Art Deco Interior Design History

Instructor: Laureen Pittet

Laureen holds a master’s degree in Educational Technology and a bachelor’s degree in Art History. She has a background in education, interior design and computer technology.

Are you interested in knowing more about how the innovative style, known as Art Deco, was used in interior design? In this lesson you will learn how advances in transportation and technology left a unique signature on the field of interior design.

Symbols of Life in a Modern World

Shaws Crab House: Art Deco Interior
Shaws Crab House Art Deco Interior Design

Art Deco was a popular international design movement. It reached its peak during the 1920s and 1930s. The dramatic style is frequently associated with the period known as the Roaring Twenties. Geometry, symmetry, and use of bold color make the style easily recognizable. As a part of Modernism, the style breaks from the more traditional forms before it and has a unique visual character. The sleek lines and graphic motifs can be seen on everything from architecture to poster art. The style was prominent and widespread, making a mark on the fields of decorative arts and interior design.

Origin and Terms

Poster: 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes
Poster: Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes

The origins of Art Deco can be traced back to France. Suggestions of the style can be seen as far back as the turn of the century. In 1900, a professional association for design was organized. The Société des Artistes Décorateurs worked to modernize design standards. The French government sponsored an international trade exhibit which was scheduled for 1915 but postponed until 1925. The goal of this exhibit was for France to reclaim its position as the leader in luxurious decorative arts. The exhibit was dedicated to a modern world. International manufacturers shared elegant and sophisticated wares with the public, and the style of Art Deco was well on its way to achieving global success.

It is generally accepted that the term Art Deco was derived from the exhibition's title, Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The term Art Deco was further popularized during a resurgence of the style in the 1960s and again in the 1980s. Art Deco is also known as Deco. There are several other terms associated with the style, such as, Style Moderne, Jazz Age Deco, Streamline, Art Moderne, Diner Deco, and Depression Deco.

Society and Culture

MS Kungsholm: First Class Smoking Room
MS Kungsholm First Class Smoking Room

Art Deco came into high fashion during a period known as Modernism. The style was strongly influenced by progressive painters and sculptors of the era. Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism, Constructivism, and Bauhaus all played important roles in Art Deco. The style represents a rejection of what came before it and an effort to keep pace with the changes in the modern world. Designers sought to break away from the heavily decorated Beaux Arts and the flowing natural forms of Art Nouveau by developing a crisp, uncluttered, and graphic style.

The eclectic style also drew from many other sources. The discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 strongly influenced design elements. Ancient Egyptian decorative motifs can be seen on many of the period's buildings and crafts. Among others, African, Native American, Greco-Roman, Aztec, and Mayan designs were also prominent themes of the period.

Technology, Symbolism, and Change

Rene Lalique: Centerpiece Oiseau De Feu
Art Deco Glass Sculpture

The Roaring Twenties was a time of technological advance, invention, and achievement. It was a fast-paced period of transformation, commerce, and optimism. Themes about the effects of the Machine Age can be seen in many aspects of Art Deco buildings and interiors.

Planes, trains, and automobiles were commonly represented in the sleek lines, shiny surfaces, and symbols. Dramatic patterns, vertical lines, sunbursts, ziggurats, pyramids, triangles, circles, chevrons, lightning bolts, and zig-zags detailed the fabrics, tiles, and wallpapers.

Modernism was about rebellion against pretentious sociological rules. The movement encouraged reaching beyond the limits of perfection and image. In the arts, modern painters, sculptors, and designers began to explore subjects previously considered taboo. These modern thinkers sought to represent discovery and truth. The period brought about a freedom of expression and the female figure became a popular Art Deco subject. Bronze and ivory figures were produced by many sculptors. Figures of maidens, dancers and mythological creatures were often seen carved into panels and doorways. The female figure became a predominant theme in interior design and was found on ceramics, statuettes, lamps, barware, poster art, ashtrays, and picture frames.

Supplies and Materials

Sideboard: 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes
Art Deco Sideboard

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