We are about to sink $15,000 into refurbishing the 420 square feet of our Dead Roach Motel. (It was recently tented.) Jerry and I have spent hours and hours sorting, boxing up, and labeling the contents of all Tim’s shelves, bookcases (cardboard and otherwise), drawers, cupboards, counters, and tables, saving Tim’s random rocks, feathers, and what he calls art by supposedly up-and-coming artists he knows personally. (One painting is a life-sized oil of a nurse holding a hypodermic needle.)
We met yesterday with the two men who will head up the work party to spackle, grout, sand, paint, rip out, uncover, and re-do everything from popcorn ceilings to kitchen cupboards which look like they were fingerpainted with chocolate pudding to give a faux (tres faux) Tuscan effect.
As Dana led us around our condo-in-name-only he pointed out the cove ceilings, the ironing board folded up into the wall, the keyhole for a real old-fashioned key we actually have. “I won’t change those,” he said. “They’re nice touches.” I had been too distracted by holes, cracks, stains–and by Tim’s reproduction of David fitting over the light switch in the bathroom in a most disconcerting way–to notice “nice touches.” He showed us the rounded windows in the closet and bathroom, the chipped bright turquoise and pale yellow tile, the peach and white checkered linoleum.
“Art Deco,” he said. The apartment house was built in 1923.
Art Deco! Art Deco isn’t my favorite style of design. Wikipedia says, “Art Deco emerged from the Interwar period when rapid industrialization was transforming culture. One of its major attributes is an embrace of technology. . . It is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. The style is often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and lavish ornamentation. . .”
Historian Bevis Hillier defined Art Deco as “assertively modern. . . rectilinear rather than the curvilinear; it responded to the demands of the machine and of new material [and] the requirements of mass production”.
I don’t like modern, I don’t like rectilinear, I’m not into bold geometric shapes and I don’t want to embrace technology or anything that looks like a machine. But Art Deco is a definite Style. It isn’t nothing. It isn’t just random, square rooms with no character at all–or colors mis-matched at random. These colors were mis-matched on purpose! Dana and Mikael are going to restore the modern, geometric, rectilinear of the original design, the glorious pastel yellow and peach with its original startling aqua (but without David, thank God).
We’ll have Style, Dahling, and I may even buy a few prints of long, stringy women in flappy hats to carry the theme through. I foresee the day when Jerry and I end up living there ourselves–it is the only equity we have–and I can learn to live with 420 square feet of Art Deco if it’s our only option.
I could even learn to like it.
Note: Just down the road from us, The Queen Mary has some of the best examples of Art Deco in the world, on woods, metals, glass, marble, enamel, and linoleum. This video of the Grand Salon doesn’t show much of the famous Art Deco mural on the back wall but it does show all kinds of food served at their Sunday brunch (Hint: The Grand Salon ought to be nicknamed The Grand Salmon) and it totally convinced me Jerry needs to take me there for some special occasion. (It’s $50 a person.)