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Art Deco Style Defined

Find out how to incorporate art deco design into your home.

By Lisa Frederick

The art deco design movement came about during the two decades that separated World Wars I and II, and it enjoyed its zenith in the darkest days of the Great Depression. Art deco's glamorous attitude and insouciant flair created an irresistible antidote to the struggles and burdens of the financial crisis—a badly-needed feeling of escape, however temporary. It's trending today for much the same reason.

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The Basics

Stately Contemporary Kitchen
Johnny Grey

There's nothing timid about this style, which radiates flash and dazzle. Seductive curves mingle with razor-sharp corners, while posh materials and shiny finishes emit an air of luxury. At the same time, art deco furnishings and surfaces have a certain straightforwardness about them; there's little excess or frippery. Unusual materials, such as ebony and shagreen, lend an opulent feel. 

These designer rooms embody art deco décor:  


Get the Look

Longing for a hint of luxury in your home? Here's how to bring it.

Art Deco Sculpture Table
Joel Liebman Furniture
Geometric forms. Art deco interiors appear to hew to a geometric grid, balanced by gentle swirls and rounded details. Rectangles, squares, diamonds, simple lines, and other shapes are layered together into arresting furniture profiles and textile patterns. Crisp motifs such as harlequin, fan, and Greek key predominate.

Glossy surfaces.
 Lacquer, glass, polished chrome—reflective elements give art deco style its sass. Swap plain leather or fabric upholstery for patent leather; treat paint to a high-sheen topcoat; incorporate metal accents; choose light fixtures that drip with crystals. Just be sure to include a few matte notes so that the shine doesn't become overbearing.
Norah Wall
Layered lighting. Mood is everything in art deco interiors, and nothing sets a mood like light. A combination of wall sconces, floor and table lamps, ceiling fixtures, and undermount lighting allows you to control and adjust the brightness. 

Dramatic palettes.
 Although it may seem surprising, this bold style isn't known for bold color. Instead, art deco more often features basic black and stark white shot with metallics and hints of dusty pink, muted teal, sapphire blue, mint green, or golden yellow. Colors tend toward the cool end of the spectrum. 

Mirroring. Mirrors, with their inherent charisma and inimitable gleam, may be the signature component of art deco style. Think beyond framed mirrors—reflective tables and case goods, accent pieces, and even mirrored ceilings can all find a place in this look. 

Rich woods. Wood figures prominently in this décor scheme, and the more exotic, the better. Consider teak, bird's-eye maple, mahogany, and zebrawood. Burled patterns work particularly well with this style; parquet and inlay patterns also convey a sense of the period.
  • If you like Art Deco style, you may also like Craftsman style. Click to explore!

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