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You have a penchant for anything that’s vintage, luxurious, and dramatic. On the other hand, you’re not into the frilly, or any of the classical styles.
And you’re thinking, Art Deco interior design style might be perfect for that project you’re brewing in your mind.
Well, you can be right.
However, if you’re second-guessing yourself because you’re not sure what makes a space Art Deco in style… or if you’re doubting that The Great Gatsby is the all and be all of Art Deco… stick around to find out. And yes, we’ll answer these in a while.
By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what elements go into this now-classic style, why they figure in it, or if Art Deco is indeed what you’d like for your space.
We’ve also scoured Amazon for everything Art Deco. Scroll down to the end to see great finds that double as our moodboard.
Let’s get to it!
A little history lesson – Don’t worry, it’s short & sweet
Now celebrating a hundred years since it first appeared in the 1920s, Art Deco is one of the official historical or period design styles.
And to add context to the style’s background, let’s answer this question:
Where does Art Deco sit in the chronological order of architectural and interior design eras?
Art Deco came after Modernism, Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau Styles. They were the design movements of the early 20th Century that aimed to steer away from using any of the design elements seen in the previous eras.
And Art Deco meant to follow suit. Its look was revolutionary for its time, and yet, it was somehow still rooted in the traditional.
More about this later. In the meantime, first things first…
What is Art Deco?
Art Deco was a design movement of the1920s, influenced by the events of that time, namely: discovery of King Tut’s tomb, Hollywood’s Golden Era, rise of the Machine Age and all modes of travel. This resulted in a style that’s bold, blingy, graphic and modern.
Let’s expand on these…
Art Deco’s influences – a famous pharaoh, the movie world & the Industrial Revolution
While some design styles came to be as a reaction to the one that came before it, Art Deco’s distinct look was a product of the big happenings of the time.
The Industrial Revolution ushered the world into the modern era. The Machine Age made mechanization, mass production – with great precision at that – possible. Skyscrapers rose higher than they ever did. And as an effect of the Revolution, advances in transportation in all modes made world travel commonplace.
In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed King Tutankhamen’s burial site. This triggered a fascination towards the lifestyle the Egyptian pharaohs led. Decadent and extravagant, it became one inspiration for what was to become the Art Deco Style.
Then there was Hollywood’s Golden Age. It fueled people’s desire for a more romantic way of life. And it’s understandable. At time time, it seemed like everyone wanted to escape the horrors of the recent First World War.
Egyptian image source: Jeng_Niamwhan Getty Image
Hollywood image source: Jari Hindstrom
Factory plant image source: The Everett Collection
Vintage luggages source: BreakingTheWalls
All via Canva Pro
So, what things make up Art Deco? We can summarize them this way:
Egyptian elements + Hollywood’s dramatic traits and elements + Products of mechanization + Elements of world travel = Art Deco Style
Now that we have the contributors and an overview of what each brought to the table, let’s pick them apart some more.
What are the design elements of Art Deco?
Below is the breakdown of how each event figures in the style and the elements they contributed to Art Deco.
Egyptian elements from King Tut – possibly the oldest style influencer
The now-famous pharaoh had been dead for thousands of years, and yet, he managed to come back a hundred years ago, and made an impression in architecture and interior design, through the Art Deco style.
Here’s how King Tut influenced the Art Deco Style
· Use of high contrast, as we can see in the Pharaoh’s death mask
· Black and gold exuding luxury and glamour that were prevalent in the Ancient Egyptian royal culture
· Sunburst and round shapes and patterns to reference the Egyptian Sun God Ra
· Stepped pattern from the first Egyptian pyramid, Pyramid of Djoser
· Palm pattern inspired by the palm trees commonly found in Egypt
· Verticality as inspired by the Egyptian obelisk (see top right corner in the above photo) and the sheer height of the pyramids
· Heavy use of patterns in incised or relief form, as seen in Ancient Egyptians’ practice of recording their history on their walls
· Use of x-legged furniture pieces like the one above used as early as the Ancient Egyptian Era
Glamour and opulence – taking a page from Old Hollywood
Another big event of the 1920s that influenced Art Deco was Hollywood’s Golden Age. It was a time when filmmaking was advancing from the “silent movies” to “talking movies,” and also a time when films depicted the economic prosperity, and not to mention the wild parties of the Roarin’ 20s.
