What is Art Deco Furniture?

After our exploration of Art Nouveau, today we’ll talk about it’s near cousin and also French born style, Art Deco.

As we’ve explained before, there is often confusion between the two styles. Again, to clarify, they are both reactions to major world events.

  • Art Nouveau is a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and is a decorative, “flowery” style.
  • Art Deco is a reaction to the shock of World War I and is the “streamlined”, sleek one.

Art Deco is the design movement that will dominate between the two world wars and it actually influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, clothes, cars, movie theaters, trains, ocean liners, and household objects like radios and vacuum cleaners.

Art Deco styled chair

Think of Art Deco as modernism turned into fashion. How would humanity translate into everyday Design the values and imperatives of modern, accelerated, ever-changing and disruptive early 20th century culture? The answer came in the form of Art Deco.

The intention was to create a sleek and anti traditional elegance that symbolized wealth and sophistication. It’s products ranged from individually crafted luxury items to mass produced wares.

While Art Nouveau celebrated craftsmanship, Art Deco was a movement of machine glorification. In reality, Art Deco objects and furniture were rarely mass produced, but the characteristic features of this style reflected admiration for machine production, modernity, simplicity, symmetry and planerity.

Art Deco styled radio circa 1920

The main features of Art Deco are simple and clean shapes. A “streamlined” look” and ornament that is geometric or stylized from representational forms such as florals, animals and sunrays. We also have an abundant use of man made substances: plastics, vita glass, and reinforced concrete often combined with natural materials such as jade, silver and ivory.

Chairs, dressers and cabinets featured smooth, highly polished surfaces that reflected light and emphasized their newness and modernity.

Art Deco dining table

Art Deco is also known for its bold use of colours. Red and black were popular and so were deep yellows, greens blues and pinks. Striking colors and the use of contrast were a dominant feature. Also, in upholstered furniture, luxury surfaces were used such as leather, shagreen (tanned shark or ray skin) and exotic furs.



Encyclopedia Britannica