All About Art Deco and Its Interiors

Loving the look from the roaring ’20s and ‘30s? Here’s a little intro about design from the Art Deco age.

Updated on June 09, 2017 9:06 am

Camille Besinga

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Art Deco. Opulent. Grand. Monumental. Springing from the 1920s and into the ‘30s, it was that period after the First World War, when the world economy surged and propelled many into wealth. The birth of the assembly line revolutionised the manufacturing industry. Cities were born.


The New York City skyline

Skyscrapers began dotting skylines, and instead of stairs, people were taking the elevators to the uppermost floors.


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Tourism became popular, and people began travelling in style: via lavish luxury liners, sleek-looking automobiles, and those metal birds in the sky, the aeroplanes.


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The term “art deco” was coined when the French decided to showcase only what was modern at the 1925 Paris World Fair (probably as an attempt to move forward from the old-fashioned ways of the pre-Great War era), where they exhibited the Exposition Internationale des Artes Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, or The International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts. The entries dazzled and hypnotised all the fair goers, many of whom included art directors, producers, and designers from the United States of America. And while Art Deco flourished in Europe, it exploded in the US, especially with the help of Hollywood, whose film sets embraced the movement with fervour.


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In line with the grandeur that overcame designers of that era, art deco was characterised by big geometric forms and bold curves. Geometry was design’s way of giving off a futuristic look via straight or swooping lines, sharp angles or curvilinear corners, and other geometric shapes.


Chrome doorknob backplates


Shagreen and Ivory Horn


Kem Weber armchair

Materials popular then included chrome, aluminium, brass, lacquer, ivory, ebony, and exotic skins like shark, stingray, crocodile, and eel. Oh, and glass and mirrors everywhere, of course.


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Sunburst rose ceiling


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Art deco was highly stylised, and interiors favoured architectural motifs, like gold or brass carved into primitive plant, fan, or shell motifs and exploding sunbursts. But while the previous design period of Art Nouveau also displayed pastoral themes, these images were translated into Art Deco in cubist, futuristic forms, and flaunted a jazzy syncopation, much like the music of the period.


Ziggurat-inspired architecture


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Ziggurats also figured in architecture, as an interest in tribal, African, and Egyptian themes enjoyed popularity at that time, influenced by archaeological digs (pyramids and tombs of Egyptian kings, for example, and the Mayan temples) made during the 1920s.


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Walls and carpet featured big, bold patterns; windows were shaped into fan-like forms or mimicked the varying heights of skyscrapers. Moulding repeated linear fashion, lending a look of elegant symmetry to spaces.


Dining room designed by Eliel Saarinen in the early ‘20s


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Tamara De Lempicka


Sonia Delauney


Erte

Colours were audacious and bright, but often having a background of stark neutrals like black, white, and cream. Gold dominated, as did blood red, peacock blue, and Kelly green. Vividness and high contrast ruled the day. This was clearly shown in art that abound in that era: works by Tamara De Lempicka, Sonia Delauney, and Erte, among others.

Here are some examples of art deco interiors in contemporary time.


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Watch this video for more images of architecture, décor, jewellery, motifs, and anything relating to the Art Deco period.

Cover photo courtesy of NYCeiling

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