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What Is Art Deco? A Peek Into 1920’s Style Ideas

Take a step back into time! Here’s the 1920’s Art Deco style, explained.
Art Deco, also known as Arts Décoratifs, was a movement that took the Roaring ‘20s by storm. When you imagine the world of Jay Gatsby (and all the lavish parties he threw), that’s Art Deco. It’s glitz, glamour, jewel tones, lush velvets and fabrics, and a little bit of geometric patterns thrown in. It’s gold accents, sculptural silhouettes and sweeping art. Finally, Art Deco is big and bold – if you’re looking for something quiet and reserved, you can look elsewhere!

1. Art Deco Is a Reflection of the Times

Art Deco is defined as the decorating style of 1920s that originated in France. During that time, France was globally influential in design, art, cinema, and more. When the first World War ended, the collective consciousness held high anticipation and confidence for the future. Frivolity was in the air, the burdens of finances lessened, and morale was at an all-time high. The effects of this hubris were felt across all mediums – fashion and decor most prominently.

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2. The Difference Between Art Deco and Bauhaus

Art Deco and Bauhaus are often confused for each other and understandably so, as both contain similar elements. The main differences between the two lie in their messages: Art Deco revolves itself around optimism and industrial design, while Bauhaus focuses more on nature and classical elements.

3. The Variations of Art Deco Medium

While the Art Deco iconography is most associated with decor, its influences are also seen in other mediums. In architecture, the Art Deco style relies heavily on industrial elements; materials like concrete, steel and stucco aren’t just used in the construction – they’re also showcased as the ‘main act.’

Whether in decor, architecture, art or even fashion, elements of Art Deco are universal: geometric motifs, extravagant ornamentation, and bold silhouettes. In a word, it can be summed up as avant-garde. It pushed the limits, both geometrically-speaking and metaphorically-speaking, of what was accepted aesthetically at the start of the Jazz Age. After all, Art Deco wasn’t just about glamorous colors and fun patterns. It was a lifestyle, a rosy view of the world that gave every man and woman permission to be the kings and queens of their own worlds, to celebrate life in the ‘here-and-now’ – starting with their living room decor.

Art Deco Decor

In this section, we'll cover just a few tips and ideas to get you started on creating an elegant space inspired by the style.

The Art Deco Living Room

The Art Deco living room is filled with "extras." Gold wall hangings, plush pile rugs, pillows with tassels and nesting tables (not one, not two, but three accent tables!). It's inspired by decadence, and one who enters should feel as though they are getting royal treatment. Start with a richly-hued sofa (no greys here!), such as a sofa in emerald, royal blue, ruby or gold velvet.

1920s Furniture

It's the decade of song and dance, costume and makeup, parties and romance, so make the furniture feel right at home. Opt for lots of seating, as an Art Deco home is one filled with guests! Look for velvet upholstery, metal trims and unique shapes, like curved sofas.

Art Deco Living Room Ideas

The smaller pieces in an Art Deco living room will be noticeable and beautiful, so when it comes to the decorative accents, include metal (gold, silver, etc.). Throw velvet decorative pillows on a velvet sofa, laying on a blanket (preferably velvet!) for good measure. To truly make your living room feel as Art Deco as possible, though, make sure your coffee table's got at least one unique design element, such as a metal hardware or glass top!

Modern Art Deco Living Room

Art Deco is a period of time that's gone by; while it's fun to think and read and sing about, the fact of the matter is that it's in the past. Most people make the period work for the modern eye by incorporating pieces of modern trends. If the style of a particular loveseat or lampshade is full-on Depression-era, balance it out with a modern complement, such as a minimalist end table or chrome lamp base.

Art Deco Bedroom Ideas

Since Art Deco is all about "more," you want to be careful of it in the bedroom – a space that, for sleep-inducing purposes, should be devoted to "less." Bring no more than one or two Art Deco pieces into a bedroom; since bedrooms are one of the smaller-sized rooms of the house, one or two will be more than enough to make a statement. A classic trick to make a bedroom feel all-Art Deco (without actually being all-Art Deco), is the throw pillow: choose patterned pillows of the style, such as Greek key, and layer them on a neutral bedspread and headboard for contrast!

More Art Deco Decorating Ideas

Book covers, blown up, make great wall art; in Art Deco, go for 1920s literature. (Movie posters and album sleeves also work for this purpose!) A gramophone in a corner, decorative or real, makes a head-turning statment, and framed 1920s newsprints or newspaper headlines bring the style home.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.