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How to Cultivate Art Deco Style in Your Own Home

We’re pumped for the 2020s. It’s the perfect excuse to bring back the best parts of a century ago. Great Gatsby soirées, Prohibition-style speakeasies, and gangster fashion are back but with a contemporary new twist. For architecture lovers, Art Deco style is making a revival that has us excited to redecorate every room. Here’s what you need to know about this elegant style to give your home some roaring ‘20s flare.

Principles

Art Deco began in France in the early 1900s as a continuation of the development of the popular Art Nouveau style. This was a time when various forms of art were being combined to create a complete vision for an interior environment. Interior design as an art form separate from architecture was a new concept and art deco was one of the first styles to recognize this. During a world expo for design in Paris in 1925, this innovative, opulent movement truly took hold and quickly spread to the rest of the world.

The 1920s was a very prosperous time, especially in the United States, and the glamour of Art Deco was a chance for newly minted millionaires to show off their wealth. Taking inspiration from the newly discovered King Tut’s tomb in Egypt and innovations in travel (including the automobile and airplane), Art Deco combined all of the trends of the time with swanky materials.

The “Roaring 20s” of a century ago are becoming the “Soaring 20s” of today, bringing back the geometric patterns, bold colors, metallic accents, and stylish furnishings but with a crisp, contemporary twist.

The Art Deco movement brought disparate features together to create a cohesive look. Glass, gold, and polished black marble were used in bold geometric forms and nearly every room in the home would feature a different animal print thanks to hunters bringing home their prizes from African expeditions. Egyptian motifs like the lotus, the pyramid, and the Eye of Horus were incorporated into designs right alongside futuristic interpretations of airships and stylized female figures. Greek patterns and motifs were also common during this time, including the Greek key pattern and depictions of gods and goddesses, most famously the Prometheus statue in Rockefeller Center.

While the ostentatiousness of the style went out of fashion with the Great Depression, its timeless architecture has helped art deco to endure. It has seen a resurgence in recent years, and now that the 2020s are here, people are looking to romanticize the past by reviving the look that defined a decade. The “Roaring 20s” of a century ago are becoming the “Soaring 20s” of today, bringing back the geometric patterns, bold colors, metallic accents, and stylish furnishings but with a crisp, contemporary twist.

Architecture

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Art Deco interiors are often seen as feminine with their gold finishes, animal prints and gently curving furnishings, but the architecture is strongly masculine. This was the go-to style for skyscrapers. The geometric lines of the style paired perfectly with the soaring towers, creating an optical illusion that made them appear even taller than they already were. Throughout the country, there are countless buildings that show off the style, but none are more iconic than New York City’s Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. The stepped shape of both buildings was first incorporated during the 1920s. The fanned sunburst motif at the top of the Chrysler Building was a key pattern of the Art Deco period.

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The exteriors of Art Deco buildings were far simpler than their extravagant interiors. The buildings were meant to show signs of strength, a reflection of the booming economy. Decorative details were added sparingly, while the main focus was to create an imposing, impressive building with strong vertical lines to draw the eye up.

While the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building are examples of the classic Art Deco style, there was another look that diverged from the ornate finishes to create more futuristic structures. Streamline Moderne took hold in the early 1930s and it’s the style that defines the art deco buildings of Miami’s Ocean Drive. With constant innovations in travel occurring during this time, Streamline Moderne took inspiration from the look of the new cars, trains, and airplanes to create buildings that felt aerodynamic. These stucco-covered structures featured gently swooping curves accented by neon lights and focused on horizontal lines rather than the vertical lines of traditional Art Deco buildings.

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Furniture, Colors, Patterns

Art Deco interiors of the 1920s were a feast for the eyes. Everywhere you looked, there were shining gold finishes, brightly polished stone, and plenty of mirrors. Every surface was meant to reflect light and dazzle visitors. Combined with boldly colored furniture and hand-laid parquet flooring, this created a sense of luxury and showed off wealth. The Art Deco revival of today is more about thoughtful pieces, simple metallic accents, and one bright pop of color in an otherwise white or neutral color palette.

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Art Deco furniture was big and bulky with strong lines, not quite the simple, clean line pieces of contemporary homes. The trend 100 years ago was to cram rooms full of furniture — the more you had, the wealthier you were. But the Art Deco of today is more refined, bordering on minimalist. Adding in just one curvy chaise, swooping table, or round-back chair can bring that Art Deco flair you’re looking for.

The colors of Art Deco were just as bold as the other finishes. Hunter green, emerald blue, deep mauve — all still work in a contemporary space when used carefully. Try a punch of color with a few green cushions on a built-in banquet or a geometric area rug with a pop of red. If you truly want the glitz and glam of the 1920’s, gold on black was one of the most popular color combinations, and one that spoke to the luxury of the time.

Geometry ruled art deco design. Along with the classic fan pattern, shapes like diamonds, sunbursts, and the Greek key were used throughout interiors. To balance the strong lines of these geometric shapes, natural elements were sometimes included like female figures, leaf patterns, and flowers. Today, it’s easy to add in some contemporary art deco patterns with things like removable wallpaper. Walls Need Love has a whole line of updated art deco prints that allow you to create a trendy accent wall.

Notables

The creation of art deco can be credited to two French architects, Auguste Perret and Henri Sauvage. Beginning with the Art Nouveau movement in the early 1900s, Perret and Sauvage further refined the ornate look to develop the art deco style. Their early buildings in Paris helped to spread the art deco movement around the world.

For a look at the sleek new spin on contemporary art deco buildings, check out CentraRuddy’s Rose Hill residential skyscraper. Inspired by the legacy of John D. Rockefeller and the classic skyscrapers of the early 20th century, the team at CentraRuddy is developing an art-focused design for the building. For the exterior, elegant metal chevron patterns and strong vertical lines will blend with glass to create a new millennium spin on the timeless art deco designs.

Where to Shop

Budget

Just because Art Deco is the style of over-the-top luxury doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to get the look for your own home. Wayfair has an endless selection of furniture and decor that can help you re-create the look of Jay Gatsby’s impressive mansion. Look for round-back chairs with nailhead trim. You can find a faux leather one on Wayfair for under $200. Matched with a round polished metal and faux marble coffee table, you’ve got yourself the perfect cigar lounge-inspired sitting area.

Middle of the Line

West Elm has long been known as a great source for exceptional style. The company offers many pieces that are fresh and contemporary with influences from timeless styles like mid-century modern and art deco. Every ’20s inspired home needs a bar cart and the line from West Elm fits the bill perfectly. From the brass frame and mirrored shelves of the Aster Cart to the trendy asymmetrical design of the Tiered Bar Console, the style and quality make West Elm’s pieces worth the splurge.

High End

On any other list, West Elm would be the “high end” shopping option, but when it comes to art deco, you’ve got to go big. Really big. Like vintage, one-of-a-kind pieces big. That’s where Pamono comes in. The company sources unique vintage items that you just can’t find anywhere else. The rarity of the products and their excellent, like-new condition justifies the high prices. Consider items like the French Macassar Dining Table as an heirloom piece. You’ll keep it forever and build your decor around it because this table is never going out of style.

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Kelsey Machado
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kelsey is a professional interior designer with over a decade of experience in the design field. With a passion for…
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