After reading Murder with a Twist (by Tracy Kiely), I decided to write about the decor of Nick and Nora Charles since the book is reminiscent of The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett. Ms. Kiely’s modern-day characters, Nic and Nigel Martini, do harken back to the 1930’s of Dashiell Hammett’s since they, too, are married and trying to solve a murder. Instead of a wiry terrier, the Martinis have a giant mastiff dog– yet still take him everywhere. The style of art and architecture during the time of Mr. Hammett is called Art Deco.
In my research of The Thin Man and it’s author, Dashiell Hammett, I discovered that Mr. Hammett was born on the eastern short of Maryland (not far from where I live). He based most of his detective stories on the people he knew as an operative for the Pinkerton detective agency. Hammett’s name was actually SAMUEL DASHIELL and may have influenced him in naming his main character, Sam Spade, in his book The Maltese Falcon.
In the 1930’s, after the stock market crash, the world was in turmoil….unemployment, poverty, and horrors perpetrated by Hitler. Even among these hardships, several art movements flourished such as the Mexican muralists and Social Realism in America. Art Deco was among American and European architecture and furnishings.
ART DECO is a style of architecture and decor that is more angular with sharp, defined lines as opposed to it’s predecessor, Art Nouveau, that is all curvy lines and assymetrical forms.
If I had to pick a building that really illustrated Art Deco style, it would be the Chrysler building in New York City. It was the world’s tallest building for almost a year until the Empire State building in 1931.
It may seem like I digress, but I want to give a little historical background.
“During it’s heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.” (Art Deco, wikipedia.org)
Getting back to the Thin Man… the thin man actually refers to the inventor character in the book who disappears. After the movie was released, people mistakenly started referring to Nick Charles as the thin man and it stuck.
*** Actual photos (above) of rooms of movie set. The director’s vision of their home included a huge picture window, as was in his own Hollywood Art Deco house. A low table in front of the sofa became popular during this time.
Since Nick and Nora’s world of high fashion and interiors were so lavish, it took the viewer to another realm. I envision their high-rise home’s foyer to be similar to this:
Below is actress Constance Bennett elegantly lounging against some hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper on panels, very popular at the time. Her demi-lune cabinet is probably done in satinwood marquetry.
This would be my modern version of their living room. It has huge picture windows and a grand ceiling with chandeliers. The floor-to-ceiling drapes accentuate the height of the room.
What’s missing are some wall sconces…these are vintage…
and a piano in the corner. This one is a Wurlitzer from the 1930’s. It’s a beauty.
This dining room table could be mahogany, as it was a popular wood in the 30s. The curved dining chairs would have been white leather. They have hand-tacked brass nailhead trim and saber legs.
The Gentry chair below is available from Ballard Designs. I find it pretty expensive at over $400 per chair.
Even though Nick and Nora’s bedroom had two twin beds in the movie, the one below is more suited to the happy couple.
It would have a seating area and rolling bar cart for late-night cocktails or an early morning cup of coffee.
The antique Russian coffee pot, above, is chrome with a bakelite handle. Bakelite was the world’s first synthetic plastic made by a Belgian in 1907. China would be beautiful yet simple, as the cup and saucer shown below from Etsy.
That gives you a glimpse at interior furnishings that were popular with American aristocracy in the 1930’s. Nick and Nora Charles would have been right at home.