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Focus on: Art Deco


Clever collectors realised the importance and appeal of Art Deco furniture in the 1960s, but it took another 20 to 30 years for it to become valuable and sought-after. Everyone from Elton John to Barbra Streisand favoured the glamorous, luxurious and quirky style, further propelling its popularity. The problem for any would-be collector today is how and where to begin: from modernist clocks to Art Deco glass, few seasoned buyers of these antiques purchase haphazardly.

What is Art Deco? 

From flamboyantly avant-garde Art Deco wardrobes to traditional Art Deco desks, there are many versions of Art Deco style. While we primarily associate it with the 1920s and 30s, it was born before the First World War. To make things even more complicated, the phrase itself was only coined in 1966 - deriving from the French term for decorative arts (art decoratifs) used in the title of a museum exhibition held in Paris in 1925. 

While it’s agreed that Art Deco style had its first roots in France, the wildly varied range of designs took influences from everywhere: South America, Japan, China, Egypt, Art Nouveau, and vitally - the Ballets Russes. The truly avant-garde movement borrows from a variety of cultures into one essential theme - ‘modernity’. From geometric jugs to Art Deco sideboards, the eclectic style was a daring one for a generation with Victorian parents. Many Art Deco lights, clocks, sideboards, tables, pottery and more feature geometric designs which take their roots from neoclassicism - a design response to the excesses of Victorian pieces. 

How to recognise Art Deco

While fascinatingly mixed in its influences, it’s fairly hard to mistake Art Deco for any other style. Geometric lines, gorgeous veneers, clean lines and immaculate attention to detail - it’s sumptuous and intoxicating for collectors and admirers alike. 

- Furniture: Art Deco sideboards, wardrobes, desks and more

Whether you’re browsing interwar dressing tables or Art Deco desks for sale, a key characteristic to look out for is the bold precision of shapes and forms. Art Deco tables - condition depending - can certainly bring a decent investment. The more unusual Art Deco tables for sale demand more - a walnut dining table from 1930 with a quirky U-shaped support and eye-catching veneers can fetch up to £1,000. Some of the main protagonists in Art Deco tables, chairs and other furniture include Paul Follot (1877-1941), Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann (1879-1933) and father-and-son team Léon and Maurice Jallot.

- Art Deco clocks

Art Deco clocks are a heavy investment opportunity. Streamlined, geometrical and modernist, you’ll immediately spot Art Deco clocks for sale by their machine-like aesthetic. France and Switzerland were the leading producers of these pieces in Europe, creating masterpieces in marble, brass, onyx and Art Deco glass. Many French Art Deco clocks were topped with fascinating historic figurines: everything from Diana the Huntress to a pair of lovebirds.

- Art Deco glass

Art Deco glass is wonderfully averse to ageing (read our guide to glass antiques for more on this), preserving extravagance, dexterity and opulent style for centuries to come. Key designers of Art Deco glass include Rene Lalique, Maurice Marinot and Schneider - and you’ll recognise Art Deco glass for sale from its geometric patterns, bold hues, fancy figures and exuberant motifs (often of animals and women). Prices paid for Art Deco glass today would have been scoffed at decades ago - but with the right eye you can make a truly worthwhile investment. 

- Art Deco lights 

From petit Art Deco lights made for desk spaces to gigantic swaying fixtures designed for cruises or hotel lobbies, this varied style of lighting is hugely rewarding for collectors. The most common Art Deco lights for sale are chrome table lamps from the 1920s. Those from French designers are highly sought-after: a three-shade chromed-metal desk lamp by Marc Errol on a green-glass base can fetch up to £3,000.

Of course, the golden rule is to buy what you love and not just go for what you think is a brilliant investment. Whether it’s ultra-glam Art Deco dressing tables you’ve got your eye on or you’ve landed on a range of Art Deco wardrobes for sale, research and confidence should guide you to what’s genuine and well-priced - something you’re always assured of from the quality dealers at Hemswell Antiques. From Art Deco desks to Art Deco sideboards for sale, browse our range of furniture online or come visit us in our extensive centre to experience upclose Art Deco glory for yourself.


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