Art Deco Interior Design: Embracing Glamorous History

Art Deco Conference room

Art Deco style interior design has its roots in the 1920s and 1930s. This sleek style influenced architecture as well as furnishings, sculpture, fashion, jewelry, and visual arts. Art Deco then lead directly into the glamorous designs of 1940s Hollywood.

Art Deco History

Art Deco is a streamlined, geometric style which often includes furniture pieces with curved fronts, mirrors, clean lines, chrome hardware and glass. This elegant style began as a Modernist response in opposition to Art Nouveau style which featured elaborate, flowing natural forms plus female imagery and Tiffany lamps.

Art Deco makes use of angular, balanced geometric shapes, such as the classic skyline imagery of the 1930s Chrysler Building and Empire State Building. Renowned artists that helped to define Art Deco style include Erte, Adolphe Mouron (aka Cassandre) and Tamara de Lempicka.

The term "Art Deco" is taken from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which was a World's Fair held in Paris, France, in 1925, though the name was not used until after the 1960s. It is therefore also called Style Moderne or 1925 Style.

The atmosphere of pre-World War I Europe was a major influence on this style, which was a reaction to the hasty societal and industrial advances of the early 20th century. Paris was the hub of Art Deco style, due in part to the artistic creations of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Jean-Jacques Rateau, Eileen Gray, Edgar Brandt, Jean Dunand, René Lalique, Maurice Marinot and Cartier.

After a 1926 hurricane ravaged Miami, Florida, architects designed whole city blocks in the Art Deco style. This architectural experiment resulted in Miami's distinctive tropical influenced Art Deco design.

Art Deco Style

Art Deco is thought to be a diverse form of Modern decoration with eclectic influences coming from the primal arts of Aztec Mexico, Africa and Egypt, in addition to the powerful images of the Hi-Tech Age, like radios and skyscrapers. For example, the 1935 Victrola is a vivid and discernible Art Deco item.


Art Deco employs unique materials such as:

  • Aluminum
  • Inlaid wood
  • Lacquer
  • Shagreen
  • Stainless steel
  • Zebra skin

Design elements of art deco involve:

  • Zigzagged and stepped patterns
  • Sweeping curves and lines
  • Chevron patterns
  • Sunburst shapes

Art Deco was frequently opulent in nature and was often featured in cinemas, theaters and ocean liners. A corresponding movement, called Streamline design, was taken from manufacturing and scientific advances in addition to sleek, aerodynamic shapes. Following the success of the Chrysler Airflow design of 1933, similar shapes began to be used for everyday objects, like pencil sharpeners and refrigerators.

Incorporating Art Deco into Your Design Scheme

Once you understand the history and influences of the Art Deco movement, you will know what to look for when it comes to furnishings, art and decor. If you are interested in incorporating an Art Deco theme into your next design project, you will need to start with the basics.


Because of the minimalist nature of Art Deco style, you should include a lot of neutrals in your color palette, such as beige, tan, taupe, brown, black, grey, silver and white. Use muted or bold colors sparingly, such as green, red, maroon, blue, yellow and gold.


Use sleek materials and colors when considering flooring options, including black-and-white checkered tile, marble or glossy hardwood floors. Complete the look with an Art Deco style area rug featuring geometric designs.


Sleek furniture with highly lacquered finishes and elegant curves should be comfortable yet glamorous. Wood furniture can be made from rosewood, walnut, maple, teak or even zebra wood. Chrome, stainless steel, glass and vinyl can be combined with upscale upholstry like leather or exotic zebra print. Large scale pieces are common in this style, such as armoires, sideboards and oversized chairs, lounges and sofas. A retro wood home bar would make an excellent addition to an Art Deco living room or dining room.


Streamlined, ultra modern, zig-zag and geometric designs are used for ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, table lamps and floor lamps. Lamp bases are typically made from brass, nickel, bronze, aluminum, wrought iron, ceramic or chrome with glass shades in white, clear, frosted, etched or colored.


Add decorative accessories such as geometric mirrors with shiny silver or chrome frames, vintage French Deco clocks, vintage radios and phonographs, vintage ceramic vases, Art Deco posters (vintage travel, jazz or advertising prints) and vintage framed art prints from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Max Ernst or Paul Klee. Peacock feathers mixed with exotic flowers make an elegant floral display. Simple yet attractive window treatments include vinyl roller shades or wide slatted wood Venitian blinds.

Avoid flowery or floral prints on upholstry and fabrics. Art Deco style furniture typically has solid colored fabrics in neutral colors or patterns with geometric designs as well as richly colored leather, vinyl, suede and mohair.

Art Deco Style Resources

Whether you're looking for visual inspiration for the Art Deco style, or you want to purchase some Art Deco style furnishings for your home, there are plenty of resources available, including:

  • HGTV's Art Deco Ideas - Over 30 room projects featuring art deco interior design.
  • Decopix - Comprehensive guide to Art Deco architecture including photographs, history and links.
  • Art Deco Style - The ultimate guide to Art Deco.
  • Deco Dame - Art Deco style furniture and lighting.
  • Bellacor - Art Deco style furnishings, lighting and accessories.

Create a Union of Retro and Modern

Many Art Deco furnishings fit in well with contemporary style design. If you're looking for a way to add some personality to a modern room, or you just want to add some interest and history to any space, Art Deco style furnishings, accessories and prints are the perfect way to do so. Include a hint of the Art Deco style in your contemporary home and give it an instant style upgrade.

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Art Deco Interior Design: Embracing Glamorous History