Art Deco Interior Design Guide

by The Art of Bespoke in Style Guides

Art Deco was one of the most exciting and influential styles of the 20th Century, and it is one that still influences design today. As a style, Art Deco is easily adapted to suit any interior so that hints of the style still remain. Contemporary re-imaginings of Art Deco furniture are still being designed, which proves the enduring allure of Deco’s inherently opulent and luxurious style.

To create an Art Deco feel in your interior, think bold and think opulent. Deco is elegant, functional and modern, and though it dates back to the 1920s, this is still the perfect combination for the contemporary home. Whilst it creates a stunning effect to have a full Art Deco interior, it is possible to include Art Deco interior design elements that can be plentiful or sparse depending on your tastes and lifestyle. Art Deco interiors are guaranteed to bring a touch of old-school glamour and flair to your living space.

This Art Deco interior design guide will highlight some key pieces as well as the finishes, colours and textures that will create a contemporary Art Deco interior…

Choose angular, geometric forms - Art Deco motifs had a strong and bold look, with vertical lines and angular details. The sunburst was a classic Deco motif - whether a mirror took the shape of a sunburst, or if it was inlaid into the surface of a console table - this design frequently adorned Deco interiors. Zigzags, chevrons and stepped patterns were equally as popular, and can be added to an interior in many forms, from floor and wall coverings to textiles and upholstery.

Alongside the linear decorations and geometric motifs, Art Deco designs often used exotic materials, often with decadent, polished, high-shine finishes. Wood was highly polished, or given a luxurious lacquer finish, and was often finished with metallic touches in brass or chrome - a beautiful example of which can be found in the Design Studio by Taylor Howes that beautifully combines high-shine finishes with gold accents and motifs. Each piece in an Art Deco interior has a strong presence and an impactful design - it is a strong and bold overall look. Deco design is without any hint of softness or romance, so avoid floral or plaid patterns in favour of geometric patterns or a block colour.

Take the opportunity to cover each and every piece with a touch of Deco - from upholstery, colour choice, fabric choice - make a feature out of everything, as it is a more is more approach.

Known for its decadent, polished and high-shine finishes Art Deco furniture always makes an impact. Base Interior’s Green Street property is the perfect example of a contemporary Art Deco interior - note the use of luxurious materials in a monochrome palette, and the geometric light fixtures and the linear, metal inlays in the doors that finish the look.

Expo Art Deco Paris, Exposition Poster by Robert Bonfils & Art Deco Bedroom from 1930s

Art Deco Interior Design History

Art Deco first appeared in France in the 1920s and takes its name from the 1925 ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’. Deco was a very popular international design movement that was accepted the world over and spans the period from 1925 until the 1940s. Encompassing all arts and crafts disciplines, the Art Deco style could be found in fine art as well as interior design, furniture, fashion, jewellery, textiles and architecture.

Art Deco was inspired by the advances in modern technology of the 1920s, which can be seen in the smooth lines, geometric shapes and streamlines forms that are characteristic of the movement. Deco has an inherent luxuriousness, which is accentuated by the use of silver, crystal, ivory, jade and lacquer. The style is typically elegant, glamorous and functional and has stood the test of time.

Deco owes its style to several previous movements - the geometric forms of Cubist art, the machine-style of Constructivism and Futurism, and of course its predecessor, Art Nouveau. It has also been noted that there are touches of Fauvism as well as elements from Aztec and Egyptian art as well as from Classical Antiquity. Art Deco is purely decorative - there is no philosophical basis, which explains its wide range of influences.

Art Deco Interior Design Elements

Typically, Art Deco designs feature stepped or radiating styles, which was in contrast to the fluid, organic shapes of its predecessor, Art Nouveau. A modern yet opulent style, Deco was just as suited to public buildings as it was furniture design or fine art. There are many examples of the geometric shapes of Art Deco in architecture - many famous buildings have the distinctive Deco look, particularly in New York, with both the Chrysler Building and the Rockerfeller Centre providing beautiful examples of its glamourous style...

Chrysler Building - Pixabay

Structurally, Art Deco designs are based on mathematical geometric shapes which drew on Greco-Roman Classicism as much as they did the faceted forms of Babylon, Assyria, Ancient Egypt and Aztec Mexico. Art Deco is characterised by trapezoidal, zigzagged and triangular shapes, chevron patterns, stepped forms, sweeping curves and sunburst motifs - all of which can be found in every form of Art Deco, from furniture and buildings to jewellery and fine art.

The materials that were typical in Art Deco designs include silver, crystal, ivory, jade and lacquer as well as moulded glass, horn, and exotic skins such as shark and zebra. High-shine and opulence were requirements for the glamourous and luxurious style, however as the style progressed aluminium, stainless steel, plastics and inlaid wood veneers made items in this style both more affordable and more accessible.

