Art Deco is a fashionable style of decorative art, design, and architecture, which actually began as a Modernist response to Art Nouveau. Exemplified by the geometric designs of famous New York structures such as the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center and characterized by even lines, geometric shapes, streamlined forms, and sometimes bright hues, Art Deco is a perfect reflection of modern technology. While it started off as a more high-end design style during World War I (using materials like silver, crystal, ivory, jade, and lacquer), it eventually moved to less pricey materials (think chrome and plastics) to cater to the growing middle class at the time.
The word “Art Deco” is derived from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes held in Paris. The show was organized by an association of French artists known as La Societe des Artistes Decorateurs (a society of decorator artists). With that being said, the term Art Deco was not widely used until it was popularized by art historian and critic Bevis Hiller in her book, Art Deco of the 20s and 30s in 1968 (visual-arts-cork.com).
Art Deco is modern and luxurious, perfectly suited for locations like movie theatres, cruises, and train stations. Characterized by smooth walls, (sometimes) curved windows, flat roofs, and “bold exterior decorations,” Art Deco is anything but timid or mild. Particularly prevalent in early American skyscraper design, such as the famously Art Deco-styled Chrysler Building, this style is generally less prevalent in home design, save Miami Beach, Tulsa, Okla., and outside of Philadelphia or Cincinnati, according to HGTV.
Art Deco is characterized by geometric design, bold decoration, angular form, modern metallics, and linear decoration. Throwing subtlety to the wind, geometric wallpaper allows for an exorbitant exploration of shape and form. To capture the grand shapes reminiscent of early skyscraper facades, a carefully selected Art Deco lighting fixture can also leave no doubt in the mind of visitors about the aesthetic you are hoping to capture with your design.
Art Deco Furniture & Accessories
Art Deco Lighting
In the world of Art Deco, glass is predominately etched, sandblasted, or enameled rather than colored. A perfect example of this style is this metropolitan lighting fixture. It features macassar ebony, crystal accents and an etched white shade, all while exemplifying the glamorous Art Deco mood.
Art Deco Colors, Shapes & Patterns
Colors are more often bold and driven by contrast in schemes of silver, black, chrome, yellow, red, cream, green, and beige. When it comes to solids, typical colors are black, brown, and tan. But, it’s also common to come across brights like reds, pinks and oranges (not pictured here) to reflect the happy, joyful times of the buzzing Roaring 20s.
To give Art Deco objects a futuristic look, artists frequently opt for vertical lines and geometric shapes like arcs, circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles in repetitive patterns. According to Gia.edu, a perfect example of this style is the beautifully modern Chrysler Building in Manhattan – it features a number of these unique design elements.
Art Deco Materials & Fabrics
Art Nouveau materials like molded glass, horn, and ivory have been used to build Art Deco designs, but fresh supplies like aluminum, stainless steel, inlaid wood, lacquer, stucco, concrete, smooth-faced stone, and plastics play a major role in making up Art Deco objects. Additionally, exotic materials like shark-skin and zebra-skin regularly work their way into the Art Deco world. Fabrics often feature plain or geometric prints and highlights with solid blocks of color.
To keep up with the luxurious and trendy Art Deco vibe, only the most buttery-soft, rich leathers and soft, shiny upholstered fabrics are used. Another common theme is texture – many pieces boast fabrics that feature more than what meets the eye.
How to Make Art Deco Work in Your Space
Incorporating Art Deco style into your space is easier than it looks. To bring a little retro flair into a room, opt for bold, geometric wallpaper. Rectangles and curvy forms are instantly eye-catching and make any stylish space come alive. Another exceptional option is a curvy, multicolored rug. This rug is a subtle and stylish option that’ll bring any room to life.
Bold oil paintings, sculptural lamps and pendants, ornate décor, and intricately detailed furniture add instant appeal to an Art Deco-inspired space. This breathtaking piece by Corbett Lighting, for instance, is multifunctional, providing light and an unsurpassed element of design.
Silver and gold shades give a space that ultra-coveted lavish look. Achieve this look with the help of a sleek, industrial-looking ceiling fan. This brushed chrome fan boasts metal blades and a high-shine, polished finish (if you can imagine it surrounded by Art Deco decor). It’s a statement piece that’s both timeless and fashion-forward.
Art Deco Style Influences
Influenced by the geometric forms of Cubism, the machine-style forms of Constructivism and Futurism, and the unifying approach of Art Nouveau, Art Deco is derived from Aztec and Egyptian art as well as Classical Antiquity. Although unlike the ever-so-popular Art Nouveau, Art Deco is completely decorative with no philosophical basis.
Art Deco’s widely recognized style, used frequently by architects and designers around the world, was popular during the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression of the early 1930s, and the often-difficult years leading up to World War II. It suffered a major decline in popularity in the late 30s and 40s, as many believed it was too glamorous for the war times. It was not until the 1960s that it reappeared again, around the time that Pop Art and graphic design was growing in popularity.
Famously the style of Picasso, cubism is an early 20th-century style characterized by abandoning single viewpoint perspective for interlocking plains and geometric shapes.
Characterized by producing abstract structures from assorted objects, constructivism originated in Russia in the 1920s.
Hailing from Italy in 1909, as it sounds, futurism is concerned with trends and events of the future by embracing technology, dynamism and change.
Art Nouveau is characterized by intricate linear design and flowing curves, both staples in Art Deco design. Found in art, design and architecture, it originated in western Europe and the U.S. around 1890.