Art Deco Decor: Our Expert Guide To This Iconic Design Style

Opulent designs, purposefully created to be more glamorous than the next, perfectly sum up the period of Art Decor. It was a time that privileged masterful luxury, and the hedonistic enjoyment of life.

Art Deco Decor Our Expert Guide To This Iconic Design Style

Art Decor remains one of the most significant and notable periods in history, with its grand power still influencing modern designs. 

If you’re interested in Art Deco design, then continue reading, where we reveal all the key design and decor details of this fascinating period. 

The History Of Art Deco 

Before we discuss the design elements of Art Decor, we should first reflect on, and consider, the history that impacted the aesthetics of the period. 

What Is Art Deco?

When one is talking about Art Deco, one is referring to a particular style of interior design, architecture, and visual arts that emerged in the mid-1920s. 

Art Deco is characterized by its bold designs. Patterns were a large part of the Art Decor movement, especially when it comes to symmetrical art and motifs.

Art Decor is known for its vast usage of trapezoidal shapes, stepped forms, zigzag patterns, chevron patterns, and even sunburst shapes.

Other key design elements include pointed edges, to reflect the technological advancements of the day, such as the artful skyscrapers. 

The aesthetic of this period impacted all aspects of society. It is regarded as a period of time that celebrated the luxury of life and embraced luxurious lifestyles.

Within the wealthy elite, it was a game of opulence – wealth was represented in aesthetics, with the aim of having the highest status.

While the middle and lower classes could not afford to engage in the opulent lifestyle, they too lived a crucial part of the Art Deco decades. 

What Inspired The Art Deco Movement?

There were multiple factors that influenced the nuanced style of Art Deco. One should remember that the 1920s was a period of technological growth, scientific development, and cultural discoveries. 

With aviation taking off and the rise of international travel, it provided new adventures and inspiration for designs. Major historical and cultural discoveries impacted the creativity of designers.

This was a period of time that celebrated the discovery of Egyptian pyramids, as well as the tomb of Tutankhamen. The influence of this can be seen by the geometric prints that are vital to the Art Deco period. 

When Was The Art Deco Period?

Truly, one could argue that the Art Deco movement was split into two phases. 

The first phase was between 1925 and 1929. It featured bold designs which highlighted luxury and glamor, which were still used within the second phase. Its short phase was due to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which caused the Great Depression in the United States of America. 

This had a knock-on effect on all the major powers of the world, limiting resources and trade. Thus, the extravagant materials used within those four years were little used in the years to follow. 

The lavish, opulent aesthetic carried on throughout the 1930s. Instead of the expensive materials used in the ‘20s, cheaper materials were heavily used to achieve a similar look. This period, which is sometimes referred to as the second phase of the Art Deco period, is from 1930 to 1940. 

In 1939, the second world war commenced, which quickly halted this once hedonistic period of time. It seemed ill-fit to live in such an opulent world – full of bold designs, pops of color, and the party lifestyle when there was a war occurring.

While America did not join the war until 1941, the war had a huge impact on the whole world. 

Thus, the designs within this time were simpler, with the more functional decor being prioritized. The aesthetics within this time frame looked far more refined and mature than the more wild and dazzling ‘20s. 

Art Deco Interior Design 

When it comes to interior design, Art Deco remains one of the most notable periods. Art Deco is designed to celebrate art, celebrate luxury, and celebrate the finer, lavish aspects of life. No matter what class someone was from, Art Deco remained a celebration of a rich, exciting life. 

So, we will discuss what type of interior design was prominent within the Art Deco period, and the different types of decor that were used.  

Art Deco Colors

When it comes to colors, monochrome was a huge part of this period. Black and white were seen as stylish, and the use of lavish colors such as silver and gold was combined with these colors, to reflect opulence and elegance. 

However, vibrant and deep jewel tones were equally popular within this period. Any colors such as canary yellow, emerald, bright red, and blues and purples added to the optimism of this decade.

Metallic colors were also a notable part of the Art Deco decade. Metallic silvers, gold, blues and gray were very popular. It added to the opulence, making the interior design appear bold and expensive. 

Art Deco: Pattern

If you’ve ever seen photos of the Art Deco period, then you will know that patterns were heavily used. It’s a key element of the Art Deco look. 

