A Guide to the Art Deco Style

Art Deco was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Art nouveau before it was simpler and focused on nature.

Art Deco influenced interior design, fashion, and car design, like Art Nouveau. It’s modern, machine-focused, and elegant.

It survived the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In the 1950s, clean-lined midcentury modern took over. Original and copy art deco is in high demand. 

Common Motifs of the Art Deco Style

The bold, fluid and symmetrical motifs, patterns, and themes of Art Deco showed how the country’s economy and culture were changing because of new technologies in fields like transportation and architecture. Art deco is known for its use of geometry, straight lines, and sharp angles. This style is bold and intense, but there is no sign of softness or romance. When shopping for art deco furniture and decor, keep an eye out for these recurring themes: 

  • Trapezoidal shapes
  • Zigzag patterns
  • Chevron patterns
  • Stepped forms
  • Sweeping curves
  • Sunburst shapes
  • Triangular shapes
  • Stylized wildlife
  • Sensuous, sometimes abstract, nude females
  • Jagged, pointed edges inspired by skyscrapers (such as the Chrysler building)

Tourism’s Influence on Art Deco

During the 1930s, more and more people went abroad to go on safaris or see ancient pyramids. These trips were a big reason why animal patterns (like zebra stripes) and hieroglyphic symbols are so common in the art deco style.

Common Materials Used in the Art Deco Style

Certain materials define art deco design. For example, art deco buildings, furniture, and accessories used a lot of gold and steel to show how wealthy people were at the time because of new industries. During the Art Deco period, they used the following types of materials:

  • Shark, velvet, and zebra skin are high-end fabrics for seats and headboards.
  • Stainless steel, mirror, chrome, glass, and lacquer furniture and accessories
  • Ebony, zebrawood, and marble are all expensive materials used to make high-end furniture and accessories.

Elements of the Art Deco Style

Art deco was all about making a statement when decorating and building. You can mix art deco with other styles if you like the period. A room with mostly traditional furniture can be made more interesting by adding curved or mirrored art deco pieces. Here are some art deco design elements for a retro-modern home.


During the Art Deco era, colors were bright and bold. High-shine silver, chrome, or black accents are often used to pair colors or draw attention to them.

  • Colors like bright and deep yellow, red, green, blue, and pink were popular at the time.
  • Creams and beiges were some of the softer colors of that time. These colors were often used in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Neutral colors go well with the period’s polished wood and lacquered furniture.


Art Deco furniture is big and has a sleek shape, but it doesn’t have any frills or intricate details. During this time, it was common to have large sideboards, armoires, and chairs. At the time, safari vacations were very popular, so mother-of-pearl or tortoiseshell inlays were used on furniture.


Velvets and leathers are two additional common upholstery fabrics that draw inspiration from art deco alongside shark and zebra skins. Traditional feminine florals and masculine plaids have no place in art deco interiors. Select fabrics with solid colors or geometric patterns instead. Seats on art deco furniture often feature solid, contrasting blocks of color.


Herringbone and parquet flooring, as well as simple inlays that create shapes like sunbursts, are all examples of art deco features that can be found in almost any home. Other designs appeared as flooring materials, such as black-and-white checkered linoleum or tile, or cube patterns with optical illusion designs. Large rugs with loud geometric patterns are a common addition to floors in an art deco style.


Adding the aesthetic to any room is as simple as using art deco-style light fixtures. The geometric and symmetrical designs of the era’s lighting fixtures have become iconic. They have three design elements that are common in art deco, but they are more complicated than other art deco elements.

  • Lighting with smooth, aerodynamic, and minimally detailed modern lines and silhouettes
  • Lamps with etched glass or chrome shades in the shape of skyscrapers (either stepped or elongated)
  • Light bulbs are hidden by fan-shaped shades.

What is opal glass?

Italy was the birthplace of opal glass, also known as milk glass due to its milky white appearance, centuries before the art deco era. However, during the Art Deco era, it became popular as a material for lampshades.

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