What is Art Deco? Why It’s Coming Back in a Big Way

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One of the most enduring – and distinctive – movements in art and interior design is definitely the Art Deco movement. What is Art Deco?

You may have heard of this movement, particularly as it is characterized by bright colours, bold geometric shapes, and the use of luxurious materials (such as gold, ivory, and chrome).

What is Art Deco? Why It’s Coming Back in a Big Way Pinterest pin

The movement that originated in France in the 20s and 30s is still alive and kicking today, and if you go through a stroll in an old neighbourhood, chances are, you will catch glimpses of many old homes’ architecture – you can’t miss it!

Bacardi Building's Lobby, Havana, Cuba with art deco lighting and architectural features
Bacardi Building’s Lobby, Havana, Cuba

As a movement, Art Deco has quickly spread worldwide, and after falling out of favour for several decades, Art Deco is now making a comeback – in a big way, at that!

If you’re thinking of incorporating Art Deco into your own home, here’s everything you need to know about Art Deco – and why it’s coming back.

What is Art Deco?

an art deco geometric wallpaper print in navy blue and gold with an abstract gold mirror, white panelling and art deco style armchairs and side tables.
Image: Graham & Brown

Step into a world of glitz, glamour, and timeless style. Imagine a design movement that marries sleek lines, geometric patterns, and opulent materials in a symphony of luxury and modernity.

Welcome to the captivating world of Art Deco, an artistic and design movement that left an indelible mark on the 20th century and continues to inspire and dazzle us today.

a large chandelier hangs over a living room with grey sofas and an oak coffee table. There is a large distressed mirror over a fireplace
Image: Soho Lighting

Art Deco is a prominent and influential artistic and design style that emerged during the end of World War I – a time when many people were looking for a break from the sadness and austerity that came with the war’s end.

In essence, it was a reaction against the ornate, flowery designs of the Art Nouveau movement (which dominated the early 20th century). Art Deco, on the other hand, was all about simple shapes, clean lines, geometric patterns and luxurious materials. It focuses on practicality and functionality.

Furthermore, the movement was influenced by ancient Egypt’s decorative and intricate arts, the bold designs of Futurist and Cubist art movements, and the sleek, sophisticated designs of modern technology.

Architectural Influences

Chrysler Building in New York
Photo by Ilse Orsel

Art Deco architecture is known foremost for its bold, symmetrical designs with decorative elements such as zigzag patterns, stepped forms and stylised motifs like sunbursts or stylised flowers. It uses strong geometric shapes and has long been an inspiration for Architects.

Buildings in the Art Deco style are often adorned with bright, contrasting colours and intricate patterns, and some of the most famous examples of Art Deco architecture include the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York.

Art Deco Interior Design

large windows in a French town with art deco furniture dotted around the room

In interior design, Art Deco emphasized luxury and glamour. It employed materials like exotic woods, chrome, glass, and mirrors, and incorporated geometric patterns and richly textured surfaces.

Furniture and decor items were often characterized by their sleek lines, geometric shapes, and intricate detailing.

Why is Art Deco Making a Comeback?

a dark blue room with green velvet sofas. There is artwork and wallpaper with gold geometric print and a dark green rug

There are more than a few reasons why Art Deco is becoming popular once again.

Firstly, there is a growing interest in the history of design, and Art Deco represents an important chapter.

The second reason why Art Deco is making a comeback is that there is a certain nostalgia for the glamour and luxury of the 20s and 30s, which is reflected in the popularity of Art Deco-inspired fashion, film, and home décor – and Art Deco windows which are seen in more structures today, as evidenced by Metwin, a window installer (and if you’d like more info, click here).

Lastly, Art Deco is seen by many as a timeless and unforgettable style that can be adapted to fit modern sensibilities.

