Art Deco, a style of decor popular in the 1920s and 1930s, is characterised by clean, simple shapes and rich colours. Although you may not want to recreate the whole period look, incorporating an Art Deco influence with a contemporary interior can add interest and texture. Here’s how.
What is it?
The Art Deco movement first appeared in Western Europe, and particularly in Paris, in the 1920s. The name was nickname derived from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, an exhibition held in Paris in 1925. After the First World War, the style was a reaction against utility styles and dull colours and featured rich, vibrant hues.
The new style, at first symbolising luxury and craftsmanship, became so popular that manufacturers took full advantage of new mass-production methods and by the 1930s the style was accessible to everyone. It fell out of favour during the Second World War, when luxury and decadence were frowned upon.
How to get the Art Deco look
The key elements of Art Deco style are geometric, angular shapes with a clean, symmetrical, streamlined look. Reflective surfaces that catch the light are a typical feature, so look for chrome, silver, glass, mirrors and mirror tiles and shiny fabrics. Glossy surfaces like polished wood and black lacquer were popular, especially contrasted with other, different textures. Original objects might include early plastics such as Bakelite.
Popular design motifs were stylised images of tall buildings, cars (particularly racing cars), planes and ships. Nature motifs such as flowers were also popular, with images of suns with stylised rays being a favourite. Influenced by the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood, every smart home had a cocktail cabinet and a tall ashtray on a stand.
Later in the period, as foreign travel became more popular and accessible other materials such as mother of pearl and tortoiseshell became the trend. Following the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter, Egyptian motifs were very popular. The regular shapes of pyramids fitted the existing stylistic guidelines and became all the rage in style-conscious homes.
Buying Art Deco
It’s relatively easy to pick up original Art Deco furniture and accessories in vintage or antique shops. There are lots of dealers online too – have a look at places like The Old Cinema – or search on eBay or Gumtree.
Popular items include cocktail cabinets, which can be re-purposed as cupboards and storage. Prices vary enormously depending on style and whether the item was mass produced or by a popular contemporary designer, and range from a hundred pounds to several thousand.
These cabinets are a great way to add some period feel to a room, and generally work well with more modern furniture. If you invest in a mirrored or chrome cabinet, though, remember that they’re a magnet for fingerprints and originally it would probably have been the housemaid’s job to keep it clean, not yours!
Other easy ways to get the look include clocks and posters advertising shipping lines such as Cunard, or holiday destinations. Although originals can cost hundreds of pounds, you can pick up reproductions for a few pounds.
Get the Art Deco look
Art deco mirrors
Art Deco frameless circular mirror, from Colours at B&Q
Decorative black sun wall mirror, from Ayers & Graces
Art deco style furniture
Gold Art Deco occasional table, from Sweetpea & Willow.
1930s style Art Deco Jazz Club chair in cognac (other colours available), from MADE
Art deco wallpaper
Gorgeous Think Noir removable art deco design wallpaper. Available from Etsy.
Albany Gatsby teal art deco design wallpaper from Wallpaper Direct.
Art deco accessories
Bar Craft 650ml Art Deco brass finish cocktail shaker. See Kitchencraft for stockists.
Glamour decanter with square stopper, from Artisanti.
What do you think of Art Deco? Is it a style you’d use in your home interior?