in search of the perfect lounge chair – betty joel and art deco

do you have $37,500.00 handy?  if so, you may be interested in this chaise lounge chair attributed to betty joel.  it is available at newel, nyc.   i like betty joel’s style.  and she was a brit, born and raised in hong kong, like me.  so she gets extra points. 

Betty Joel)

English Art Deco maple recamier of sleigh form upholstered in white cotton with fringed edge (attr: Betty Joel), $37.000 at newel

joel was influenced by the chinese art she was surrounded by in hong kong, and though she lived through the first world war, she was not so shocked and disillusioned by war as were the europeans. her contemporary modernist designers at bauhaus were philosophically warped and became overly idealist.  millinary works, uk describes joel, on the other hand, as “a confident realist, not concerning herself with design theory, political ideology or an art movement.”   joel’s work just has a flair and fun about it that makes me smile.   

Betty Joel 1894 – 1985, british art deco designer

Betty Joel 1894 – 1985, british art deco designer

art deco chaise-longue, by betty joel, england 1930

art deco chaise-longue, by betty joel, england 1930

hong kong, which was a british crown colony, is a great place to grow up as a brit.  it builds you up and brings you down at the same time.  you are called, to your face, a “gwai lo”, (well, you can’t spell it in english) but it means ‘white devil.’  you are on the one hand not welcome, a foreigner, part of an overlord race that is unjustified, that should not be there  (hong kong was sort of stolen from the chinese).  but on the other hand you are also admired and respected.  hong kong provided a well governed haven for chinese escapees from mao’s communism (in the 1960s and 70s, when i was there). it was also an incredible opportunity for any hard working person to reap the benefits of living at a cultural crossroad and a great hub of world commerce. people were desperate, thankful and skeptical all at the same time.  

there is something about being born and raised in a multicultural place, and especially a non-country sort of place like hong kong, that causes you not to take any national culture or human ideology very seriously.  the best way to live is to realize that every national culture has its strengths and its stupidities.

when joel and her naval husband moved to england after the war, they wanted unique furniture for their modern home.  friends asked them for duplicates and this led to their successful art deco business.  you can almost see tasseled ladies leaping up from these chaise lounges to dance the charleston.


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