How To Use Art Deco in Interior Design

panelled walls with a green velvet sofa in the living room. There is a large gold sputnik chandelier and a geometric rug
Image: Margarita Bravo

During its heyday, Art Deco had a profound impact on the world of interior design, transforming spaces into glamorous and visually striking environments. Here’s a closer look at how Art Deco influenced interior design:

Luxurious Materials

a dark green velvet sofa against a backdrop of geometric wallpaper and a green door in the living room
Velvet plays a prominent part in Art Deco style. Image: Sofology

Art Deco interiors embraced opulence, favouring luxurious materials that exuded sophistication. Exotic woods, such as rosewood and mahogany, were used for furniture, while walls and floors often featured materials like marble, onyx, or polished stone.

Mirrored surfaces and glass accents added a touch of glamour and reflected the play of light.

Geometric Patterns

green and gold geometric wallpaper in the bedroom
Rinku Green & Copper Wallpaper – Graham and Brown

Geometric patterns were a hallmark of Art Deco interior design. Bold, angular shapes and repetitive motifs adorned furniture, textiles, and wallpaper. Zigzag patterns, chevrons, and sunburst motifs were common, creating a dynamic and visually stimulating atmosphere.

Streamlined Silhouettes

Art Deco favoured streamlined and sleek forms in furniture design. Chairs, sofas, and tables featured smooth, curved lines with minimal ornamentation. The emphasis was on simplicity and elegance, emphasizing the clean and aerodynamic aesthetic of the time.

Stylised Motifs

Rectangular Gold Metal Mirrored Wall Art
Rectangular Gold Metal Mirrored Wall Art – Dunelm

Art Deco drew inspiration from various cultures and art movements, resulting in the use of stylized motifs in interior design.

Elements inspired by ancient Egyptian, Aztec, or Mayan art often made appearances, with motifs like stepped pyramids, lotus flowers, or sphinxes incorporated into furniture, lighting fixtures, and decorative accents.

Dramatic Lighting

Art deco lighting hanging from a glass ceiling

Lighting played a crucial role in Art Deco interiors, creating a sense of drama and ambience. Elaborate chandeliers and sconces with geometric designs and frosted glass shades became iconic features.

The use of indirect lighting, concealed behind mouldings or reflected off mirrored surfaces, added a soft and atmospheric glow to the space.

Bold Colors

a bright yellow cocooned chair against a dark green wall with gold geometric shapes

Art Deco interiors embraced a vibrant colour palette. Rich jewel tones like emerald green, sapphire blue, and ruby red were used to create striking contrasts.

Black and white combinations were also popular, evoking a sense of elegance and sophistication. These bold colours added visual impact and complemented the geometric patterns and luxurious materials.

Art Deco Furniture

The Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann Armchair
The Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann Armchair

Art Deco furniture embodies the distinct aesthetic and design principles of the Art Deco style, characterised by its sleek lines, geometric shapes, luxurious materials and decorative motifs. 

A good example of Art Deco furniture would be the Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann Armchair. Emile-Jacques was a renowned French furniture designer and interior decorator and was a prominent figure in the Art Deco movement.

His creations epitomized the elegance, luxury, and craftsmanship associated with Art Deco furniture.

Functional Design

Despite its emphasis on aesthetics, Art Deco also valued functionality in interior design. Furniture was designed to be comfortable and practical, with hidden storage compartments and built-in features. Art Deco interiors were often organized and clutter-free, with a focus on creating harmonious and well-utilized spaces.

Art Deco’s influence on interior design during its heyday can still be seen today. Its blend of elegance, geometric forms, luxurious materials, and vibrant colours continues to inspire contemporary designers and homeowners, offering a timeless aesthetic that seamlessly merges glamour with functionality.

Art Deco-Inspired Designs

an art deco inspired mood board with geometric designs, bold shapes and furniture
My mood board inspiration from The Queens Gambit

Today, Art Deco-inspired designs are found in a variety of products, from jewellery to furniture and wallpaper. However, one of the most interesting aspects of the revival of the Art Deco style is how it has been adapted to suit modern tastes.

While the original Art Deco movement was all about luxury and opulence, modern designers are making use of Art Deco patterns and shapes to create more understated, subtle, and minimalist designs.

With this, we can now benefit from a new wave of Art Deco-inspired materials and products that are functional – and yet oozing with style.

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