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We sell and restore original Art Deco Lighting, as well as featuring Art Deco Design as an inspiration for some of our own Fritz Fryer designs.  You can find out about the history and origins of Art Deco here, along with style ideas and influential designers.

When was the term Art Deco first used?

The term Art Deco or Arts Décoratifs as it was actually described at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris actually first appeared in print around 1858 in a French magazine called the Bulletin de la Société française de photographie (link).

The fuller term objets d'art décoratifs subsequently appeared in the September 18th 1868 editions of  Le Figaro newspaper with respect to objects for stage scenery created for the Théâtre de l'Opéra (link).

The French Government decided to give glass designers and other craftsmen an official status of artist in 1875 using the term “arts décoratifs” and in return the École royale gratuite de dessin (Royal Free School of Design) was renamed the National School of Decorative Arts (l'École nationale des arts décoratifs). It changed its name once more to ENSAD (École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs) in 1927.

Turin (Italy) held the first international exhibition devoted to the decorative arts in 1902, the Esposizione international d'Arte decorative moderna. Many magazines focusing on decorative arts were launched in Paris, including Arts et décoration and L'Art décoratif moderne. Decorative arts sections were introduced into the annual salons of the Sociéte des artistes français, and later in the Salon d'automne (link).

Some French home furnishings designers felt challenged by the increasing number of inexpensive imports from Germany. The SAD proposed holding a major international exposition of decorative arts in 1912. They insisted on the exclusion of old styles from the presentations; only allowing what they deemed to be modern works. The exhibit was postponed several times, 1912, 1914 and then finally opening in 1925 with the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

The architect Le Corbusier wrote a series of articles for his magazine L'Esprit Nouveau called , "1925 Expo: Arts Déco" along with a compilation book called, "L'art décoratif d'aujourd'hui" (Decorative Art Today). The book criticised the use of colorful and lavish objects at the 1925 Exposition and suggested that practical objects such as furniture should have no decoration at all;  "Modern decoration has no decoration". Le Corbusier favored aesthetics closer to the Bauhaus movement, his architectural works were anti-decorative and excluded expensivr and exotic materials promoted by Art Deco artists. However, due to Art Deco’s close relation to modernist aesthetics and Le Corbusier’s early works as a decorator, his name became essential in any talk about the history of Art Deco.

The "Arts Deco" phrase that Le Corbusier used was adapted in 1966 for the title of the first modern exhibit on the subject, called Les Années 25 : Art déco, Bauhaus, Stijl, Esprit nouveau, which covered the major styles of the 1920s and 1930s.

Art Deco became a widely applied stylistic label in 1968 when historian Bevis Hillier published the first significant academic book on the style: Art Deco of the 20s and 30s (link).

What is Art Deco

Art Deco is considered by some critics as a pastiche of styles with many diverse influences from Art Nouveau, Art Moderne, Bauhaus and the Arts and Crafts movement.  This can sometimes make Art Deco difficult to distinguish but one of its primary features is its focus on the future and celebration of modern progressive ideas.

Thou Art Deco objects were initially rarely mass-produced, the characteristic features of the style reflected the inherent design qualities of machine-made objects through relative simplicity, planarity, symmetry, angular and geometric repetition of elements.

High quality materials were common, ranging from man-made substances like Bakelite; vita-glass; and ferroconcrete along with natural and more precious materials like jade, silver, ivory, obsidian, chrome, and rock crystal.

Some of the most influential styles that Art Deco took inspiration from included Cubism, and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (link) along with Art Nouveau and the Bauhaus. Also significant was the influence of early Hollywood glamour with the world of the silver screen filtering through the designs using shiny fabrics, subdued lighting, and mirrors. Cocktail cabinets and smoking paraphernalia became highly fashionable.

Decorative ideas came from newly rediscovered and appreciated Native North American, Mesoamerican and Egyptian styles along with early classical sources. Modern advancements in technology was also celebrated in the decorations so things like images of aeroplanes, cars, cruise liners and skyscrapers were often used.  Nature also played its part as a significant inspirational source with motifs commonly including nude female figures, animals, foliage, flowers, shells and sun rays.

The dramatic and beautiful designs of the Art Nouveau period with decorative coloured finishes were replaced by styles that included chrome, alabaster and white or clear glass, etched or sandblasted to achieve depth and texture.  While colour was also used, this tended to be more vibrant and contrasting with highly polished wood and glossy black lacquer mixed with satin and furs and even mirrors and mirrored tiles.

Art Deco Lighting

The Art Deco style came to prominence in the 1920’s just as electricity was finally becoming widely available and the increased flexibility it offered meant light could be applied to a wider range of possible locations.