In the height of Art Deco, a range of patterns was used. However, the more widely seen patterns were geometric designs. Shapes such as trapezoids were often used, as well as more geometric designs such as chevrons and zigzags. 

Sunburst shapes referenced the optimism of the time and were very popular. Sharp edges and lines reflected the notion of the machine age, while sharp lines reflected the emergence of skyscrapers.

There were nature-inspired motifs – from branches, animals, and leaves, which were fairly popular.

Art Deco: Materials and Finishes

There is a range of materials and finishes that were used in this decade, but there are a couple that remain the most notable. 

When it comes to materials, metal was heavily used. This again was inspired by the ‘machine age’, with technological progress being heavily reflected in interior design.

Glass was also very popular, and it was typically combined with chrome, or other metals, to give a ‘polished look’. 

The Art Deco period was all about high-shine. Any metal that was used – chrome, brass, silver, was polished and shined to the highest degree.

It would also be common for some metals to be metallic, as it added further lavish detail. Any reflective or glossy was used, because this represented opulence and wealth. 

Fabrics

When it comes to fabrics, the most commonly thought of designs are zebra skin and sharkskin. This instantly gave the impression that one was wealthy and added to the glamor of the era. Other commonly used fabrics were leathers and velvets. 

Art Deco Interior Design Elements

When it comes down to particular details of the decor, there are some notable interior design elements of this period. 

Art Deco Furniture Style 

Art Deco furniture was all luxury, opulence, and glamor. It was a mixture of sophistication and incredible celebratory exuberance. 

Furniture was made out of all different materials and shapes. Silhouette was an important design in this period, which was often influenced by the skyscraper design, and it creates symmetrical shapes and clean lines.

When it comes to embellishment, ivory, mother-of-pearl, snakeskin, and tortoiseshell were very popular. These designs reflected luxury and were new and exciting for the period. 

Art Deco Mirrored Furniture

As we discussed already, mirrored furniture was heavily used during the Art Deco period. It was considered to be one of the heights of luxury. Anything reflective and shiny was popularized, so it is no surprise that super shiny mirrored furniture was considered to be luxurious. 

There were various types of mirrored furniture available. It ranged from smaller items, such as side tables and decorative trays, to layer items, like coffee tables and consulate tables.

Designs were frequently influenced by the machine age and technological progress. Many designs were inspired by skyscrapers, airplanes, and cruise liners. 

Art Deco Fireplace

In this period, fireplaces were crafted out of machine-made materials, and were designed to reflect the ‘machine age’. Common designs included chrome, steel, and mirror – which would have been impeccably polished.

Tiled fireplaces were also common, and were often a neutral base color, paired with a complementary bolder color. This bold color would feature designs commonly found within that period – such as skyscraper designs, sunburst designs, or sharp lines. 

Lacquered Furniture

An important feature of the Art Deco period was lacquered furniture. This is because exotic wood had just become popularized, and as a result, it was the fashionable furniture to buy. The rich often bought ebony, violet wood. 

For those who could not afford such luxury, oak, ash, and maple were more affordable options and commonly used. To make the wood look more exotic, finishes were applied to create a high-gloss, shiny appearance. 

Leather Seating

As we already discussed, leather was a prominent fabric used during the Art Deco period. As a result, it was a signifier of wealth. To expand on this opulence, leather seating was regularly used. 

Leather chairs, seats, and ottomans were very popular. The colors ranged from brown, tan, and black. However, bold colors were also very popular, and they add to the celebratory nature of this iconic period.

Yellows, tangerine, and cherry red were very popular colors, which added to the exuberance. 

Lighting

Lighting was very important to the Art Deco period because it was such a focal point. The whole lavishness of Art Deco is the constant glamorous and opulence. The lighting is one of the first design details that one sees, and it can completely alter how a room looks. 

Lighting fixtures often include geometric patterns or symmetrical patterns. The shades were usually made out of chrome, or etched glass, but in later years plastic was also common. Shapes that create a ‘fanned out’ look were popular, as well as design details with modern lines.  

Art Deco Mirrors

Like in most periods, mirrors were a vital part of interior design. They are another focal point of a room and can be made to look very luxurious. Within the Art Deco period, it was not unheard of to have a mirror in every room, or almost every room, to make the house look grander. 

