The Art Deco style was resolutely orientated towards modernity as demonstrated by the choice of materials, techniques, and often futuristic lines. Art Deco mantels were very graphic and geometrical, whilst the ultimate focus of the Art Deco style was elegance and sobriety.
Historical influence was discarded in favour of modern ideas and decorative detail was sacrificed to function. Industrial designs and methods were adopted. Modern fireplace designs were often reflected in the worldwide craze for Egyptology, after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
The typical characteristics of the Art Deco mantel are clean lines and sharp edges, stylishness and symmetry, often with references to ancient Egyptian and Greek designs – Stylised flowers, women and animals, geometric patterns, zigzags, chevrons and lightning bolts show this clearly.
Also, elements of the Orient, tribal Africa and the Ballet Russes were to be found in Art Deco mantels. Other common motifs included geometric patterning, steps, setbacks and sunbursts.
There was a wealth of Art Deco mantel designs, using traditional materials but in a more spectacular way. The majority of mantels were made of wood, usually oak, walnut or mahogany, and these were lacquered to give a modern feeling without being overtly ornate.
Whilst the traditional homeowner would have incorporated a simple wooden surround with a modern ceramic insert, a true follower of Art Deco would have had a machine-manufactured complete ceramic unit.