Let’s not forget that with Hollywood’s heyday, the Jazz Age came along too. So it’s not surprising to see its imprint in Art Deco as well.
1920s party photo by Wolfgang Sterneck via Flickr – Attribution – Non-commercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Below are its contributions to Art Deco:
· Dramatic lighting used for cinematic effects
· Elegant, refined, and glamorous overall look
· Intense and moody ambience
· Mirrored elements, whether with real mirror or polished surfaces
· Expensive and flashy materials
· Palm tree motif
· Furniture layout that’s good for entertaining guests at home, use of built-in bar or bar carts, etc
The Industrial Revolution and Machine Age – how they made Art Deco happen
The new wealth enjoyed in the 1920s resulted from the Second Industrial Revolution. But apart from new jobs and new money, mass production and precision in machine processes became the norm.
And Art Deco was one way through which this machine-perfecting capability was showcased.
Here are the ways the Industrial Revolution affected Art Deco. Subtle, yet it did it with great impact.
· Clean, crisp lines and symmetry in workmanship. This was opposed to the 18th century’s way of making things by hand. Machine-made versus handmade
· Verticality as an emphasis, as an homage to man’s then new-found way to build towering structures
World travel – the ultimate display of glamour and decadence
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, world travel became easier and faster. And it also was a way to show one’s social status.
As such, reminders of the trips and items picked up from exotic and faraway lands found their way into homes and spaces as décor.
Maps. globes, luggages. Animal hides and ivory items from safari trips. Even the silhouette of the planes’ seats appeared in Art Deco chair designs.
But before we leave this topic, it’s interesting to note that we can attribute several elements and characteristics of Art Deco to two of these three influences. Like:
· Luxury, opulence, and drama, plus the palm trees – Egyptian and Old Hollywood
· Focus on verticality – Egyptian and Industrial Revolution
There you go. The elements contributed by each of the events that influenced the Art Deco interior design style. And all these go for Art Deco architecture as well.
Modern yet traditional – Art Deco’s two faces
We touched about how Art Deco sat close to period styles that didn’t include details from past period styles. It too succeeded in that respect, because at that time, it looked modern, different, and fresh.
But because of its luxurious, symmetrical, embellished, and lofty characteristics, it inevitably inherited the formal and traditional vibe of styles like the Renaissance and Baroque.
Most commonly asked questions about the Art Deco Style
Now that we’ve laid out where the style got its look in the historical perspective, we can now easily answer the questions below. Bear with us, because it’s going to be a little repetitive.
What common shapes and patterns are used in Art Deco?
· Sun rays
· Vertical lines and stripes
· Stepped patterns or tiered steps
· Triangles and pyramids
· Stylized palm trees for a modern look
· Cartouche-inspired patterns, seen on the top-right corner above
What colors are used in Art Deco?
Colors don’t really make or break an Art Deco project, but if we need to specify colors, here are some suggestions:
· Black and gold are the staples, combined with
· Any other color
· Can also include white
What do Art Deco's fixed elements look like?
· Use of inlays, marquetry, parquetry and other methods to create contrast and form Art deco-specific patterns
· Includes luxurious materials such as marble or granite
What are the finishes seen in Art Deco?
· Polished, metallic finishes
· Mirrored finishes
· Glossy, lacquered finishes
· Patina – a greenish film that develops on bronze and copper of vintage quality
What are the common décor and furniture pieces used in Art Deco Style?
· Items with the style’s signature patterns, finishes, and colors, like the door knob plate and teapot above. The silhouette of the teapot is the same as the one in a scene in The Great Gatsby (when Nick made tea for Jay and Daisy in his cottage’s living room)
· Vintage industrial items and details as ode to the Industrial Revolution, like those metal parts on the orange armchair
· Travel-inspired pieces like the set of vintage luggages
· Memorabilia from Old Hollywood, Jazz Age, and other performing arts, like the figurine of dancing pair on the console table
· Aviator-like (like airplane seats) chairs with aerodynamic vibe like the Speed Chair by Paul Frankl as a reference to the Industrial Revolution, which again, made travel very easy and popular in the 1920s. The pair of chairs above are Aviator-inspired in its shape, but framed in highly polished wood instead of metal for that Art Deco vibe
· Another Art Deco staple is the x-legged furniture piece, which is attributed to the Ancient Egyptians
· Bar carts
*****Furniture pieces tend to be large in scale for a dramatic effect
What are Art Deco style’s points of emphasis?