While a range of shapes was used, the silhouette design was common here, as with most furniture. Scalloped edges were also popular, along with color glass panels. You could expect to see colors from gray, blue, and brown. 

Art Deco Rugs

Large rugs were common within the Art Deco period. They were often luxurious, with bold and striking geometric patterns. Some other popular patterns are Oriental floral prints and animal print patterns – such as zebras.

Rugs were not only functional, but they added texture to spaces and were a significant display of wealth. 

Art Deco Wallpaper

Wallpaper was commonly used, and there were many popular styles. In fact, wallpaper was an excellent way of bringing the fashionable statements of the time – such as skyscraper designs and geometric patterns, into the house. 

Other popular designs include chevrons, zigzags, and sunburst motifs. The sunburst motif was incredibly lavish, but there were other, popular prints that were also quite bold.

Due to historical findings pertaining to Egyptian periods, it was very common for Egyptian hieroglyphics to be spotted in wealthy homes, or expensive locations – such as hotels. 

The colors ranged from monochrome, to bold and exciting – like canary yellow. The most iconic colors are black, with vivid and metallic gold designs. 

Modern Art Deco Interior Design Elements

There are numerous ways one can take inspiration from the Art Deco period, and create a modern, fresh look. 

Art Deco Decor Our Expert Guide To This Iconic Design Style (1)

This is applicable for all Art Decor designs – whether it be subtle touches to furnishings, or a fully functional modern, Art Deco space. This can be created with all the popular colors of the Art Deco period, the furnishings, and patterns. 

Wall Paper

One of the easiest ways to recreate an Art Deco look is to use wallpaper. Choosing a design with geometric shapes, and monochrome colors – with hints of gold, or silver, is very notable and will give an immediate Art Decor appearance. 

The colors do not have to be monochrome, of course – using any bold color paired with silver and black can also give this impression. In that case, it may be less obvious, so you would rely further on the decor. 

Mirrors

This, again, should not be too challenging. Mirrors and mirrored furniture will recreate the expensive and lavish look. From coffee tables to side tables and even decorative trays, there is a way to incorporate mirrored furniture for every budget.

Likewise, metal furniture is a key element of Art Decor. Any metal furniture should be polished, to ensure that it is impeccable and shiny. Silver, black, and gold are suitable colors. 

Color 

Color does not have to completely mimic the Art Decor period. The more typical color scheme would be monochrome, with pops of gold and silver, with metallic touches. Or, very bold yellows, blues, and reds. 

Instead, for a fresh and modern approach, you can work on complementing colors and shades. You can use light or dark shades, and it will still resemble this iconic time in history. 

To work with light colors, which will bring a sense of brightness and celebration, light colors should be paired with high shine metal furniture, as well as mirrors.

If you prefer a dark color palette, then you should pair it with lighter furnishings, and incorporate metallic colors within this look, which will create a very expensive and lavish look. 

Pattern

If you want to add more exuberance to your home, then add patterns. For those who know the Art Deco period, this will be a very obvious, and stylish design period. 

When it comes to patterns, you have a wide range of furnishings to choose from. You could have patterned cushions, rugs, patterned towels, art and prints, and even throws.

While you could have patterned curtains, it would be best avoided. Curtains for this period should be a single color, which matches your color scheme. 

When looking for patterns, you can select traditional geometric patterns. They are still commonly produced, and should not be too difficult to locate. If you like nature patterns, you can still incorporate this, but do not go overboard. 

You can select patterns that have branches and feathers and some very minimal Oriental floral designs. As discussed, animal print was a big part of the Art Deco period, so anything zebra or snakeskin would be fitting. If you prefer quirkier and less striking patterns, then opt for tortoiseshell. 

The great thing about the use of patterns in the Art Deco period is that it does not have to match, it just has to compliment. To use one single pattern would create a very cheap look, which is the opposite of what the Art Decor period stood for.

You want to create a look that is electric and exciting, so the use of lots of patterns can help to create this look. 

Of course, that does not mean one has to go over the top with patterns, a subdued look can be just as powerful. It just means that there is a lot of freedom when it comes to personal style when creating an Art Deco inspired space. 

Summary

That brings us to the end of our expert guide to Art Deco. We have discussed the history, the influences, and the iconic decor that features this lavish period of time.

We have also given you some expert tips on how to incorporate the Art Deco design into modern homes.

Ida Oliveira