What Is Art Deco?

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated July 6, 2021
green and blue art deco room

Art Deco style is all about bold colors, geometric shapes, solid lines, and glam accents

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If your mind dwells in a Gatsby-esque dreamscape, or your happy place lies within the Chrysler building, Art Deco offers the perfect style to capture your fancy. So, what is Art Deco style, and how can you incorporate it? Through the use of bold colors, geometric shapes, and other striking details, you can bring the decorative arts of the roaring ‘20s right to your space. 

What Defines the Art Deco Style?

Art Deco is all about reviving the luxurious style that captivated America and Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. It dripped with elegance while embracing the modern innovations of the time period—such as electrical machinery and the growing availability of electrical appliances around the home.

Here are the token characteristics of Art Deco:

  • Straight, solid lines

  • Expansive curves

  • Loud patterns (e.g., chevron, animal print)

  • Sunburst designs

  • Over-the-top glam accents

  • Vibrant colors (e.g., bright yellow, rust, greens, pink, turquoise)

  • Ornate details

  • Sharp edges reminiscent of skyscrapers (e.g., the Chrysler building and the Rockefeller center) 

What is Art Deco vs. Art Nouveau?

The decorative arts of Art Nouveau and Art Deco defined the 20th century. While the names often get confused, each style has its own set of distinct characteristics. While Art Deco is quite “maximalist,” Art Nouveau chooses the more subdued, minimal approach.

Art Nouveau, or “new art,” sought to blur the line between fine art and the decorative arts. This style largely focuses on natural imagery, with smooth curves and organic forms creating elegant, harmonious aesthetics. Unlike Art Deco, Art Nouveau favors a more muted color palette with shades like mustard yellow, sunset orange, olive green, and dusty blue.

Art Deco Style Around the Home

It might not be one of the most Instagrammed interior design styles, but Art Deco has certainly left an imprint. You can marry it with other elements, such as real antiques, or you can go full-on modern and extravagant. You can always hire a local interior designer or an interior decorator near you to help you capture this style, or you can experiment on your own. Below are a few flapper-approved ideas to inspire your decorating. 

Glamorous Lighting Fixtures

Whether it’s decorating your grand entrance, adorning your dining room, or bringing a little extra sparkle to your reading chair, a glam lighting fixture can illuminate your space in style. Think rectangular lamps, sunburst fixtures, and sparkling chandeliers for extra drama.

Animal Print Elements

Art Deco style favors animal print, and there are lots of ways to introduce this to your space. Consider a zebra-print rug for pizzazz or leopard-print throw pillows to dress up your sofa. Heck, why not a leopard-print sofa?

Pattern Play

If animal print isn’t quite your style, you can go with Art Deco’s signature chevron or sunburst patterns. Both work well for throw pillows, or you can even incorporate these motifs in your floors or wall art.

Mix Bright with Neutrals

If the vibrant colors of the Art Deco palette are too much for your eyes, try incorporating them as bold accents against a more neutral background. Beiges and creams are among the softer colors available, and these go well with brightly colored focal points.

Create an Art Deco-themed Room

If all-over Art Deco is a little much for you, decorating a single themed room in your home is sure to add a wow factor. For example, think about decking out your downstairs powder room instead of your entire home. Or, imagine an Art Deco-style kitchen, complete with vintage appliances.

Art Deco: Pros and Cons

What more is there to say about the pros of Art Deco style, old sport? Emphasizing luxurious details and technological innovations can make you feel like you’re stepping into a time capsule. It’s over-the-top in the best way, with tons of elements to go as wild (or subdued) with it as you please.

On the con side, though, those bold colors and geometric patterns might be a little rough on the eyes after a while. It’s also not a “warm” style for people who enjoy a calm, relaxing environment at home. Oh, and if you favor minimalism, it definitely won’t be your cup of tea.

Is an Art Deco Architect or Home Designer Worth the Cost?

It’s not surprising that many who favor Art Deco style are “extra” about it with the help of the pros. After all, what is Art Deco if not extra? We’re here for it either way.

Whether you hire an architect or home designer is completely up to you. Both will provide next-level options towards achieving your Art Deco dreams, but these will come at an additional cost. What you pay varies widely by the project, but the more budget-friendly option is usually the home designer.

If you’re feeling inspired, contact a few pros in your area and check out their portfolios.

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