Art Deco design is having a moment once more and if you find yourself longing to combine the clean, sleek lines of modern furniture with the comfort and elegance of antiques, then you are likely dreaming of Deco. Characterised by a combination of 18th-century sensuousness and 20th-century efficiency, the look is all about visually captivating geometric lines and flowing arches reflecting a world energised by jazz and Cubism, the construction of skyscrapers, the popularisation of automobile travel and Hollywood films. We stepped inside Bar Américain – the stylish watering hole of Piccadilly Circus’ newest restaurant Brasserie Zédel – and spoke to interior designer David Collins, who was behind the refurbishment that was part of a £300 million Quadrant 3 development.
It entailed creating a forgotten dream that was part of the past and making it relevant for the present
As one of London’s most famous examples of the style, that was revitalised by revered West End stage set designer Olivier Bernard in the 1930s, the space has been painstakingly restored over the past three years.
Timber veneer, gold leaf architraving, marble, brass, mirrors, ceilings and even original wallpaper have been meticulously catalogued, removed and reinstated by expert artisan craftsmen before being put back together like a complex jigsaw. When one enters the bar, David explains, they experience “a feeling and aura of subtle grandeur. A sense of being sent away to a secretive hub of luxury”.
Here, we share with you some insights into how David approached this project and what he was inspired by.
What was the brief from Rex Restaurants?
They wanted it to be a relaxed, but glamorous location – not intimidating, comfortable, fun and unique.
How long did it take and just what went into it?
The major restoration to the shell of the building had taken place with the architects Donald Insall working with the Crown Estate. I spent three months making it a destination – turning it from a room to a bar, from a monument to a living room.
What were you inspired by for this project?
I was inspired by the colour of the maple panelling and I wanted to add the louche touches of the zebra skin pattern carpet – a bit 30s but also a throwback to the Art Deco moment of Biba and 70s Art Deco London.
What state was the place in when you began?
Where did you source the pieces and materials from for the job?
We have a loyal, talented pool of artisans that we work with who created the fabrics, artwork and details for the furnished interior.
What are the highlights of the finished project?
The centrepiece buzz and jazz of the bar and comfortable seating. The new elements successfully merging within the existing, forgotten fabric. The subtle glints of light bouncing off the brass elements.
What is so special about Art Deco interiors/style?
What I find so fascinating about Art Deco is that the huge shift to modernisation that was seen was so different to everything that came before, and has dominated design since.
What are your go-to shops, markets or brands for great Art Deco furniture?
The galleries of Paris are always inspiring.