Zoe Mowat’s Reinvention of Art Deco in Montreal, Quebec

Maybe it’s just me, but nowadays there seems to be a sort of ‘sameness’ that plagues the common everyday offices and bedrooms that most of us exist in. Furniture makers and designers alike challenge themselves to make their work unique – to have it stand out. But the reality is that lamps still look like regular lamps and desks still look like regular desks. Boring, isn’t it? Until, of course, someone like Zoe Mowat comes along.




Coming from a clearly sophisticated design background, Mowat’s design of common household furniture and objects have an exceptionally beautiful, sculptural quality to them. Given that I think every one of her pieces deserves its own article, my selection was a difficult choice to make. The link for them is here.

One of the pieces that struck me most was the EQ3 Assembly Dressing Table. It consists of a rigidly geometric, minimalist, steel frame that upholds the surface of the desk. This is a typical feature of Art Deco furniture design – one of the main inspirations for Zoe Mowat Design. 





The far-end of the workspace contains a small glass shelf held up by a colourful square pillar on the right, as well as a decorative glass quadrant on the left, completing the sculptural composition and leading the eye back around to the desk.







It’s one thing to be able to simply mimic or recreate a style – it can be done by any carpenter who can build. But Zoe goes beyond that. She has understood the movement, digested it, and recreated its principles in her own language. It’s also evident that she was influenced by De Stijl, also known as neoplasticism: a Dutch movement of modernity, focused on deconstructing design and extracting its core essentials of form, and colour.

You can see the effect in the Arbor Jewelry Stand.





Without prior knowledge of its function, it can be easily overlooked as a standalone decoration. The inspiration came from bowerbird nests, as they tend to collect various colourful objects to build their home with.





It's comprised of a U-shaped steel flat with a rich dark wood bar in between. The combination creates a stark and satisfying contrast of thick and thin forms, which is taken even further through the choice of materials. Attached are smaller components for storing more delicate accessories, arranged, scaled, and composed very deliberately  in reference to the rule of thirds [also known as the golden ratio].





And yet, even if empty, it's an elegantly modern - yet near-whimsical - play of colour and material. A truly unique sculptural ornament!

If you enjoyed these pieces, I strongly urge you to check out the rest of her portfolio here.


Images courtesy of Andre Rider, Coey Kerr, David Shaw, Julie Langenegger Lachance, and Zoë Mowat


Researched and Written by Mikhail Shchupak-Katsman, Undergraduate Environmental Design, OCAD University.

Posted In: Quebec

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