The Roaring Twenties was a time filled with optimism. The Great War was over and the economy was booming throughout the World. The Machine Age heralded an era of modernisation and a lifestyle filled with hopefulness, luxury and frivolity. Jazz music was in the air and women rejoiced in their new found liberty after winning the right to vote.
At the height of this period, a distinctive influential visual art design style was borne. Art Deco. It debuted at the Paris 1925 Exposition International des Art Decoratif et Industriels Moderne, and featured the works of some of the most prominent artists, architects, craftsmen and designers of their time.
Moving away from organic shapes, Art Deco was an eclectic mix of styles referencing Cubism, Art Nouveau, Modernism and Futurism. It was characterised by geometric shapes, smooth lines and symmetrical patterns. Colours were bright and vivid, contrasting sharply against modern materials like steel, aluminium and Bakelite. The look was Je ne sais quoi, but you knew it when you saw it.
Art Deco became a global movement between 1925 and 1940, embracing every area of design and the arts including architecture, interiors, furniture, jewellery, painting and graphics, bookbinding, costume, glass and ceramics. Archaeological discoveries like the treasures of Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb flared an international interest in all things Egyptian which ultimately influenced and fuelled the popularity of Art Deco.
Art Deco architecture is highly decorative. Buildings, hotels, cinemas, railway stations, etc. were all gilded with Deco patterns like zigzags, sunbursts, Egyptian motifs and similar geometric patterns.
Many Melbourne inner city suburbs have fine examples of Art Deco houses. A typical Melbourne Art Deco house features decorative motifs in the brickwork and “speed lines” in the building walls. The Art Deco house of the 1930’s was more streamline, uncluttered and featured nautical themes and porthole windows.
Some of the finest examples of Art Deco homes can be found in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne like ‘Mon Reve’ (My Dream) in Armadale. Built in 1938, this restored Art Deco mansion sold for over nine million dollars in 2012. This spectacular residence exhibits curved forms, nautical influenced façade, tower and Grecian inspired motif windows.
Mon Reve Armadale
Art Deco house in Elwood.
Example of Art Deco apartment building in St Kilda
Examples of Art Deco houses and apartments can be found all around inner Melbourne with strong representations in St Kilda, Kew, Camberwell, Brighton, Toorak and Ivanhoe.