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A Collection of Art Deco Bookends

There’s something so right about the combination of Asian imagery and art deco design, and these bookends by the famed French sculptor Pierre Ernest Bouret demonstrate why.  Asian design has a long heritage of minimalism paired with natural qualities, so in many cases, art deco is a kind of modern take on that same design philosophy that the Japanese and Chinese in particular have mastered over centuries.  The bold use of scarlet red pays tribute to the classic look of Chinese carved cinnabar lacquer, and make these art deco bookends especially unique.  The patina, especially on the male figure is spectacular and adds a tremendous rich quality as well.

Available at Paul Stamati in New York.Chinese Art Deco Bookends

As much as art deco embraces naturalist themes and often simply abstracts something beautiful from nature, every now and then only the defiantly machine-age will do.  These ultra-modern bookends fit the bill nicely; the hard black steel and bright nickel finish create a wonderful contrast, while the circular and spherical elements soften their look just enough to work in a home setting as well as an office.  Despite the hard quality to the design, there’s something really friendly about this piece that particularly appeals.  These were designed by the incomparable Walter Von Nessen, a famed modernist who immigrated from Germany to New York in the 20s, and is perhaps best known for his work with lamps.

Available at Lush Life in Dallas, Texas.  Modernist Bookends

I completely love the chunky, raw quality to these art deco bookends, but while they might look like weighty granite, they’re actually ceramic with a trompe l’oeil glaze.  Look closely and you can see the craquelure surface on the top of the pieces.  The geometric sensibility is classic to Marcel Guillard, the famed French designer who made these, and hundreds of other pieces at the height of the art deco period.  There’s so much to love about these – the jousting riders, the delicate, exaggerated hilt on the sword, the bulbous shield, the clean, sweeping design lines, even the thin legs of the riders with their pointy feet add such a rich layer of interest.  These are sadly quite pricey, otherwise I’d have them on my own shelf and I’d be just as likely to admire the bookends as contemplate a book from the shelf!

Available at Kelly Gallery in New York.  bookend4

These jewel-like art deco bookends of cut glass aren’t antiques at all, in fact they’re more hot-off-the-presses from the expert glassmakers at Ghiro Studio in Italy, but that doesn’t diminish their appeal at all in my book.  As any follower of this site can tell by now, I’m a huge fan of asymmetric design and these irregular pieces are perfect examples of why this approach to design works so well.  The haphazard facets catch your eye and add a layer of beauty to something that’s otherwise quite basic.  These would be ideal to hold my collection of vintage cocktail and modern cocktail books; they’re perfectly reminiscent of perfectly clear, sculpted ice.

Available at Lost City Arts in New York. Green Cut Glass Art Deco Bookends

These polar bear art deco bookends are a bit worn around the edges, but it gives them some undeniable character.  The real appeal for me though are the sleek, bronze bears.  Polar bears are a recurring animal in art deco design that you can find in cocktail shakers, ceramic figures, and other classic pieces.  They work nicely because they have a clean and modern look but still seem warm and friendly.  Of course, that’s not what I would expect if I were to actually face one of these ferocious creatures in the wild, but from a design perspective they’re a great marriage of naturalism and minimalism.

Available at Art Deco  Polar Bear Art Deco Bookends

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

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Gilded Age Art Deco Screen

Much like the maligned mobile, you don’t see many screens as an element of decor in many homes these days, but I’m not really sure why they ever fell out of favor.  For one, they’re often a beautiful way to divide up a room; whether it’s to hide a cluttered desk, a wet bar, or serve another cozy purpose.  I think you can also take a bolder risk with a screen than you would with drapery or wallpaper.  It’s not quite as permanent and overpowering because of it’s smaller footprint in a room, and the fact that it’s so easily moved.

So while this particular art deco screen employs the ultra-luxe materials of weathered gilt and black lacquer, it’s not the sort of thing that pushes a room into a tacky, bachelor pad territory.  In fact, I find it quite elegant in the way it has such a hard, flat surface balanced with very organic and playful imagery.  You might say this Art Deco screen couldn’t quite leave Art Nouveau behind, but is a piece in transition.  It has just enough of that touch of whimsy to be fun, even though it looks quite regal and serious on first glace.  It reminds me of the mashup of spirals and geometric shapes in Gustav Klimpt’s masterpiece mosaic, the Tree of Life, which sadly resides in the completely stunning yet closed-to-the-public – or shall I say, withheld from the public – Palais Stoclet in Brussels.

With luck, we’ll see the sage room screen make a return to glory – it sure seems like a category ripe for innovation.  Screens are about as simple as you can get from a construction point of view, so they are a perfect canvas for designers and artists to showcase their work without having to get the specialized skills of a carpenter or upholsterer.

