Back to the Future

Mixing Art Deco with cool mid-century-Modern proves that being up-to-the-minute entails a trip to the past.

Photography by Curtis Comeau

Sleek black surfaces, gleaming gold accents, geometric patterns, teak wood – even wallpaper – it all sounds like my parents’ house, decorated in the ’70s and ’80s. Yes, it’s the poster child of the next big wave in interior design. Why don’t we just toss in a macram plant hanger and complete the look?

Because even though it seems like the latest trend in home dcor is a return to the glitzy splendor of Miami Vice, this isn’t entirely the case. Interior designer Yamina Ortynski of Y Design explains that what we’re interpreting as the ’80s is actually from a source in which that decade took its cue – the Art Deco period of the ’20s and ’30s. “That’s where the gold and black is coming from,” she says. “It’s completely Art Deco.”

Ortynski goes on to explain that the latest dcor trend for 2013 fully comes into view when these Art Deco elements are mixed with clean Modern lines, rich, tawny shades, and natural woods such as teak and walnut – design details that come straight out of the style files of the ’50s and ’60s. She sums it up as “caramel leathers and golden hues with Danish teak furniture and pops of gold and black. That’s the look. It’s Modernity meets luxury.”

Why is this look becoming so popular now? From a design perspective, Ortynski believes it’s because this style combines chic elements from two past eras in a way that feels streamlined yet decadent, and appeals to both genders equally.

“It’s the perfect pairing: men love it because it’s got the wood grains, the sharp edges, the touches of black. And ladies love it because it’s glamorous and completely luxurious. That’s why people are drawn to it – we all want to feel a little bit glamorous.”

Give it the Midas touch

Art Deco in this context is essentially black and gold mixed with objets d’art. Placing a bronze statue or a black-and-gold lamp on top of a Modern table is one way to set the scene. Or choose a lamp with an animal motif (also very trendy now) like a black sphinx, which is a more subtle starting point, and you can then pair it with a sleek cream leather sofa and a luxurious animal-print area rug. Ortynski notes “they’re now texturing cowhide rugs with gold, so that’s a really good way of mixing the styles.”

If you’re really feeling courageous, update your silver chrome faucets to gold. “Gold fixtures are back with a vengeance,” says Ortynski, who quickly points out that it’s not the shiny brass from the ’70s and ’80s era. “These hues are more true to gold and more matte.”

Boldly go with wallpaper

Creating an accent wall with decorative wallpaper lends an immediate nod to this interior style. People tend to be hesitant with wallpaper, but Ortynski explains this is not the same stuff that lines your grandmother’s house. “Wallpaper has changed; it’s easy to put up and it’s easy to remove. There are so many amazing styles and geometric patterns and, if you get tired of it, you can always take it down.”

Hit up the refurbishing stores

These are great places to find tables, nightstands and other mid-century Modern gems that your parents tossed out. “If you’re lucky, you can still find some of this stuff at garage sales,” notes Ortynski, who suggests giving these pieces a facelift by painting them black or white and adding some gold hardware. 

Look for furniture with slim legs and angled cabinet faces, which is typical of mid-century Modern design. If you’re not all over the idea of trawling second-hand furniture stores and garage sales, furniture manufacturers are now reproducing the original designs and making them more affordable. 

“To buy the real Barcelona chair is incredibly expensive but there are so many knock-offs of that design,” says Ortynski. “We always look to the past, take what’s good, and bring it to the present,”

She notes that the Art Deco-meets-Modern look is defining what we consider to be ultra contemporary, but many don’t realize it comes from the ’50s and ’60s. Just going to show that no matter how hot the current trend is, the past will always be hipper than now.

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