Much like other mysteriously named decor movements, art deco is one of those styles you hear about again and again—without ever catching exactly what it means.
The art deco design revolution of the 1920s and 1930s symbolized the optimism and rapid change of the industrial age—with an emphasis on clean lines, dramatic shapes, and colorful, ornate surfaces. Think of the swooping curves of classic cars, old-school diners, and the brightly hued buildings along Miami Beach—that’s art deco.
Key features of an art deco home
Cubic and other geometric forms
Smooth wall surfaces, usually made of stucco
Zigzags, chevrons, and other stylized, geometric motifs on facades
Highly stylized doorways with metal trim
Towers and other vertical projections above the roofline
Bands of color
Strong sense of line
Illusion of pillars
Built-in shelves and seating
Art deco influences
Although the art deco style looked to the future, its feet were firmly planted in the past—the distant past. It borrowed its decorative geometric ornamentation (floral designs, zigzags, and fluted or reed patterns) from ancient civilizations.
African tribal art, Aztec and Mayan architecture, and Asian art were all fair game as sources for art deco designers. The 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt created a massive craze for pharaonic art and design.
But you don’t have to be a 1920s art aficionado to add art deco–infused style into your home. Here are five key looks (room by room) to get you started.
In the kitchen: Curvilinear designs
A big part of art deco is defying the traditional. So instead of boring square countertops and bar stools, opt for these gorgeous, curvilinear ones instead.
“These bar stools take a seemingly ordinary piece of furniture and turn it into a work of art,” says Stephanie Purcell of Redesigned Classics. “The elegant curved backs are statement pieces in and of themselves.”
Initiate your kitchen to this modern movement with a set of similar swivel bar stools from Wayfair.
In the bathroom: Gilded mirrors and geometric patterns
Because art deco had its moment just after the nation had recovered from the Depression, there was a push toward expensive-looking materials. Rich wallpapers and gilded objects were combined with geometric patterns to achieve an ultramodern and high-class look, like the one we see in this powder room.
“This ornate mirror is offset by a seemingly busy wallpaper pattern,” Purcell says. “But the two pair together nicely as the wallpaper is a repeated pattern, which gives it a more uniformed look.”
Get your very own gilded mirror from Anthropologie, then shop this stunning collection of wallpaper from Graham & Brown to complete the look.
In the bedroom: Adorned furniture
Nothing is boring when it comes to art deco. Just take a look at this photo, where everything from the bed frame to the table lamps to the armoire seems to have a life of its own.
“That bed frame is definitely the focal point of the room, and how could it not be with its unique styling?” asks Purcell.
“A bed is generally the focal point of a bedroom anyway, so why not make it something worth being noticed?”
Snag your very own Gatsby-worthy bed from Wayfair.
In the living room: Art accents
No art deco look is complete without a splash of color, like these modern paintings on the wall. And let’s not forget the gorgeous design of these chairs.
“I love a good accent chair, and these channel-tufted chairs are timeless while providing a unique design on the back,” Purcell says.
Get a set of your very own tufted accent chairs from Target, then snag some of your favorite colorful prints from Etsy.
In the dining room: Decadent details
All that glitters isn’t gold, but when it looks as good as this art deco–inspired table, who cares? Curved chairs in front of bright, geometric green wallpaper, with modern candlesticks get the win.
“The gold base on the table allows for a gold accent to be tied in to the room in a beautiful, harmonious way,” says Purcell. “It’s both a stand-alone piece and one that can blend well into a room.”
Transform your living room with this gold base table from Amazon.
Steven Marsh contributed to this article.