Andre Mare (1887-1932), Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann (1879-1933) and Eileen Gray (1879-1976) were amongst the most important furniture designers of the era, creating luxurious and innovative pieces for the Art Deco interior.

Art Deco Design Ideas

There are many ways to embrace the allure of Art Deco in a modern interior, from subtle touches to all-out glamour, a luxury Art Deco interior can be tailored to suit any space. An Art Deco interior can be created by using the colours, materials and patterns that are typical to the style - which we will cover here in our guide to each of the Art Deco interior design elements...

Sketch London Tea Room

Art Deco: Colour

A distinctly Deco look will most often have touches of silver, black and chrome, so it is important to take this into consideration when choosing the colour palette for the rest of the room. There is a great range of colours that are complementary to these high-shine metallic or black Deco details - bright and deep yellows, reds, greens, blues and pinks are most used within traditional Deco interiors - take inspiration from the newly renovated Sketch in Mayfair. Redesigned by India Mahdavi, the Art Deco elements - such as the linear accents in gold, and the geometric tiled floor - are lifted by the beautiful pink shade that is used heavily throughout...

For a more tranquil or toned-down Deco interior choose softer colours, such as creams and beiges, as these work well with the silver or chrome accents, as well as being a beautiful compliment to the polished wood and lacquer finishes that are also typical of the Deco period. Designed by Oleg Klodt Architects, the living room of their Promenade property successfully achieves a pared-back yet luxurious Art Deco interior - note the high-shine finishes that are used throughout the room - the coffee table and cabinet, for example, each with metallic accents and details.

Depending on the room, it is possible to use either a dark or light colour palette to create an Art Deco inspired look. Dark walls, combined with light pieces that have metallic accents, can create a sumptuous and cozy atmosphere, which can be well suited to a living room or dining room. Lighter coloured walls will create a sense of brightness, which can be emphasised by using large swathes of mirror and a scattering of high-shine metal details. A beautiful example of a contemporary Art Deco interior with darker colour palette can be found in the Green Street property by Base Interior - mirrored panels and a stunning, geometric chandelier create an elegant and sumptuous Deco-inspired interior.

Art Deco: Materials and Finishes

Art Deco pieces make use of a range of materials, however each element of Deco design is typically given a luxurious, glossy or reflective finish. Wood is highly polished, or alternatively it is given a lacquer finish that has an unparalleled glamour. Lacquered furniture was a key element in luxury Art Deco design - available in black and white for a classic Deco look, or in a range of colours, including pastel or deep shades, for more personalised Art Deco interior design elements.

The high-shine continues into other materials, with chrome, brass and silver details. Drawer handles, feet ends, or even decorative motifs are made in high-shine metals for a distinctly Art Deco, luxury look. The Promenade property that was designed by Oleg Klodt Architects features a stunning geometric staircase that is inspired by the shapes, materials and designs of the Deco period.

Art Deco interior designs often include mirrored surfaces, which work with the metallic details and elements to increase the sense of light and space in a room. A mirror that has a geometric or sunbeam shape will have strong links with the Deco movement, and will act as a focal point in the room. A mirrored surface can also be included elsewhere in the room - a mirrored wall, such as the beautiful, gridded example in the London townhouse by Cochrane Design has the elegant and functional appeal that Art Deco design is renowned for.

Art Deco lighting was typically made in glass and chrome, which is still a popular combination to this day, so there is a plethora of options to choose from within the Deco style. Look for geometric or angular shapes, a symmetrical design and a high-shine finish.

Art Deco: Pattern

Pattern is warmly embraced in Art Deco interior design, so Deco interiors often focus around pattern, which makes it a key element in achieving the Deco look. Patterns that were widely used throughout Deco interiors included leaves, branches and feathers; trapezoids, chevrons and zigzags; stylized animals and nudes; sunbursts, and jagged, stepped or pointed edges that are reminiscent of skyscrapers. The stepped, geometric design of the chandelier in the Mayfair Penthouse by Oliver Burns, is the perfect example of a luxury Art Deco piece - adding elegance and decadence with its angular, sharp form.

Be bold with pattern - it is possible to create a harmonious interior design even with lots of patterns. Use pattern liberally throughout a room for a more eclectic Art Deco interior design - such as the John Street property by Rebekah Caudwell that uses colour and pattern to create a vibrant yet Deco-inspired interior - or keep pattern and motifs to smaller, defined areas for a more subdued, minimalist look, such as in the St. James Penthouse by Living in Space, where glossy surfaces are accented with patterned cushions and a geometric trim on the mirrored coffee table.

