If you like your interiors sophisticated with a bit of flashiness, Art Deco decor may be just the ticket for you. Its combination of worldly luxury and exuberance create a glamorous style that opens up all sorts of possibilities for creating a chic space.
What is Art Deco?
It might have been a short-lived period, but Art Deco has had a lasting influence on design and decor. The style is a bit flashy and glitzy, but without fussiness and it immediately evokes a vintage feel. The impact of the Art Deco era — actually a short 15 years between the wars from 1925 to 1940 — can be found in furniture as well as art and architecture. It takes its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs that was held in Paris to present all sorts of new ideas.
Actually, Art Deco is a budget conscious way to make a style statement. The style is rooted in practicality because decorative motifs could be used to jazz up the straight-lined, basic shapes of structures. This is very visible in much of Art Deco architecture, where simple, repeating motifs are used as embellishment — just take a look at Miami’s historic buildings. The same is true in Art Deco decor: The basic lines are straight and there’s a lack of frilly, ostentatious ornamentation.
That said, there are some basic elements of Art Deco style that are important for transforming a room into a space that has the old-school glamour of this era.
Art Deco style is all about the geometrics. Silhouettes are strong and clean-lined, ornamentation focuses on dynamic curves and bold angles. You won’t find fussy flowers or frou-frou in this kind of decor. Of course, this in no way means that pieces are plain. The overall look of furniture from this era is assertive and energetic, projecting a strong personality. It’s not a style for shrinking violets. The geometric element can be reflected in the embellishment that distinguishes the piece, or in a basic shape that is highlighted by a restrained section of ornamentation.
A Glamorous Air
One of the definitive terms for this style is swanky and the furnishings of the era reflect that. Upholstery is generally a glamorous velvet, silk or satin with texture and sheen. There’s no room for utilitarian textiles in Art Deco decor! Any patterns used have a strong geometric sense and glitz is added with metallic touches and luminous finishes. The main aim is to create a room that has a powerful sense of cosmopolitan luxury. The space should evoke the image of a debonair crowd with martinis in hand.
Leaves, Branches and Feathers
Outside of bold geometrics, some Art Deco decor uses embellishments that consist of leaves, branches or feathers. Even then, the ornamentation is restrained and very different from that of rococo decor, which also uses leaves and feathers. In this style, it is more likely to be used as a pattern, more monochrome accent than colorful or gilded flourish. Often, these motifs are stylized and not the life-like renderings of other design eras. The Mascheroni cabinet above is a grand example as the flowers and leaves are stylized and perforated into the leather surface, rather than painted.
Sunbursts are a very common theme in Art Deco decor — are a dramatic flourish to all of the angles found in this style. The pointed ends of the rays are a very fitting detail. The element can be a small or background embellishment, or it can be a dramatic focal point as in a bed headboard. Playing with the finish, color and style will temper the impact of a sunburst, or make it more eye-catching. Large pieces of furniture are typical of Art Deco decor and often serve as the focal point and design statement in a room.
One of the easiest ways to add glamour to the simple, angular silhouettes of Art Deco furniture is with high-shine finishes. Chrome and glass became very popular during this era, helping to create a gleaming ambiance for a room. If a major mirrored or high-buffed piece is not in the budget, try adding smaller pieces in lustrous finishes and or incorporating mirrors and glass items.
Black and White
It’s a timeless combo that endures through the decades — and it is an iconic pairing from the Art Deco era. Sophisticated and dramatic, the contrast of the two opposing colors is as classic as a tuxedo. Using it as an overall theme or as the basis for geometric patterns on an accent piece of furniture brings a thrill to any room. It’s also the perfect background for the other pieces of this decor style. With a black and white palette, it’s easier to mix different graphic patterns for a high-end feel.
Despite the prevalence of metal and glass, the Art Deco era popularized the use of exotic woods. Options like Violet wood, Ambonia, ebony, and mahogany were common, according to Sklar Furnishings. Prominent burls and grains, along with combinations of wood types, are attractive additions to a room. Polished to a high shine, these woods rival chrome and glass for shine and sophistication. Also during this era, the Asian technique of lacquer gained popularity and was used to make more affordable woods look just as opulent as the exotics.
Sklar also points out that there was also a resurgence of interest in marquetry in this design period, which was ideal for the geometric shapes of this design era. The commonly used zigzags, squares, chevrons and sunbursts were easy to render with the technique of inlay.
Creating the swanky atmosphere of the Art Deco era relies heavily on the right lighting. Any fixture can be done in this style, however, sconces and torchieres are particularly effective. They cast light up and down, and when placed correctly, help create the perfect mood. Most are fairly clean-lined, but some can feature the same kind of decorative elements that are used on furnishings and textiles: leaves, branches and flowers. The choice depends on personal style and whether you favor an edgier, graphic version of Art Deco, a one with a bit more softness. Either way, lighting is an essential element for Art Deco decor.
If swank is your thing, try out some Art Deco decor. It’s a versatile style and is fairly gender neutral, thanks to the clean lines and graphic designs. The aim of classic Art Deco is to achieve a monolithic appearance that is accented with applied decorative motifs. This makes it easy to emphasize the masculine side if you so desire. So grab a cocktail, dim the lights, cue the music…and enjoy your snappy new space!