Art deco is a design style known for its architecture and lavish materials. But I think many people dismiss it as an option in their own homes; with an all or nothing mindset, they assume it’s hard to pull off.
I completely disagree. Art deco designs can add elegance to almost any home. So today I’ll be giving some tips for adding subtle and simple art deco accessories to your home.
Art deco, a quick historical perspective
Art deco developed in several countries simultaneously; so designs vary depending on their origin. But the beginning of the movement is considered to be an exhibition in Paris in 1925, the “International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts”. Representatives were instructed to showcase their country’s best, never before seen, modern architecture and decor.
To put this era into perspective, they were coming from the popularity of curvy, organic lines and fine detailed craftsmanship of art nouveau. So it makes sense that the next step towards modernity would be a style that showcased industrial production; clean lines, metals and highly polished finishes.
Cubism was also popular at the time and encouraged the strong geometry of art deco. Lastly, art deco used exotic elements like lacquered finishes and animal skins; which were in line with the increasing ease of travel, colonialism and the popularity of archaeology.
Art deco was especially popular in the United States. Some think that it appealed to Americans because it was a truly new style – not another historical reinterpretation. Globally the US was still seen as a newcomer lacking its own history, so the forward-looking movement was a good fit with national identity of the time. Also art deco highlighted innovation and technology which were key to the 1920’s American economic boom.
In the 1930’s art deco evolved further. Bakelite and other new materials allowed designs that were originally stone or ivory to be cheaply mass produced, and the style became available to a wider audience.
Also during this time streamline moderne, and other similar styles began to emerge from art deco. For example some of the Miami hotels that people call art deco, are actually streamline moderne (there’s a mix of styles in the famous South Beach strip). But for today’s purposes I’m going to try to focus only on the most iconic elements of art deco.
OK, so what do art deco designs look like? Here are some examples.
Notice the vertical lines and how forms are simplified to geometric shapes.
Interiors & Architecture:
Look for the vertical lines and geometric shapes again, but also steel construction and recessed lighting (both were new technology at the time). Wood inlay, marble, lacquer and reflective surfaces were popular.
These pieces of jewelry follow the same tenets – geometry and the bold use of materials.
So do you think you can identify the style now?
These classic examples can be interesting to study, but most of the elements are probably nothing you’d add to your own home. Wood veneer inlay on the walls, or expanses of marble finishes are a little over the top for the average family. But that’s why we’re going to focus on accessories. Art deco accessories will still embody the style, but are more subtle so they will blend with contemporary designs.
Now let’s break down some options of how to practically bring art deco into your own home.
Art Deco Accessories
The first option, if you’re lucky enough to find them (and afford them), would be to add authentic antiques from the era. Lighting is a simple way to have a touch of the style without making a huge commitment.
The next idea, which is also a direct representation of historical art deco, is to use your wall art to bring the style into a room.
Poster reproductions are popular and easy to find (like the Yellowstone poster at the beginning of the post). But for something a little different, you could add sketches, architectural drawings or photography of art deco architecture.
Another option is a modern interpretation of art deco design. Here are some examples of modern products that are faithful to the original style.
Finally you could go for a more abstract reference. These images follow the geometric composition of art deco in a new, fresh way.
Another reason that art deco is an interesting style to follow is that it has gone through several resurgences in popularity; in the 1960’s and 1980’s specifically. So you’re into vintage items, there are a lot of art deco reincarnations out there. Growing up in South Florida in the 1980’s, I’m partial to some of the 80’s art deco designs…just use them with care or your house can end up looking like a Miami Vice set.
Hopefully this will help you open up to the idea of art deco design. By bringing in a few art deco accessories, you can take advantage of the style’s simplicity and elegant forms without it being as cold and harsh as minimalist modern decor can be.