Pattern can be added to the walls with a geometric or leaf patterned wallpaper, and it is worth considering both the ceiling and floor as places for added interest, in the shape of a geometric pattern. The ceiling could benefit from a sunburst that radiates from a light fitting, or a black and white striped effect can add real drama to a space that is typically forgotten.

Pattern can be added to the walls with a geometric or leaf patterned wallpaper, and it is worth considering both the ceiling and floor as places for added interest, in the shape of a geometric pattern. The ceiling could benefit from a sunburst that radiates from a light fitting, or a black and white striped effect can add real drama to a space that is typically forgotten.

The geometric patterns continue to the floor too in Art Deco interiors - an abstract design in black and white tiles, or a polished parquet are great options to create a Deco look. A typical Art Deco interior would have a large rug, which is a great way to add a touch of Deco glamour to a contemporary interior. A zigzag or chevron patterned rug, such as this stunning woven rug by Vanderhurd has a simplicity and beauty that creates a truly luxurious look in any room.

Another way to add pattern to an interior is through the upholstery, soft furnishings and fabrics - choose geometric patterns for a strict Deco look, or use the soft furnishings as an opportunity to add a selection of the nature-inspired patterns such as feathers and leaves. For a more pared-back look, swap patterned or geometric fabrics with fabrics in a solid colour - and remember - small, floral patterns and plaid are the antithesis of Art Deco style, so avoid including them in your interior.

Art Deco Furniture

A modern take on Art Deco design adheres to the streamlined, aerodynamic, symmetrical, geometrical and modern look that is typical of traditional Deco design, however, contemporary designs have been brought up-to-date with more modern materials, proportions and details.

Choose geometric, vertical motifs in high-shine, luxurious finishes as both of these elements are key signifiers of the Art Deco style. The Entrance to the Knightsbridge House by Taylor Howes is a wonderful example of Deco design adding interest and elegance to a space. Mirror, lacquer and other shiny, reflective materials also add to a luxurious Art Deco interior, as does the metal detailing in brass, copper and chrome. The brass feet ends and slim brass door handles on the Tama bar cabinet by Gallotti & Radice give the piece a truly Deco look which is accentuated by the black lacquered ash wood. The same simple yet striking combination of black and metallic can be found in the Romy Bedside Table by Flexform, whose slim, bronzed legs bring an understated elegance that has been greatly influenced by the Art Deco style.

Woods such as ebony, walnut, maple and ash were used frequently in Art Deco designs for the natural beauty of their grain, which is exaggerated by the highly polished finish that is typical of the movement. Lacquer was often employed for its very hard and shiny finish, which adds a sense of opulence, whilst also making large or dark pieces seem lighter thanks to the light-reflecting properties of the lacquer.

Art Deco pieces often feature an inlay in a contrasting - and often luxurious - material such as ivory, brass and mother of pearl. The technique of inlaying one material into another not only gains a sense of luxuriousness from the craftsmanship involved, but it is a way to create the bold, geometric motifs that are so characteristic of the Deco style. The brushed bronze, geometric base of the Manolo Armchair has a strong sense of Art Deco decadence, which is echoed in the deep, angular seat.

Art Deco furniture typically has larger proportions, and strong, streamlined shapes - a low armchair with a round seat and a curved backrest, such as the Daphne Armchair by Porada, has a decidedly Art Deco look when upholstered in a rich shade of velvet, and finished with small brass feet ends. The Platner chair by Knoll is a contemporary twist on an Art Deco design - the steel frame is made in radiating steel rods that are reminiscent of the sunbeam motif that was so popular in Deco designs. The steel frame has an industrial edge that is given a Deco makeover through gold plating, and the chair is finished with jet black upholstered elements. Also available as a coffee table, the Platner range by Knoll is a beautiful, elegant and functional way to add a touch of Art Deco glamour to a room.

For authentic Deco styling look for lighting pieces that combine wrought iron and glass. The Coco wall lamp by Contardi not only feature a high-shine chrome finish and a glass diffuser, but it has the geometric, angular shapes that we associate with Art Deco design, as does the stunning chandelier in Homerun’s Marylebone Townhouse.

For a bold and stark look, choose the classic Deco colour scheme of black, white and chrome - however, it is also possible to adhere to the Art Deco look whilst including colour, warmth and personality. The Dimitri Bedside Table by Meridiani is the perfect example of how to combine Deco styling with colour - a glossy lacquer finish, brass detailing and bold, geometric shapes hark back to Deco design, and the deep teal or orange colour simply adds to the opulent and exotic atmosphere. The Ortelia Sideboard by Lema is an even more pared back version of the Art Deco look, though the sense of Art Deco is still present in the bold, geometric shapes and the deep, glossy lacquered finish.