For an authentic take on this popular style, keep these in mind when planning for your space:
· Visual contrast using patterns
· Glamour and opulence
· Excellence in workmanship
· Uniformity and precision in patterns
Pro tips for your Art Deco project
· Use Old Hollywood and Vintage Industrial elements in small doses, because they too are individual styles in their own right.
· Bring Art Deco to the 21st century. You can do this by keeping your space minimalist and fresh. Just remember to use enough of elements that it exudes glamour and luxury.
Here are some Art Deco vignettes to inspire you. From the vintage-inspired to a modern take on the style. Not too crazy about gold? You can still have the Art Deco vibe with a black and white palette plus silver or chrome.
What is the difference between Art Deco and Art Nouveau?
Art Deco displays straight lines, right angles, and geometric shapes as it celebrated what the Industrial Revolution and mechanization could do. In contrast, Art Nouveau took to nature for inspiration. It is almost devoid of straight lines, and instead uses undulated, organic curves.
See below. The Art Deco Empire State Building in New York City, USA, contrasted against the Art Nouveau Casa Mila in Barcelona, Spain.
Art Deco image source: joreks Getty Images Pro via Canva Pro
Art Nouveau image source: waldominguez Pixabay via Canva Pro
The following are styles that closely relate to and include some Art Deco vibe.
Either they came at roughly the same time, so they inevitably share common elements and characteristics like the Streamline Moderne and Hollywood Regency; or it just simply is another version of a style related to Art Deco, in this case, Modern Glam.
Another style that’s often mixed with Art Deco is the Streamline Moderne.
So how do they differ from each other?
Art Deco is focused on verticality and sharp corners, while Streamline Moderne has horizontal lines, called “speed lines,” and has more rounded corners. This element is prominent in the furniture pieces used in Diner Style restaurants and kitchens.
More examples of this Streamline Moderne here.
Hollywood Regency Style
Like mentioned, Hollywood was such a big influence on Art Deco. So it’s not surprising to see the opposite – to find Art Deco elements in Hollywood Regency Style.
Hollywood Regency as an interior design style emerged in the 1930s, as an interpretation of Hollywood’s Golden Era in the living space. In the simplest terms, it’s an eclectic mix of styles that includes Egyptian, Classical Greek and Roman, Baroque, and of course, a bit of Art Deco.
Though they figure in each other in small doses, their overall looks completely differ.
Both Hollywood Regency and Art Deco are expected to have an over-the-top look. After all, their primary goal is to create an atmosphere of glamour, luxury and opulence.
Above is an example. Head on to our Pinterest board for more up-to-date takes on Hollywood Regency Style.
Modern Glam Style
For a modern and a toned-down style that exude the same vibe, there’s Modern Glam Style. It’s the simplified version Hollywood Regency Style, hence can also have some Art Deco elements in it.
The above modern glam living spaces display Art Deco elements, some obvious, some subtle.
· Black and gold scheme
· Verticals on the sofa’s backrest
· Portrait of glamorous Egyptian women
· High contrast
· Luxurious materials
Plenty of Modern Glam examples in this post and this Pinterest board.
Now that we’ve discussed what goes into an Art Deco and what doesn’t, it’s time we tackle one point at issue we posed in the beginning.
So, is the Great Gatsby Art Deco?
Yes and no.
The movie undeniably has Art Deco elements, but it also got other styles in it, all on-point for its time setting.
While we’re not fleshing out all of The Great Gatsby’s sets in this post, here are some of the other interior design styles we see in the movie.
