How to Create an Art Deco Interior
Art Deco was a wide-ranging style that encompassed fashion, art, jewelry design, fabrics, furniture, and architecture. This design movement originated in Paris during the 1920s and rapidly gained popularity in the rest of Europe and the U.S. Its design influences were prevalent well into the 1930s and even into the 1940s.
You can immediately identify Art Deco style by its sleek lines, curves, geometric shapes, and brilliant combinations of metal, mirror, lacquered surfaces, wood inlays, and sumptuous color. Stair-stepped profiles that mimic skyscrapers are the embodiment of Art Deco design. These shapes can be found everywhere, from picture frames to vases to lighting.
Other signature shapes include starbursts, lightening bolts, and chevrons. If you are thinking about creating an Art Deco room in your home, think about Hollywood of the 1930s. Rent a few classic movies from that time (or movies set in the era) as your inspiration! Here are a few of my personal favorites.
Art Deco Movie Inspiration
Greta Garbo, John Barrymore
Trouble in Paradise
Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis
Dinner at Eight
Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery
The Thin Man
Myrna Loy, William Powell
Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
My Man Godfrey
Carole Lombard, William Powell
Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell
Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo
Art Deco Color Palette
When speaking of color palettes, Art Deco style is surprisingly versatile.
- Black and White – This combination is the signature color foundation of Art Deco style. For most of the period, color schemes included graphic contrasts of black and white combined with an accent color.
- Metallics -- Art Deco was born in the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, so it is no wonder that metallic colors and finishes would play a huge part in its interior design. Silver, gold, copper, and metallic blue added a luxurious feel to Art Deco design.
- Neutrals -- Art Deco was based on modern, streamlined architecture and furnishings. To give this style an understated and classic look, think about using a monochromatic color palette to highlight, and not overshadow, your period furniture and accessories. Taupes, beiges, creams, and browns were particularly popular in Moderne and Parisian Art Deco interiors.
- Bright Colors – Another sign of the booming economy was the use of vivid color. Energetic color was a symbol of prosperity. Using vivid pops of color like yellow, emerald green, peacock blue, purple, and red became increasingly acceptable.
Art Deco furniture is an eclectic collection of pieces within a singular style. The diversity of materials used is testament to that statement. Highly polished lacquer sideboards, tubular steel chairs, exquisite inlaid wood veneer armoires, and chrome and glass tables all fit into this iconic style.
The best way to describe Art Deco furniture is streamlined, curvilinear, modern, and comfortable. Confused? Well, imagine a club chair that is geometric in form with arched, skinny arms and, at the same time, pleasingly plump! The strong lines of Art Deco furniture often echo those found in period buildings, automobiles, and trains.
Lighting would encompass floor lamps, uplights, wall sconces, chandeliers, and table lamps. As with furniture, your lighting choices should be along the same streamlined vein. Hunt for metallic and glass fixtures that incorporate female forms, flowers, and repetitive geometric shapes.
Floor lamps should be quite spectacular—like towering torchiere in chrome with sandblasted glass shades. Most lamps were made from metals or ceramics and typically had clear etched glass rather than fabric shades.
Tile flooring was extremely popular, as was wood parquet. Black and white linoleum or marble tile placed in a checkerboard pattern is probably most closely associated with Art Deco interiors.
Rugs were widely used at this time. Geometric patterned and animal skin rugs would have been layered over tile floors to warm up living areas. Period rugs are hard to come by, but there are many choices of wool rugs that have patterns reminiscent of Deco designs. Flokati rugs can also add a luxurious feel to your Art Deco themed room.
Fabrics were used to enhance the over-the-top elegance of the furniture. With all of the smooth surfaces and modern forms in an Art Deco room, upholstery should be a soft and sumptuous compliment. Leather, velvet, and satin were traditional choices.
Look for upholstery and curtain fabrics in solid colors, keeping period patterns (geometrics, animal prints, and graphic florals) to a minimum. Many upholstered pieces and pillows featured beautiful examples of passementerie, or trimmings, such as tassels, fringe, and gimp.
Keep in mind the importance of form when selecting accessories. There are still many examples of Art Deco glass figurines, sculptures, and vases out there to choose from. If you can't afford the real deal, opt for reproductions or modern pieces that have that “Deco” look.
There are a number of wonderful reproduction posters and prints from the era. Just keep artwork to a minimum—it’s better to use a couple of large scale prints or posters versus a number of smaller pieces of wall art. And be sure to incorporate wall mirrors into your Art Deco interior.
Art Deco Design Tips
- Use a stylized scalloped mirror in your design scheme.
- Incorporate streamlined furniture—with curves!
- Find tables or storage pieces made with inlaid wood veneers.
- Use chrome and mirrored furniture liberally.
- Make an animal skin rug (faux only!) a focal point for your floor.
- Find a decorative chinoiserie screen to divide spaces or add privacy.
- Use curvaceous accessories.
- Be eclectic, but selective. Don’t introduce furnishings from too many periods. Art Deco truly shines when it can take center stage and is deftly edited.
Have fun bringing a bit of glamour and glitz of the past into your home by creating an Art Deco inspired room!
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© 2012 Linda Chechar