ART DECO STYLE 101
THERE IS MORE TO ART DECO THAN THE GREAT GATSBY!
If you're anything like me, you LOVE the Art Deco period. Sleek, sexy lines, classy styling and expensive taste! But I see it so often done wrong, or people's interpretations of Art Deco being this...
Don't get me wrong, that is some of it. But just some, and if I'm honest, the more 'cheesy' bits! There is more to Art Deco than the Great Gatsby, peeps!
So let's break down the various styles of Art Deco, some easy ways to spot if something is distinctly AD, and some famous architects and designers from this period. By the end of this post you'll know everything you need to bring the style of Art Deco to your home.
So, let's start at the beginning!
Art Deco was a style, born in the 20s, and thought to originate from Paris after WWI. It first came about after architect Le Corbusier used it title in a journal he wrote after the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts). Widely speaking, Art Deco covers all styles in the inter-war period, but as you will come to see there are many variations within this from the sleeker curver that you see in American styles to the geometric lines of the more European influence.
From French style Art Deco to some element of Bauhaus, Art Moderne and Stijl, all artistic movements from around the world within this period are bundled in under the header of 'Art Deco'. We'll go into those in a minute. First, we need to get a feel for what was happening at the time. The zeitgeist. What was influencing design?
The previous artistic movement had been 'Art Noveau' which was heavily influenced by floral motifs and intricate design, like this...
The new 'Art Deco' style was influenced by the technological advances of the time and therefore had more geometric lines, and influences of aviation, like streamlined curves. The swirls and floral motifs of Art Noveau were smoothed out into sleeker, bolder, curved or geometric lines. Here's a great example...
See how it's bolder in colour, contrast, more simple and the lines are more bold and confident?
As well as being influenced by technological advances and affordable travel (meaning aviation was totally 'in' during this time), there were discoveries being made around the world which heavily influenced the style. The pyramids of Egypt, The tomb of Tutenkahmun and various archeological digs influenced in the way of colour, shape and form. The silver-screen was becoming big influence, with the glamour of a new, exciting Hollywood and what was being seen on cinema screens starting to make its way across the globe and into homes. These motifs combined with machine age elements create the basics of the Art Deco look. I'm sure if you take a look at these photos, and then the Art Deco images below you will see a clear influence. Look at the lines, shapes and colour contrast.
MOVEMENTS WITHIN ART DECO
As I mentioned above, there were various artist movements happening around the world that fall under the Art Deco umbrella.
Moderne sometimes known as streamline moderne, was influenced highly by the design of automobiles and planes to make them more streamlined and aerodynamic. This styling used in the aviation and automobile industry started to influence design, and can be seen in the more curved lines which came towards the tail end of Art Deco. This influence is strong within American Art Deco.
The Bauhaus was an art school in Germany that operated between 1919 and 1933. The style that emerged from the Bauhaus was distinctly modernist, with influences of cubism. It resulted in very geometric, block style architecture that influenced the European look.
This was a Dutch artistic movement that started from around 1917. Everything is very geometric, with only straight lines either vertically or horizontally, and only used primary colours alongside black and white. It was heavily influenced again by Cubism and can be seen more in the Netherlands and surrounding countries.
As you can see all of these different global arts movements were influencing the period. Properties, furniture, art and motifs began to take elements from each and morph into a style generally known as Art Deco.
TYPICAL ART DECO MOTIFS
There were many typical motifs (repeated themes or patterns) within Art Deco. Usually very streamlined and repeated in a symmetrical fashion. Here are some typical styles.
FAN / SHELL
To me I see a resemblance of the Tutenkahmun head dress in the fan shape. These were also influenced by the fans that the flapper girls and showgirls were using on stage.
Definitely influenced by the Mayan temple discoveries! Can you see the shape is mimicked across these patterns?
Here is a selection of Art Deco style wallpapers that I absolutely love!
(You can click them to go through and find out more).
The 'Minaret' wallpaper is actually what I have up in my living room. It gets loads of comments all the time! You can see it featuring quite a bit on my instagram feed. Here's a little look!
Again influenced by the machine age, technological advances, archeological discoveries and a desire for symmetrical, streamlined shapes.
ARTISTS OF THE PERIOD
Artists of the Art Deco period were bold. Gone were the whimsical, lighthanded and intricate patterns of Art Nouveau and in came bold colour and form.
Strong use of vivid colour and high contrast were present, along with cubist and modernist influences. Some famous artists from within this period include Tamara De Lempicka, Sonia Delauney, Roland Ansieau and one of my personal favourites, Erte.
Nothing says Art Deco quite like a typefont! Probably some of the most recognisable fonts belong to the period, and the same sleek curves and geometric lines in a symmetrical fashion apply. Many fonts from the time were all caps, perfect for signage. Take a look at some typical Art Deco fonts below, and a modern take on the style too.
FINISHES AND FURNITURE
Art Deco is known for embracing metals such as chrome and brass, but other finishes also include opal glass, leather, tortoiseshell, mirror, mother of pearl, exotic animal skins (no doubt a result of easier air travel), velvet and walnut wood in hi shine light and dark finishes. Club chairs with sloped, curved arms were popular, as were light burr walnut pieces. Early Hollywood influenced the trend for shiny materials and there was a real craze for drinking cabinets, cocktail and smoking paraphernalia, as seen used on the big screen by leading ladies and actors. Everything was high end, polished, glamorous and luxurious.
MIAMI ART DECO
I don't think you can say we've fully covered Art Deco until we take a look at a true American embrace in Miami. Instead of taking the neutral colour scheme of chrome, brass, white, brown, black, adopted throughout other parts of America and Europe, Miami embraced the use of fun, playful pastel colours, no doubt influenced by the colourful scenery of the beachfront. Finished with bold neon signs, this look isn't for the faint hearted and definitely isn't to my taste, but it does have it's own quirky style that's VERY hard to ignore!
Unfortunately, with the start of WWII, many people were put off by the lavish, glamorous and opulent nature of the Art Deco look, thinking it out of keeping with the current austerity that the world was experiencing. Art Deco was almost frozen in time, being picked up with some new influences and styles in the mid 40s after the end of WWII. This is why a lot of midcentury design, pattern and print can almost look like it would fit in with Art Deco, with similar geometric styles and high contrast colour. The two periods can mesh incredibly well with some great results, and I do this a lot in my own home. The Art Deco look had a bit of a sad revival back in the early 90s, but we will pretend that didn't happen, yeah?!
MY ART DECO PINTEREST BOARD
If you want to see more Art Deco influences, come on over and take a look at my Art Deco Pinterest board! There's everything from artists of the period to intricate light fittings and more.
Hopefully that's covered most of the basics! You can probably see that Art Deco influences a lot of my home decor, from my hallway to the bathroom and more. You can take a further look at some pics of my home here.