Art Deco Style encapsulated the wealth and influence of the industrial class at the turn of the 20th century. Combining modern ideas about shapes and elegance with glamorous materials and industrial processes, the movement came to represent the luxuries of a changing world.
First appearing in France in the early 1900s, Art Deco Style derives its name from the French Arts Décoratifs, which literally means decorative arts. The origins of the Society of Decorative Artists lay in the late 19thcentury, in the same artisan tradition that would later inspire Bauhaus style, which you can learn more about in our Styylish blog post from last week!
Origins of Art Deco
No single place or school linked Art Deco Style. Instead, the Art Deco movement represented a variety of different styles, all governed by a series of principles: luxury, technology, and modernity. Above all, it was an extremely creative period, full of innovation and new ideas.
With the rise of industry and the gradual decline of aristocracy, people in the middle and upper classes began seeking out luxuries. Using industrial technologies, Art Deco designers incorporated expensive materials into common pieces, from home radios to living room furniture.
William Morris, who was at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, designed wallpapers and interiors that incorporated craftsmanship and creative designs. His influence is markedly felt in Art Nouveau, the direct forebear to Art Deco Style.
Art Nouveau, also called “Jugendstil” in Germany, had broken with artistic tradition in the late 19th century. As a natural evolution of the Arts and Crafts Movement, artists of Art Nouveau favored energetic, whimsical designs full of dreamy swirls and bold colors.
Art Deco Style was directly influenced by Art Nouveau. Rather than rejecting machines and industry, however, Art Deco designers embraced them in order to modernize and proliferate designs.
Art Deco Architecture
Art Deco Style is frequently associated with architecture in the United States. The most recognizable skyscrapers in the world, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York City, are Art Deco structures. Reinforced concrete, a new material innovation of the period, enabled the skyscrapers to have unprecedented height.
Architects also reimagined theatres, sites of performative opulence, in an Art Deco design. Radio City Music Hall in New York City boasts a classic example of Art Deco interiors. The combination of new technologies, opulent shapes, and imposing designs make them classic examples of the Art Deco period.
French Furniture Design
The heart of Art Deco Style lies with its interior design. At the center of the scene in France, various furniture designers crafted exceptional pieces using the same techniques that inspired skyscraping grandiosity in the US.
His education as a craftsman in Paris inspired Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann in crafting sleek furniture incorporating rare, expensive materials. His use of ebony wood in combination with ivory make his designs instantly recognizable, for their stark dark-and-white contrast.
Louis Süe was another French designer of the Art Deco Style. Though educated traditionally at the École des Beaux-Arts, the preeminent art school in Paris, he was eager to explore new ideas. Like Ruhlmann, he combined elegance, luxury, and practicality in his designs, and also frequently used valuable materials like gold to uplift his designs.
But Furniture Design was not limited to France. The Austrian designer Paul T. Frankl was known for his “skyscraper-style” furniture design, emphasizing height and imposing shapes. He later moved to the US and defined American Art Deco Style perhaps more than any other interior decorator.
A Frankl design would likely be instantly recognizable as Art Deco to many Americans.
Nor was design limited to men. The Irish designer Eileen Gray began her career in Art Deco design. Early projects included colorful rugs and interior design projects in Paris. She later developed an affinity for unadorned Modernism. Her Bibendum Chair, a simple, modern design, remains her most famous creation.
Legacies of Art Deco Style
When the Great Depression hit the interwar period, designers quickly abandoned opulence in favor of functionality and simplicity. French designers and architects like Le Corbusier had advocated for simplicity before the Depression. Their designs fit an era of fading wealth.
The craftsmanship and artisan focus of Art Deco would live on in International Architectural Style and Mid-Century Design, though there, too, simplicity reigned.
As an emblematic part of the early 20th century, Art Deco left a lasting impact. In many ways, it defined the aesthetic of early Modernism and remains a recognizable style recalling the grandeur of a new century. An era of incredible growth and wealth, encapsulated in its interiors.
Check out examples of Art Deco Furniture on Styylish, like this shapely French table . You could bring a slice of the glamour into your home today and enliven your interior with tasteful splendor!