Design History: Celebrating 100 Years of Art Deco Design

You may or may not follow trends—but they probably show up in your life (or your Instagram feed) in some way. No matter how you feel about them, there’s no denying that cultural trends play a role in our lives. When it comes to interior design, popular trends definitely impact how we choose to decorate our homes, whether consciously or not.

But interior design trends, like any trend, evolve organically and tend to follow cyclical patterns. Meaning? Different styles rise and decline in popularity, then eventually rise again. It’s almost guaranteed that something that was once popular will eventually find its way back to the spotlight.

One such trend, which has had several moments in the trend spotlight over the last century, is 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

What is Art Deco design?

If you don’t know what exactly “art deco” is, don’t worry—you’ve likely seen it somewhere before but just didn’t know what you were looking at. A prime example? The lavish interiors of The Great Gatsby.

A style that’s all about opulence and drama, Art Deco combines modern styles with high-end craftsmanship and luxurious materials. It celebrates symmetry and rectilinear forms through vertical lines, smooth and streamlined surfaces, and geometric patterns such as zigzags, chevrons, and starbursts.

Much more than just an interior design style, the Art Deco movement 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.

Art Deco: A Brief History

First appearing in France just before WWI, Art Deco was a design style that paired newly developed materials with historically luxurious ones. Think: ivory, mahogany, and shagreen alongside chrome and plate-glass. With this mixing of materials, furniture and decor moved beyond mere function and pieces were transformed into sculptures that mimicked architecture. With that, the style was born.

The Art Deco movement significantly grew in popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, embodying the zeitgeist of that time period. 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.

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. Art Deco artists and architects also celebrated the idea of modern life and advances in technology through their use of new materials and emphasis on luxury.

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 homeowners and architects were slower to embrace 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 led toward the Mid-Century Modern design movement.

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 finishes and luxurious (or at least luxurious-looking) materials, like black marble and brass, as well as the reinterpretation of Art Deco patterns. This not only showed up in architecture and interior design but you can also see the geometric and angular designs of 1920s Art Deco in 80s fashion and jewelry.

Read This Next: Trend Spotlight – The 80s are Back

moody living room designed with contemporary take on art deco interior design

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. Designers today are finding new ways to revive the Art Deco trend in interior design. In furniture, we’re seeing a lot of pieces with sculptural lines, both curved and geometric. In rugs, wallpaper, and upholstery, geometric patterns echoing some of the great Art Deco designs are plentiful. 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. Art Decor has particularly always been incredibly popular in Miami interior design.

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. The 2020s may not be as roaring (in a good way) as the 1920s, but one thing is for sure: Art Deco style is here to stay.

Design Your Art Deco Dream Home

Love the look of Art Deco Interior Design of the 1920s, but not sure how it would look in your space? Use our design services to try it on! Since Art Deco style is all about high-contrast and dramatic spaces, our designers can help you find furniture in rich materials—like velvets, leathers, marbles, and concrete. And they can guide you toward statement home accents with chrome or brass details, decorative inlay, smoked glass, or Art Deco-inspired geometric shapes!

Want to learn more about Modsy before you commit? Browse our Interior Design 101 page to learn more about why so many people choose Modsy over traditional interior designers!

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