|Mood Board for the 1920's WFCP Color Challenge|
Well, anyone who knows me won't be surprised that I put many, many hours into this project, while my husband kept asking me, "Why are you doing this again? They aren't paying you for this, are they?" I researched the decade extensively, not just a quick google search or two, either -- I read entire books like Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940: How Americans Lived Through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression by David E. Kyvig, Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz, and Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920's by Frederick Lewis Allen, originally published in 1931 when the Roaring 'Twenties were still fresh in everyone's memory. I wanted to dig deep into the decade and distill my own essence of the era before extrapolating and updating the inspiration decade in my design for a modern client.
|Madonna, Pop Icon, Modern Flapper, and Collector of Art Deco Paintings|
I was asked to submit "a few paragraphs" telling the story behind my design, and this is what I submitted:
Looking back 90 years later, biased by our knowledge of the impending Great Depression and the horrors of World War II lurking just around the corner, it’s easy to oversimplify the 1920s as a decade of flappers, speakeasies and frivolous binging that was inevitably followed by the collapse and come-uppance of the stock market crash at the end of 1929. Yet, to those who lived through this decade, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead, the 1920s must have been an incredibly exciting and terrifying time to be alive. Just imagine: The Great War has just ended, and Europeans and Americans are celebrating peace and focusing on rebuilding and renewal. In the United States, we’re so sure this peace will last that our Senate rejects membership in the League of Nations. Also in 1920, the 19th Amendment went into effect after ratification by the 36th state, finally brought the vote to American women after 150 years of struggle on the part of the suffragists. However, the changes in women’s political status, opportunities, and fashions were deeply disturbing to many Americans, particularly among older Americans, those living in rural areas, and in the South (I was horrified to discover that North Carolina did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1972!). The New Woman of the 1920s was not as welcome outside of the big cities, and her risqué clothing, independence, and flagrant sexuality were viewed by many as androgynous or even dangerous.
Almost a century later, American women are still struggling to balance our professional ambitions with our romantic and maternal instincts, to find that equilibrium between power and femininity, to figure out just what it means – and what it doesn’t have to mean – to be a woman. So for this design challenge, I wanted to create a luxurious, feminine, but empowering retreat for today’s American woman, inspired by the aspirations and contradictions of the New Woman of the 1920s.
|Portrait de Madame Allan Bott by Tamara de Lempicka|
Art Deco exploded artistically in the 1920s, and although I adore Coco Chanel and industrial designer Donald Deskey, I turned to Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka for the chief creative catalyst for my design. Portrait de Madame Allan Bott presents the New Woman of the 1920s against a backdrop of harsh urban skyscrapers, her skin soft and sensual, but her expression chiseled and impersonal. She’s dressed in a feminine embroidered silk dress, draped and flowing and skimming over her curves, but I was struck by how muscled and strong her bare arms and shoulders look – so different from the traditional feminine ideal of the 19th century, yet so remarkably similar to the more athletic ideal woman of the 21st century. Once I found this painting, everything else fell into place.
|My 1920's inspired Fantasy Room Elevation|
I chose the arched window shape and the geometric limestone fireplace surround as a nod to Art Deco architecture a la Deskey’s Radio City Music Hall on the Inspiration Board. My lambrequin design is from Jackie Von Tobel’s The Design Directory of Window Treatments. I just love how the sensuous lines of this lambrequin shape echo the curve of the raised shoulder in my painting, and I deliberately allowed some of the window molding to peek out on the short sides of the cornices above the swags because it felt risqué and accidental-on-purpose to do so, like the model’s knee peeking out from the folds of her dress. The face fabric on the lambrequins is a knife pleated, subtly patterned silk incorporating the blues and greens from the inspiration board and is the same fabric I used on the sofa. The strong vertical lines of the lambrequin pleats, as well as the vertically striped silk and velvet fabric on the bases and inside backs of the French tub chairs, are intended to echo the strong vertical lines of the cityscape in the painting’s background. The seat cushions are in a green silk velvet pulled from one of the stripes in the main chair fabric, and that’s as close as I got to color AF465 Wind Chime (I think the nurse’s office of my elementary school was painted that color, and when I look at that shade of green for longer than a minute I feel ill).