As the potential for electrical lighting availability increased an industry sprung up to take advantage of its growth and popularity, and architectural lighting became an important business. Many magazines and articles were published and most leading architects would seek advice from lighting engineers and designers.

Interior lights like table lamps, chandeliers and sconces were made from steel, chrome or polished bronze, but materials like wood and Bakelite were more common.  Shapes became more geometric and linear with motifs such as parallel lines, sunbursts, fountains, and ziggurats but animal designs also became popular such as horses, cats or birds.  

Many lamps were highly abstract with angular lines and mechanisms for directing the light in different directions.  Glass or porcelain could be used to fashion lampshades or even the entire base of table lamps, with noteworthy creations from René Lalique (link) such as the Entrelacs table lamp with its clear and frosted glass, geometric interlace motif base and a frosted glass rectangular ribbed shade (circa 1926) or the Camelia lamp with its ribbed rectangular glass shade (circa 1928).   

Uplighting became very popular with wall and standing lamps as well as ceiling lights employing this technique to create subtle diffuse light within rooms.  Wall sconces in milky opalescent glass were also employed to direct light upwards.

How to get the Art Deco Look

  • Lighting - lights were often made of glass and chrome (which was a new, modern material at the time). Glass would have been etched, sandblasted or enamelled. White glass and colored Tiffany-style glass were also very common. lights featuring female figures holding the ball of the lamp are typical.  Consider the mood, uplighting was very popular during this period and created a very different and subtle effect compared to standard downlights and lamps.  It's still possible to find fixtures that are original to the period.
  • Themes - the stepped profile is the epitome of the art deco shape, found everywhere from uplighters to picture surrounds. Also look for repetition, zigzags, chevrons and lightning bolts.  Along with these strong geometric patterns we would also see sunbursts, leaves, branches and feathers along animal designs such as horses, cats and birds.
  • Colour - bold colour schemes such as bright and deep yellows, reds, greens, blues, and pinks mix well with silver, black and chrome. If you want something softer try creams, greens and beige, or oyster and eau-de-nil for living rooms and bedrooms.
  • Furniture - choose strong, streamlined shapes with no frills. Furniture made of exotic woods like zebrawood, as well as chrome and mirrored pieces make great centerpieces. Art Deco furniture tends to be large in scale so don't be afraid to buy big pieces. Sideboards, armoires and generously sized chairs are all typical of the period.
  • Fabrics - stick to plain or geometric fabrics and add highlights with cushions also in one solid block of colour.
  • Floors - plain polished parquet is perfect for floors. Linoleum in abstract designs or black and white chequerboard vinyl tiles are also typical.  
  • Rugs - floors would have been overlaid with a large rug in geometric patterns. These were often handmade by artists such as Duncan Grant (of Bloomsbury Group fame).
  • Fireplaces - fireplaces should be rectangular and bold. Surrounds were often tiled in pink, green or beige. They were made of concrete and not many survive today.
  • Cupboards - cabinets, wardrobes, etc should be in pale veneered wood and simple shapes in keeping with the light, airy feel.

Art Deco Designers of influence

René Lalique (1860 -1945)

René Lalique was born in Aÿ-en-Champagne in the Marne region of France in 1860. Some years later, the Lalique family moved to Paris but continued to spend holidays in Aÿ. René Lalique remained deeply attached to his birthplace throughout his life.

At the age of 16, following the death of his father, René Lalique became an apprentice to craftsman and jeweller Louis Aucoc. It was during this time that he learned jewellery-making techniques, while attending classes at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He then left for England where he continued his studies for two more years.

In 1885, after gaining recognition as an independent designer for some of the great jewellery Houses such as Jacta, Cartier and Boucheron, he opened his own workshop on Place Gaillon in Paris, the former workshop of Jules Destape. Within a decade, Lalique was amongst the best-known Parisian jewellers.

In 1887, Lalique set up business on Rue du Quatre-Septembre and shortly afterwards he designed his first parures in finely-wrought gold inspired by Antiquity and Japonism, and broke with jewellery-making tradition by including innovative materials in his pieces. Lalique made the materials he used central to his designs. He chose them for their power, light and colour, whether they were precious or not. He combined gold and gemstones with semi-precious stones, mother-of-pearl, ivory and horn, in addition to enamel and glass.

In 1888, René Lalique registered his “RL” stamp and engraved the unique pieces created in his workshop with these letters.

1890 saw his first experiments and designs using glass. Lalique already used enamel and glass, side-by-side with gold, opals, diamonds, pearls or amethysts, to embellish his jewellery.

