If you know anything about fashion and design, you know that trends often circle back around, usually every few decades. Right now we are seeing lots of 90s style (for better or for worse). Wide legs are replacing skinny jeans, combat boots instead of booties and flats, and lots of grunge-inspired graphics and flannels. Interior design is no different. (Except we are not embracing 90s interiors again, thank goodness!)
One of the most exciting things about interior design today is that it is much more expansive – many “styles” are acceptable, even mixing and matching interior design styles to make them your own signature style. One style we are seeing elements of popping up everywhere is Art Deco.
What is Art Deco?
Art Deco was an artistic movement that reached its peak in the 1920s and 30s. This style’s popularity boomed during the Great Depression. While hardship extended across the entire world, people were looking for glamour, beauty, and joy. Art Deco, with its shimmer and shine became symbolic of wealth and progress, and better times ahead.
The Art Deco movement was influenced by several other artistic styles like Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, and Cubism. It was also influenced by industrialization. The elements of Art Deco celebrated industrialization and progress. Art Deco style emerged right around World War I, and enjoyed widespread popularity until World War II.
However, it wasn’t just limited to interior design, it was also abundantly incorporated into architecture and fashion. Some well-known examples of buildings built with Art Deco influences are the Chrysler Building in NYC and NBC Tower in Chicago.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the world’s largest examples of Art Deco style. Up close, you can see that the bridge has several aesthetic touches like bevels and geometric shapes.
Elements of Art Deco Design
As with every interior design style, there are a few tell-tale elements that are unique to this style. Overall, significant attention was paid to using luxury materials and a high standard of craftsmanship.
The first is shine. Art Deco design featured a lot of mirrors, chrome, and crystal. New materials like acrylic became popular, as well as veneered surfaces.
During this period, rare and exotic woods were very en vogue. Highlighting the stunning wood grains was a regular practice of furniture makers. Furniture designers also often mixed manmade and natural materials together for a unique look.
Geometry and Repetition
Another hallmark of Art Deco style was the presence of simple, repetitive geometric shapes. When people think of “art deco” one of the first things that often comes to mind is a patterned wallpaper or fabric. However, you also see geometric shapes and lines used as detailing.
One thing this style is NOT known for is playing it safe with neutrals! Bold colors like jewel tones (navy blue, red, purple) were popular, as were metallic finishes. Black and white also always has a place in a color palette!
Finally, “exotic” motifs added to the luxury and intrigue. Art and textiles featured motifs inspired by American Indian, Egyptian, and Eastern cultures. In addition floral and animal imagery was popular.
How to Incorporate Art Deco Elements
If you are loving these glamorous vibes of days gone by, there are many ways to incorporate Art Deco elements into your décor. You may not be able to include some of the architectural elements of Art Deco, but it’s easy to add bits and pieces of this style throughout your home through things like light fixtures, furniture pieces, or wallpaper.
For light fixtures, look for gold and shine. You can also opt for fixtures that have repetitive geometry like this the one below.
For furniture, look for pieces that feature lush fabrics, shiny finishes (like lacquer or acrylic), or visible wood grain.
For wall paper, there are tons of options that feature geometric patterns, or even flora and fauna like below.
In this recent project in the Kings Heights neighborhood of Portland, we added many art deco touches throughout the home. The house had a lot of character traits that were quirky and charming. We could have just gotten rid of them, but we also knew we could work with it and incorporate it into the update.
Pairing Art Deco with Other Styles
One of the fun evolutions of interior design that has been popularized over the last few years is the unexpected mashups of multiple styles. Think modern farmhouse, or the “grandmillennial” trend. Homeowners are embracing bolder design decisions and feel more freedom to include what they love for a signature style that is uniquely theirs.
If you are looking to add some art deco elements to your home, the good news is that it plays well with others. Art Deco and modern design mix well together since both value clean lines, geometric designs, and bold colors.
Because of the proximity Art Deco had to the Victorian era, you can see some overlaps in the elements that make up both of these design styles. You can definitely get away with incorporating some Art Deco elements with the lush upholstery and jewel tones characteristic of Victorian style.
The bold colors, repetitive patterns, and mix of natural and manmade materials of Art Deco are right at home in an eclectic interior.
The Timeless Appeal of Art Deco
Art Deco has an enduring appeal for a myriad of reasons. As previously mentioned, the clean lines of Art Deco always fit in, and help it pair with many other design styles. This ease makes people apt to include elements of it.
Second, the attention to quality craftsmanship around the Art Deco period means that a lot of furniture pieces are still around and in great shape. As our culture becomes more concerned about sustainability and being more eco-friendly, people look to reuse things from the past. We probably won’t see a lot of home décor items from Target at antique stores in a few decades!
Finally, Art Deco was popularized during a difficult time for the world. People looked to interior design as a symbol of hope and beauty. Fast forward to 2020 and beyond. As we have just experienced a global pandemic, this collective trauma leads people to seek out nostalgia, beauty, and hope for better times ahead.