HOW would you like a living room that is utterly contemporary, yet harks back in feeling, design, and color to the heyday of the sleek ocean liners? Consider American deco, the period that Vince Lattuca of the New York interior design firm Cenzo Inc. chose when he was asked to design a living room in a showcase Manhattan town-house for the International Society of Interior Designers.
''Art deco may have begun in France in the 1930s,'' he explains, ''but it became both more American and more international here in the United States than it ever did in France. Art deco never really disappeared in design circles here, although it was downplayed for several decades. Its forms have been in constant use, and today we see them expanded and used in all kinds of fresh new ways. The look is just as valid in 1984 as it was a half century ago.
''As I have interpreted it in this room,'' he continues, ''the elements are luxurious, oversized, and clean lined. Because I worked with fewer but larger and more impressive pieces, the room has a great simplicity.''
Most of the curvilinear furniture, which looks as if it might have come off the French liner Normandie, was designed by Mr. Lattuca for Craig Furniture Company and is available through decorator showrooms. It was inspired, he says, by original art deco pieces that he purchased in Europe and then adapted to the American market.
Another art deco element he used in a contemporary manner is the frosted glass, sometimes etched with designs, which sheaths the walls and covers the windows.
''The use of this kind of glass gives the illusion of both space and dimension within a room,'' he says. ''It is slightly reflective, but not mirror reflective. It is great for covering bad walls and for shutting out bad views. In this case, we blocked out a bit of urban blight - one of those ugly above-ground swimming pools.''
The frosted glass over the windows is made so that tops and bottoms open to give full access to the windows behind them. The panels allow the room to be flooded with light during the day and, with backlighting, they always convey a soft glow. Strips of lighted glass panels around the perimeter of the room also provide a soft, mellow light and replace any ceiling lighting.
The glass walls and windows are pale blue-green and tie in with the total room scheme, which consists of several shades of green, from seafoam to a dark spruce.
The tall torchier lamps were designed by Larry Levine for Ron Seff in New York.
The architectural columns were made in molds of plaster of Paris and fiberglass. The blue-green marble that faces the fireplace was imported. The semicircular sofa wraps itself around an electronic unit that houses all stereo, television, audio-visual, and telephone equipment, and the panel that controls lights all over the house.
Fabric used on the upholstered pieces is tussah silk dyed seafoam green, with a durable backing to ensure longer wear. Even the mirrors in the room are tinted green by Babylon Glass.
The floors are bleached and blond. The small round tables are made of bird's-eye maple, bleached and rubbed to give a hint of green but not mask the natural wood grain.
Strips of thin mauve neon tubing are used on the entryway ceiling to define the space, and in the living room to silhouette and backlight columns and wash certain walls with light.