Over the next decade he won many competitions and took part in exhibitions including the 1900 Great Exhibition in Paris. He created jewellery for well-known entertainers such as actress Sarah Bernhardt. He revolutionised jewellery styles of the period, becoming a favourite with leading socialites, was commissioned by the great courts of Europe and collected by the world's wealthy, and was admired by this peers.

It was that same year he was also named Officer of the French Legion d'Honneur.

In 1921 he founded the Verrerie d’Alsace glassworks at Wingen-sur-Moder in Alsace, at the heart of a region with a strong and historic glassmaking tradition.

The 1925 International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris marked the climax of René Lalique’s career as glassmaker, and a triumph for the Art Deco movement. His techniques with glass gave rise to a style that was essentially expressed through the contrast between clear and frosted glass. He sometimes added a patina or enamel or used stained glass.

He was chosen to undertake the decoration of the Côte d’Azur Pullman Express carriages along with many other large-scale interior design projects, these included decorating the famous fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet’s haute couture salons, designing glass doors for Prince Yasuhiko Asaka’s residence in Tokyo and creating the fountain which for a time decorated the Galerie des Champs-Elysées in Paris. He then participated in the interior design of the vast first-class dining room of the luxury liner Normandie which included designing lighting columns and chandeliers.

Marius-Ernest Sabino (1878 - 1961)

One of Lalique’s most noteworthy competitors was Marius-Ernest Sabino.  He also had a display at the 1925 Paris Exhibition and was well-known for his lighting, producing the lighting for the Salons d'Automne Art Exhibitions, and creating pieces for the ocean liner, the Normandie.

Marius Sabino was born in Sicily in 1878 but moved moved to France while he was still a young boy. He studied at L'Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs and the Beaux Arts de Paris, where he became fascinated by the impact of electricity on glass manufacturing and his interest in glass production came through the study of electric lights in particular. He founded a factory which manufactured traditional lights fittings of wood or bronze and then quickly changed to glass.

In 1925, Sabino created an opalescent glass with a blue hue and iridescent impressions of either clouds in a blue sky, light striking a soap bubble or a reflection from water surface. He designed and made special lighting for a luxury cruise ship (Ile de france) in 1927, and a lighted fountain column for the Grand Salon of Normandy in 1935.

His early opalescent glass had a higher arsenic content than most of his competitors, but the formulation was probably amended in the 1940’s to reduce the arsenic content.

Verart and Vernox were alternative brand names used by Sabino during the 1930's to compete with cheaper competitors like Holophane/Verlys. He also created impressive chandeliers, some of which were often huge in size, predominantly made of glass.  

Jean Perzel (1892 - 1986)

Jean Perzel was born in Bavaria, 1892 and studied as a glassworker in Munich but travelled across Europe learning various aspects of his trade. By 1910 he arrived in Paris and secured a job at a glassworks studio with a  master glazier who eventually sent him to work on a project in Algiers. After the war he becomes a naturalised French man and gained work as a painter for the Gruber glassworks.

In 1923, at the age of just 31 he established his own company specialising in interior design and lighting. Perzel company came to fruition just as Art Deco was becoming a powerful influence on architecture and design.  His light fixtures and furniture in both glass and bronze would adorne the world’s most prestigious abodes including the King’s Court in Belgium, Morocco, Siam, the home of Henry Ford and the Rothschild’s family residence. He also designed the lighting for the League of Nations in Geneva, the Luxembourg Cathedral, the Embassy of Canada at Lahaye, and even the French cruise ship Normandie.

He located his showroom and workshop in the rue de la cité universitaire in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, In an Art Déco building designed by the architect Michel Roux-Spitz, winner of the Grand Prix de Rome.

In 1925 motivated by a desire to intensify light, Jean Perzel made all of his pieces from glass. He designed his creations himself in a permanent search for elegance and purity in all forms.

In 1933, his nephew, François Raidt joined the company and quickly became a significant member of the business, designing, refining and simplifying assembly line production of Perzel lamps.


Antonin Petitot started his bronze making company in 1878. His son Henri took over in 1917 who sold light fixtures in both a retail shop in Paris and through catalogues which distributed lamps throughout Europe and the United States. In the 1930s they partnered with some of the finest glasswork producers such as Muller, Sabino, Degue and Schneider while they specialised in the metalwork of the lighting products.

Together with Hettier & Vincent they became the largest producer of French art deco lighting in the early 1930s. Petitot produced precious fixtures in high quality heavy bronze with shades from the best French glass manufacturers such as Sabino, Muller Freres, Degue and Schneider.


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