Defining the Art Deco Style and Its History in Interior Design and Architecture

The Art Deco style dominated almost every aspect of the 1920s aesthetic, from architecture to interior design to fashion to product design to even Hollywood films. The Art Deco design style, while short-lived at its peak, has a rich history drawing inspiration from many cultures and the rise of modern technology. The Amity Kett architects and interior designers are defining the Art Deco style, explaining the history of the movement and its rise to Modernism, and drawing upon the elements of design for ways to incorporate the look into modern homes.  

Defining the Art Deco Style 

The Art Deco movement first appeared in France shortly before World War I. It combined modern design and rich materials, and it represented luxury, movie star level glamour, and an embrace of modern technological systems. It formed as a direct contrast to Art Nouveau, eliminating the organic form in favor of geometric lines and an appreciation for the new. It mixed contrasting elements of old-world cultures from around the globe and the ideals of a modern age, creating a dialogue within the design and infusing the past and embracing the future. The Art Deco style was applied to commercial skyscrapers, the interiors of celebrity homes, movie sets, fashion, furniture, and everyday household items, creating a unified feel. The movement was primarily limited to the 1920s and eventually gave rise to Modernism in the 1930s. 

The Elements of Art Deco Design 

Art Deco design is forward-thinking and progressive. It creates an experience that feels both hopeful and bold in its full embrace of modern technology and its reinterpretation and application of worldly influences. It accomplishes this through dramatic yet streamlined design elements. 

Embrace of New Materials and Technology

As the Art Deco movement embraced new technologies, modern materials like concrete, plate glass, and aluminum were utilized. This gave rise to skyscrapers that dot the New York skyline, larger windows, and more angular and expressive architectural lines. Metallic accents were also popular on building exteriors, like the Chrystler Building’s stylized hood ornaments.

Use of Bold Colors

Art Deco design embraced the contrasting colors of the Fauvism movement from the early 1900s, which includes notable works by Henri Matisse. This includes deep yellows, reds, greens, blues, paired with blacks, silvers, and golds.

Geometric Designs and Ornamentation 

Art Deco’s appreciation of the modern included the application of geometric designs and ornamentation. This includes chevrons, zigzags, radiating patterns, symmetry, and simple curves that were later embraced by Streamline Modernism. This is a direct contrast to the organic shapes of the movement’s predecessor, Art Nouveau. Designs drew inspiration from Greco-Roman Classicism, as well as the styles of Ancient Egypt, Aztec Mexico, and Asia. 

Application of Metallics 

Metallic colors and metal accents were embraced inside and out. The shine gave an opulent feel of modern luxury and embraced an appreciation for the new and modern. 

Art Deco History 

Origins of Art Deco 

Interior design tends to embrace or reject new technologies from one period to the next. Where Art Nouveau took a reactionary approach, the new age of Art Deco sought to be more technocentric and honor the modern advances of the age

The Art Deco movement originated as a reaction against the stuffy designs of the Victorian era and sought to embrace the modern form rather than the organic form of the Art Nouveau period. The machine age became celebrated, and the middle class sought to set themselves apart and reach a more elegant and aspirational design style. 

New methods of transatlantic transportation came into play, bringing design influences from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Designers became inspired by these cultures and the technology used to share them. As one of the first styles to be popularized by film and celebrity culture, the movement took off across the country. 

The 1930s brought a close to the luxury and over the top components of Art Deco style and a simpler version was applied, giving rise to Streamline Modernism. This style was popularized by the European Bauhaus movement and used steel, plastic, and nautically inspired curves. This was one of the first international style movements. 

The Influence of Art Deco

Sadly, buildings from the Art Deco movement have not been well preserved and few remain. The style was applied to famous landmarks like the Chrysler Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and the American Radiator Building, all constructed during the 20s and 30s in New York City. The style did move to other commercial and residential projects across the country, but many are now gone. However, the memory withstands and the style has been made iconic through film and photography that creates lasting popularity even today. 

The Role of Art Deco Style in Hollywood 

Hollywood’s top art director of the 1920s, Cedric Gibbons, attended the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale where he learned of the Art Deco movement and brought it back to Hollywood set design at MGM. This translated also into the homes of celebrities, which had started to be photographed and published for the first time, making it a style for the general public to aspire to. It was embraced, as it was a distraction from the Great Depression and a way to pursue an affirmed standard of luxury. 

Embracing Modernism Through Art Deco Design 

The 1920s saw an unprecedented spike in mass-production that was embraced and celebrated. With a plethora of new products, style and design became an important consideration. This is why the Art Deco style expanded beyond architecture and interiors and dove into product design as well. As the 1930s and the Great Depression hit, the concept of streamlining the production process became important as the market fell. 

Walter Gropius and the German architects of the Bauhaus School were inspired by ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor (known as Taylorism) which embraced the factory workflow to other aspects of life and promoted a streamlined approach. They believed elaborate ornamentation was no longer needed in the machine age and that form should follow function. These ideas served to carry the Art Deco movement into Streamline Modernism of the 1930s. Clean lines were utilized, and this approach still continues to be used in the home today. Geometric design elements were still popular, but they became simplified. Buildings embraced horizontal lines, rounded corners, gentle curves, and simple white color palettes. This style looked to the future, as it was inspired by new machines, like airplanes and ocean liners.     

Incorporating Art Deco Design Into the Home 

At Amity Kett, our architects and designers are still embracing the design principles laid out by the Art Deco and Streamline Modernism movements. The simple lines, unique application of modern materials, and embrace for the new create an enduring contemporary feel. Let us help you incorporate this style into your home through metal accents, luxurious fabrics, and clean architectural lines. 

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