Gilded Art Deco Screen



Available at Galleria d’Epoca in Miami

Friday, January 10th, 2014

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Futuristic Art Deco Table Lamps

Mallet never fails to impress – these spectacular table lamps are absolute showstoppers.  These lamps are quite sleek with such a vertical profile and I especially like the angular, electricity iconography in the tube frame.  It’s almost like three bolts are leaping from the base to the lightening rod finial.  Unfortunately, like all wonderful things from this dealer, they require some deep pockets.  Prepare to commit.

Available at the incomparable Mallet in London.

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

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9 Unconventional Antique Gifts

Vintage Bat Skeleton

While macabre for most, this beautifully posed skeleton might just be the perfect antique gift for those who long for a Victorian age.

vintage mounted bat skeleton

Available at Acorn in Haddonfield, NJ.

Flying Racer Sled

Perfect for the winter season and any collector of folk art or Americana, this sled has a nostalgic character that draws the eye.  The  painted imagery in the center has held up quite well over the years, and small details like the contrast edging on the wooden slats as well as the triangle inlays in the steering bar add that extra bit of charm.

Available at Rehab Vintage in Los Angeles, CA.

Antique Greek & Roman Statuary Art Print

It can be challenging to give such a personalized gift as an antique, fortunately there are pieces such as the print below which go with virtually any style.  This piece is actually one of an edition of four offered by the gallery, and would be just at home in an office, entryway, or any other area of the house in need of an extra bit of grandeur

Classical Greek and Roman Statuary Print

Available at Elizabeth Legge Gallery in Toronto, Canada.

Edgar Brandt 1st Edition Book, by Joan Kahr

A colossus of the art deco period, Edgar Brandt was perhaps the most influential decorative ironworker of the last century, having influenced other masters such as Raymond Subes and Paul Kiss.  This fascinating book by Brandt scholar Joan Kahr is filled with page after page of stunning documentation of his greatest achievements, and provides a good deal of background on the artist and his studio.  A quintessential item for deco enthusiasts.

edgar brand art deco ironwork book by joan kahr

Available at Potterton Books in Yorkshire, England.

Tiffany Picture Frames

Turn of the century glass works from Tiffany & Co. are typically out of the reach of most mortals, but these frames are an exception.  While still quite expensive for a frame, the richly colored stained glass and fine metalwork make a statement and are certain to last for years to come.  Think of this antique gift as investment.

antique louis comfort tiffany grapevines picture frame

Available at Bonhams 20th Century Decorative Art Auction in New York on Dec. 11, 2012

Midcentury Mobile Sculpture

A mobile sculpture isn’t an item you see in most homes, but I just can’t understand why.  These minimalist pieces add a flash of color and movement, and are an ideal accent to modern decor.  This particular piece, clearly channeling Calder, is no exception.

midcentury vintage red mobile

Available at BG Galleries in Hingham, MA.


Red Leather Nailhead Wingback Chairs

It takes a certain kind of person to give furniture as an antique gift, but honestly who could hate these magnificent wingbacks?  The style is immortal for anyone decorating a library or office.  They’re just as suited to the city as the country and given the leather upholstery and nailhead detail, are certain to only improve with age.

red leather wingback chairs

Available at Antiquario in San Francisco, CA.

Violet Regency Style Chairs

Perhaps the least approachable of all my picks, the regency style is one I love though not for everyone.  Well, I don’t care, these are fantastic no matter what anyone says.  The violet and gold on ebony oozes luxury with class; it’s the sort of piece one reserves for themselves in a personal sanctuary like the bedroom or walk in closet.

violet regency style chairs

Available at Umbrella in Hopewell, NJ.

Monday, November 26th, 2012
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Sheaf of Wheat French Antique Lamp

An icon of the luxe side of midcentury design, the gilt sheaf of wheat is one of my favorite visual elements for home decor.  There are plenty of examples out there, and you have to be careful to walk the line between gaudy and flimsy, which I think this particular example does nicely.  The individual stalks of the sheaf of wheat are pleasingly wide, varied in size as to seem more realistic, and sweetly curled like a ribbon as they struggle under the burdensome weight of the heads of grain. There’s a lifelike tautness about the design, as if the lamp would fall apart if you untied the detailed, finely threaded string in the center.  As a whole, this an expertly proportioned piece from the small, beaded base to the bulbous neck below the bulb.  And half a century on in its life, there’s a spectacular burnished patina that provides visual depth and additional drama to the piece.

gilt sheaf of wheat lamp

As symbols go, the sheaf of wheat has been around for centuries, but rose to prominence in furniture during the 1940s and 50s when Parisian fashion designers such as Coco Chanel and Yves Sant Laurent made it a staple in their own homes.  Ever since, their popularity has grown, with high points in Italy during the 60s, and Hollywood during the 70s.  You’ll often find sheaf of wheat pieces in the states made from metal, and with more of a dull color; the finest items are made from gilt wood and naturally tend to be earlier works.

Available at Glo in Miami, Florida.

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

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