Vervain that reminded me of the dress fabric in the painting, interlined with bump, and I used color AF610 Batik for my welt cord on the lambrequins. The banding on the lambrequins is a matte silk satin in a deeper shade of color AF670 Nightingale. My walls are in color AF55 Sonnet and the baseboards, crown molding and window trim are all painted color AF490 Tranquility. I found a beautiful hand-woven cotton and wool area rug from Lee Jofa called Mayapple, with the pale pinks and blues of the inspiration board against a neutral background, and something about the happy little circle motifs on this carpet reminded me of the patchwork quilts from the 1920's. I love to play fast and loose with pattern mixing anyway, partly because of my personal quilting fetish, but also because I like to use a lot of high end silks and other formal fabrics in my designs but I don’t want to create rooms that feel too formal to relax in. Mixing multiple patterns and avoiding the “matching look” as much as possible helps to take the edge off formal fabrics, makes a room seem more comfortable psychologically, and injects playful energy into my designs.
I knew early on that I wanted to select light fixtures from Fine Art Lamps’ Beveled Arcs collection for this design challenge. The innovative curved crystal prisms in this collection are a perfect example of the impact of technology on design, and the muted silver finish on the crystal sconces and the mirror-topped metal end tables are my updated interpretation of the chrome that was all the rage in the 1920's. The vase of calla lilies on the far right reminded me of my grandmother’s wedding bouquet, and the disheveled stack of books indicates that someone does a lot of reading in these chairs by the fire. Finally, the romantic in me couldn’t resist – I found a circa 1920 bronze sculpture of a pair of dancers that was auctioned off recently at Christie’s (on the console behind the sofa) and decided to further accessorize my fantasy interior with champagne for two and a little blue box from Tiffany’s. I liked the dichotomy between the tough girl in the painting who doesn’t seem to need anyone and the tenderness of the little bronze dancer, content for all time to be locked in a loving, supporting embrace.
Here's a closer look at some of the fabrics and other goodies I used in this design:
|Paesaggio fabric in Celadon from Vervain, used on sofa and on lambrequin cornices|
|Fleurs de Mer-BD fabric in Peridot, from the Barry Dixon collection for Vervain, used for drapery panels|
|Greenland Sea silk fabric from Beacon Hill in Mimosa, used on seat cushions and outside backs of tub chairs|
|Beveled Arcs sconce from Fine Art Lamps|
|Faux Calla Lilly arrangement from Natural Decorations, Inc.|
|"Manier" limestone fireplace mantel from François & Co.|
|from the November 2010 issue of Window Fashion Vision magazine|
What disappointed me most about this is that, unlike with a real project with a real client, I never got any feedback on my design. No one told me what they didn't like about it and I didn't get a chance to make revisions. I can speculate that maybe they wanted brighter colors for a more attention-grabbing spread in the magazine (although I thought that using the colors from the mood board was the whole point of the challenge)or that they didn't like the lower-resolution product images I incorporated in my design because they would not have printed well in the magazine, but I really don't know where I missed the mark for sure. Anyway, that's the way the cookie crumbles. At the end of the day, my husband was right -- it was foolish of me to put so much time and effort into an imaginary project, especially when I have so many other things on my plate right now. Also, I had misunderstood the terms of the challenge -- I didn't realize that multiple designers were all vying for the same decade; I thought that I was the only one working on the 1920s decade so I was really shocked to see someone else's design published instead of mine.
A friend of mine suggested I turn this lemon into a lemonade blog post, so that's what I've done. I don't need to have my design published in a magazine, but I really love what I did for this challenge and I wanted to share it with someone. From here on out, I think I'll stick to creating designs for real clients who value my ideas enough to pay me for them. So take that, Madonna!