· Hollywood Regency Style in Gatsby’s lobby
· Classic elements and Streamline Moderne bed in Gatsby’s bedroom
· Country Style for Nick Carraway’s cottage
· Industrial Style for George Wilson’s garage
· Victorian Style for Myrtle and Tom’s secret flat and also for the room at The Plaza
Enough of other styles, this post is about Art Deco and here’s a rundown of the many of its instances in the movie.
· The movie poster, definitely
· High-contrast parquetry floor design with sunburst pattern in the center of the ballroom
· Sunburst pattern on the bridge over the pool
· Tiered champagne tower during one of the parties
· Symmetrical poolside staircase mimicking stepped pyramid
· Backdrop for the Wurlitzer piano (00:18)
· Pattern on the area rug in the master bedroom
· Staircase’s baluster design and wall sconce (01:12) in sunray pattern and chandelier (01:16) in the speakeasy scene
· Tea set with the strainer (02:16 & 02:24), clock on the mantel (00:01), plus the Aviator-inspired sofa and armchair (01:23) set in the “invitation to tea” scene
· Emblem on Jay Gatsby’s ring in sunburst / daisy pattern against a black background
· Jordan Baker’s black party dress with palm tree-inspired beading pattern on the neckline
· Miss Baker’s necklace during her meeting with Nick at a building’s rooftop – it is designed with nested triangles topped by a partial circle in reference to Egyptian pyramids and the Egyptian Sun God Ra
So yes, Art Deco makes a strong presence in this movie.
Why is Art Deco so popular?
Glitz and glamour. They will always pique our curiosity. And what’s more, the style has just recently turned a hundred years old, prompting some nostalgic trip back in time.
But even prior to that, Art Deco had been celebrated again and again on television and in the movies, so it never really went away.
And it still makes an appearance to this day. It seems that the Hollywood connection is just inescapable.
Aside from The Great Gatsby, here’s where we see Art Deco:
· An Affair to Remember (00:34) and Love Affair (0:08), the Empire State Building being central to these movies’ story; and yes, there’s King Kong climbing it
· Stair detail in Chicago, the musical (00:53, 01:46)
· Central City Police Station and in its lobby in The Flash TV series
· The Velvet Building in Netflix’s TV series Velvet
Wrapping it up
We hope you now have a clear idea of what a full-on Art Deco interiors should look like. Is this what you have in mind? You can see more Art Deco images in our Pinterest board.
If you haven’t yet, download the checklist from the sticky bar on this page, as you plan for that Art Deco project.
You can take the route of making your space as vintage as possible for a more authentic feel; or you can always take the modernized version of this style.
On the other hand, if you prefer to just have a dose of this decadent style, you’d probably want to go either the Hollywood Regency or the Modern Glam route.
Get the Art Deco look
From area rugs down to accessories, we’ve rounded up everything you’ll need to put together an Art Deco space. Happy shopping!
Again, these are affiliate links.
These sofas may not be made in vintage Art Deco construction style, but they’re all on-point. Vertical tufting, velvet, black and gold metals. Luxurious- and comfortable-looking. They will all fit well in any Art Deco project, bet it in a living room, den, bedroom, or office space.
So modern, and yet they still exude the Art Deco vibe. Their vertical tufted construction is reminiscent of King Tut’s mask and they’re all upholstered in luxe materials. The round, gold bases can be a reference to Egyptian Sun God Ra. They’re all perfect for that modern Art Deco project.
Going for a more vintage vibe? We got you. The two armchairs above are just what you need. The vintage look and the aerodynamic arm silhouette look a lot like the Aviator chairs that are associated with the Industrial Revolution. Check out the first one. It’s available in love seat and 3-seater versions.
You’ll find this sofa arm silhouette in the pair of white chairs in Daisy’s sitting room and in Nick’s living room in The Great Gatsby.
More pillows with Art Deco patterns and Egyptian-themed prints from Zazzle. Going for modern? We’ve got you covered!
· Polished, metallic finishes
· Mirrored finishes
· Glossy, lacquered finishes
· Patina – we can see these in old Deco buildings, especially those which were built when the style was still in its infancy.
Wallpaper & ceiling tins
Entertaining at home - Art Deco style
There you go. Everything you need to pull off an Art Deco space. Happy decorating.
Not sure if Art Deco is for you? Take our quiz to find out.