Design History: Celebrating 100 Years of Art Deco Design

Art Deco is an iconic design style that showed up on the scene in the early 1900s. A bit over-the-top, it’s known for its use of luxurious materials and geometric patterns. This style originated in France (one more reason to love it), then spread throughout Europe and America in the 1920s. And that’s when this style became an icon.

art deco design

Art Deco combines modern styles with high-end craftsmanship and luxurious materials. It celebrates symmetry and rectilinear forms through vertical lines, streamlined surfaces, and stepped and jagged geometry. Much more than just an interior design style, Art Deco influenced the design of whole buildings, as well as automobiles, jewelry, fashion, and so much more. There are some beautiful and iconic examples of Art Deco architecture—including famous edifices like the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, and the Bullocks Wilshire building in LA.

The entrance to the Strand Palace Hotel, designed by Oliver P. Bernard in 1930.

What influenced the Art Deco design movement?

The 1920s was a decade of opulence and advancement. The United States economy was booming, technological advances were on the rise, and culture was in the throes of the jazz age. Art Deco reflected the luxury, wealth, and excess of the 1920s. (Think: The Great Gatsby.)

As America moved into the Great Depression after the market crash in 1929, the movement became a symbol of hope for the future. During this era, Hollywood films exemplified the Art Deco style and continued to strengthen its associations with wealth, luxury, and the prosperous future.

In the United States, Art Deco style was mostly used in civic and public buildings, as you can see from some of our favorites above. Meanwhile, residential land owners were slower to invest in new styles, so you won’t see this style as much in residential buildings.

Art Deco declined as a trend around the time of WWII, as Americans favored practicality and reserve over opulence and excess. And the postwar era continued to support more practical, everyday designs, which ultimately lead toward the Mid-Century Modern design movement.

Image source Architectural Digest

Art Deco in the 80s

The 1980s was another period of wealth in America, and Art Deco reemerged as a popular design style. During the 80s, there was a love for gold and luxurious (or at least luxurious-looking) materials, as well as the reinterpretation of Art Deco patterns. This showed up in architecture and interior design, but in 80s fashion and jewelry you can also see the geometric and angular designs of 1920s Art Deco.

Art Deco Today

Today, we continue to see our culture pulling from the past for design inspiration and mixing in different eras in an eclectic way. With that, we’re seeing another embrace of Art Deco-inspired geometric patterns. Because who doesn’t love a bit of glamour and luxury in their lives?? There’s also a rise in investing in higher-quality or more unique materials in furniture, like marble and burl wood—and gold accents are everywhere.

It seems fitting that Art Deco is a popular style once again, as we’re now passing the 100-year mark of its original debut. And, as we enter another decade, we can’t help but wonder if it will it be as roaring in the 2020s as it was in the 1920s? Who knows. But one thing is for sure: Art Deco style is here to stay.

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