, £30 each, Focus on the Past; art deco cocktail glasses, £365 for six, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. 1920s Turkish Panderma silk rug, £3,200, Rare Rugs. RIGHT: Art deco gilded dancing lady lamp c1920, £1,200, Regent Antiques. Art deco bronze study of a dancer c1925, £8,950, Jeroen Markies. Art deco bronze and marble figure by Demetre Chiparus c1925, £8,200; art deco bronze and marble dancer with a thyrsus, £3,900; art deco bronze and Brazilian onyx figure of a dancer by Josef Lorenzl c1930, £4,500, all Morgan Strickland Decorative Arts.
  4. LEFT: Antique art deco walnut display cabinet, £1,200, Regent Antiques. In cabinet (top shelves): René Lalique Rampillon vases, £1,875, The Design Gallery; £1,725, M&D Moir; Schneider Le Verre Francais Moonflask vase, £280, The Design Gallery. On second shelf: Peppermint René Lalique bowl, £2,500, M&D Moir; Moser emerald facet cut crystal vase with oroplastic frieze c1920, £750, Richard Hoppé Antiques; René Lalique Bammako vase, £2,650, The Design Gallery; Kralik c1925 marquetry vase, £980, M&D Moir. On bottom shelf: René Lalique Domremy vase, £1,480, Jeroen Markies; Daum Nancy geometric etched large green glass bowl, £1,950, Matthew Foster Art Deco Gallery. Walnut and burr occasional table, £480, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. Charles Catteau vase with leaping stag c1920s, £1,950, Matthew Foster Art Deco Gallery London. A Musical Idyll watercolour and gouache on paper by Walpole Champneys, £2,900 for a pair, Jeroen Markies. 1930s Turkish rug, £1,450, Rare Rugs. RIGHT: Art deco Lea & Boulton majolica tile (wreath) c1915, £60; brown art deco Malkin majolica tile (jewel) c1925, £95; brilliant colours art deco tile (pink flower) by Richards c1928, £70; art deco New Marsden classical tubeline majolica tile (purple/mauve flower) c1917, £45, all Tile Heaven. Green c1920 modernist tile by Servais Werke Ehrang, Germany #2, £110; mid-brown Ceramiques Herent Belgium abstract tile c1920s, £85, both Richard Hoppé Antiques.
    Peacock tile by Richards, £40; hand-stencilled fox tile by Polly Brace, £45; landscape tubeline tile by Richards, £40, all Hive Antiques.
  5. LEFT: Blue fabric, stylist’s own. Art deco walnut and burr walnut c1930 occasional table, £480, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. Thomas Forester & Son fan base vase, £250; Thomas Forester & Son
    tall vase, £750; Crown Devon twin-handled, hand-painted geometric vase, £450, all Gazelles of Lyndhurst. Glazed stoneware vase with stylised floral motif c1920s, £595; Longwy for Atelier Primavera glazed and craquelured art deco ceramic pot c1920s, £595, both Matthew Foster Art Deco Gallery London. RIGHT: Walnut dressing table with cloud shape mirror c1928, £2,800, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. Hand-blocked felt cloche hat with vintage trim, £90, Daisy Darling. Ostrich feathers, stylist’s own (find similar at The Little Crafty Bugs Company). French blue cut crystal art deco perfume bottle with powder bowl base by Francois Koozi c1930, £440, Gazelles of Lyndhurst. St Louis France bottle c1920s, £265; St Louis France scent spray c1920, £265; St Louis France crystal pot and cover with impressed gilding c1910, £230; St Louis France gilded crystal scent perfume bottle, £325; c1920s ruby overlay cut to clear crystal atomizer, £170, all Richard Hoppé Antiques. 1930s malachite (green) glass perfume bottle, £185; c1920s Moser Karlsbad amethyst glass (purple) perfume bottle with oroplastic frieze, £450, both Richard Hoppé Antiques. Pink vase, £35, Rachel’s and Michael’s Antiques. Pink art silk lace c1920s panel sample, £10 per m, Antiques Centre York. Handheld mirror, £85 as part of a set of three, Savoy Art Deco Collectables.