What Is Art Deco? 6 Ways to Add the Classic Style to Your Home

This 100-year-old design aesthetic is all about glamour.

Synonymous with flapper dresses, bootleggers, and speakeasies, the 1920s were a decade of extravagance. Radios became a household must-have, and one in five Americans had an automobile. This new age of technology and wealth also ushered in a new look: Art Deco. Compared to the more traditional elegance of Art Nouveau (1890-1914), Art Deco was modern, fresh, and fun.

Despite being one of the most challenging interior design styles to get right, Art Deco is iconic and elements of this over-the-top aesthetic still remain popular. Maximalist by nature, Art Deco style embraces a "more is more" mentality from the age of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here's how to nail the luxe look today.

art deco dining room

Michael Garland

What Is Art Deco?

Art Deco was born in France sometime in the 1910s before the first World War. In 1925, it was showcased to the world in Paris at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The result was an era of opulence and decadence. The aesthetic rose to the heights of its popularity in the United States throughout the Golden age (the 1920s and '30s). 

From coast to coast, some of the most famous buildings in America were built in the Art Deco style. If you look closely over the New York cityscape, you should be able to identify the Empire State Building and the Chrysler building as Art Deco icons. These structures served as pillars of the design movement in the race to build the tallest building in the country. On the West coast, buildings like the Paramount Theater and Griffith Observatory sparkled with Art Deco influence. 

When it comes to Art Deco interior design, there are several key elements, including metallic surfaces, rich hues, and bold statement pieces.

6 Classic Elements of Art Deco Interior Design

1. Rich Colors 

Art Deco style is known for its decadent color palettes. Jewel tones like sapphire, ruby, and emerald stand out in this style, often complementing glimmering accents of silver and gold. To add depth and drama, the color black is used fearlessly and consistently. While deep hues shine in this artistic movement, light colors can be used, too. Soft pastels are often integrated to contrast and highlight.

art deco kitchen

Nathan Schroder

2. Geometric Shapes and Repeating Lines

Bold shapes are key to Art Deco style, and all sizes and variations layer with each other to create dynamic arrangements. From stick straight to curved arches, repeating lines are also utilized to create emphasis. Common Art Deco patterns include triangle shapes, chevron lines, sunbursts, and Greek key designs, as featured on the bar stools of this Art Deco-inspired kitchen.

green bathroom cabinets

Katie Fiedler

3. Bold Patterns 

Wallpaper and bold tile arrangements featuring showstopping patterns are vital to creating moody Art Deco atmospheres. Repeat geometric shapes to form unique patterns on flooring and walls. Feature tiles with a hexagon pattern or staggered design on the floor in a bathroom, kitchen, or foyer. Or add floral or velvet embossed wallpaper as an accent wall for a full Art Deco feature.

4. Metallic Accents

Art Deco style quite literally shines. Gold, brass, and chrome accents are used across furnishings, fixtures, and finishes. The repeated use of these metallics creates cohesion throughout any space. Items like light fixtures, seating, small accents, flooring, and wall coverings can all be adorned with a little shimmer. Polished fixtures add a timeless look to any room, while mirrored accents help reflect these shiny surfaces.

bathroom chandelier art deco

Werner Straube

5. Statement Lighting  

The grandeur and glamour of the Jazz Age were emphasized with an array of unique light fixtures. From dazzling chandeliers to retro sconces, Art Deco lighting exudes luxury. Most statement fixtures are either one of two things: elaborate and lavish, or elegantly crafted from simple lines and shapes. Most showcase polished metallic finishes. Table lamps often feature oversized shades with unique shapes and ornate bases.

green velvet couch dining room

Nathan Schroder

6. Opulent Textiles and Furniture Designs

Art Deco-inspired sofas and other seating showcase sumptuous fabrics like velvet and leather. Furniture also features unique shapes and embellishments, including curved, fluted, and scalloped edges. Each piece is crafted to make a statement, whether with lacquered wood, gold legs, or fringe trim.

Lacquered wood, a popular Art Deco furniture finish, has a hard coating that creates a glass-like sheen to the stained wood. It typically features a warm, dark hue. Armoires, dining room tables, desks, and many other fixtures can receive this royal treatment. Intricate gold-legged furniture with glass, stone, or wood surfaces is another staple.

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