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How to create a modern Art Deco Look

The Claridge’s Suite at Claridge’s, light grey sofa and light blue chairs surround an Art Deco style coffee table.

Introduction

With the ability to add style, luxury and elegance to just about any interior, it’s no wonder the appeal of Art Deco is so strong.  Perhaps one of the reasons is down to its flexibility - hints of it can be added to boost the glamorous and luxurious allure of your rooms, or, you can go all-in with a stunning floor to ceiling display for a bold and confident look.  

Not many of us have the means to replicate the beautiful and elegant interior of a room like the Claridge’s Suite, pictured above, but it’s certainly possible to create a chic modern Art Deco interior without the need to buy expensive antiques and custom made furniture.  Read on for our guide on how to create a contemporary Art Deco interior of your own, we hope you find it useful.

We've put together two versions of our guide, please click on the one you that is going to be most useful to you to scroll directly to it.

GENERAL INTERIOR DESIGN GUIDE - The patterns, shapes, materials and colours to look out for when creating your interior.

ROOM DETAIL GUIDE - The wallpapers, furniture, flooring, rugs, mirrors, lighting and other room details that suit the style.

GENERAL INTERIOR DESIGN GUIDE

Style Flexibility – Art Deco is an elegant and luxurious style that you can add to any room in your house and it’s flexible; you can add as much or as little as you like.

For a subtle effect, add small hints via a lamp, mirror, rug, an individual item of furniture or an accessory like a cushion.  To create a stunning floor to ceiling display you could incorporate wallpaper with an Art Deco geometric pattern, a suite of sofas and armchairs, parquet flooring and numerous other items.

GENERAL INTERIOR DESIGN GUIDE
Style Flexibility

The flexibility extends to house design where, due to its diverse nature, it works in a wide range of different house styles, especially modern homes where thanks to its inherently functional and modern character it can work just as well as it does in homes built in the original Art Deco era.

Patterns and Shapes – Patterns are a key feature of the style and are widely used in Art Deco interiors.  In fact, it’s one of the main ways for you to achieve the look. 

Patterns and Shapes

When planning your rooms, think angular geometric shapes like chevrons, zigzags, triangles, hexagons and trapezoids.  There’s all sorts of inventive ways you can add these, for example, patterned rugs, curtains, parquet floors, tiles and so on.

If carefully considered and harmonious, it’s possible to use several patterns in your room to give it a more eclectic appearance.  For a subtler look add small amounts of pattern detail here and there or a neutral scheme with a single patterned item, a rug for example. 

Stepped patterns with sharp edges are another corner stone of the style that are reminiscent of skyscrapers built in the original Art Deco era, the Empire State Building for example.  Again, there’s numerous ways of adding this design feature into your scheme, fireplace surrounds, lamps and so on.  

Also, pay particular attention to vertical lines, for example long thin vertical furniture handles are well suited to the style. 

Sweeping curves are commonplace and link in nicely with the later Streamline Moderne development of the style.  Curved armrests on lounge chairs are a great example here.

Influenced by Aztec art, radiating sunbursts or starbursts are a classic Art Deco motif to look out for.  They typically crop up in furniture marquetry, mirror and light designs and coloured glass.

Leaves, branches and feathers appear in less formal, nature inspired, versions of the style. The link to Art Nouveau, one of the predecessor styles to Art Deco, becomes particularly apparent here. Again, you can easily add hints via soft furnishings and accessories, or you can go for a more complete design with wallpaper or curtains for example.  One note of warning though, avoid floral patterns which are pretty much the antithesis of the style.   

Stylised animals, often influenced by Ancient Egypt, and female figures frequently feature too. Statues and lamp stands are the obvious way to add these to your design.

Materials - Velvets and other plush fabrics reinforce the luxurious and decadent feel of the style.  These can be either patterned or un-patterned depending on the look you’re trying to achieve. 

Materials

Woods tend to be highly polished for a luxurious high-gloss finish or lacquered for maximum glamour.  Marquetry is often used to create attractive geometric patterns and to highlight the beautiful natural grain of the wood. 

 

Polished metal details add an extra sense of opulence.  Polished brass, chrome or similar gold and silver coloured metals are frequently used for furniture handles, feet and frames.  Some items of furniture feature polished metal inlays and you will regularly find polished metal detail elsewhere in Art Deco rooms, door handles, power sockets and light switches for example.

Crystal, especially in chandeliers, moulded glass, silver and jade are frequently incorporated into Art Deco schemes and in the original Art Deco era, ivory and exotic skins, like zebra.  Thankfully, these days you can replace them with modern man-made alternatives, which thanks to modern manufacturing techniques, are very close approximations of the originals.

Mirror glass is widely used, for example fan and Manhattan mirrors, mirrored furniture and even mirrored panels covering entire walls.  Mirrored glass works well with polished metal detail to create a sense of space, light and glamour, especially if you’ve got a darker colour scheme.

Colours – Silver, black, polished brass and chrome will give you a distinctly Art Deco look and there’s a huge range of colours that will complement these, including deep yellows, reds, greens, blues and pinks. 

Colours

Quite a few of the rooms in our Art Deco style house are finished in 'eau-de-nil', French for 'water of the Nile', a pale greenish colour that’s typical of the style and makes for a great ‘blank canvas’ to add patterned items like geometric design rugs. Other subdued colours you could use and that are typical of the style include beiges, oyster, greens and creams.

ROOM DETAIL GUIDE

Wall Colours and Wallpapers - Art Deco is eclectic in nature so when it comes to wall colours and wallpapers there are plenty of options to choose from.

ROOM DETAIL GUIDE
Wall Colours and Wallpapers

A hint or more of black and silver / chrome or gold / polished brass is usually present in Art Deco schemes.  So the best colours to use are those that complement them well like deep yellows, reds, greens, blues and pinks.  A darker colour scheme using one of these bold colours will give you a glamorous, luxurious and cosy look that can be brightened up, if required, with polished metal details, lighter coloured furniture and well placed mirrors.

If your room can't take a darker colour without making it feel too dark and claustrophobic, or you simply prefer a lighter room, then you can always opt for a lighter more neutral colour.  Beiges, oyster, greens and cream still work with well with black, silver / chrome, gold / brass and will give you the sense of space and light that you're after.  Again, mirrors and polished metal will add extra depth and light and all of these subdued colours are great for highlighting the beauty of highly polished or lacquered wood furniture. Another lighter colour to consider is 'eau-de-nil', a light green colour that's particularly popular in Art Deco interiors and a colour that we've actually got in a couple of our own rooms.

When it comes to wallpapers there's a few broad categories to choose from.  Geometric wallpapers can range from stylised sunbursts to repeating shapes like hexagons to more contemporary random geometric designs.  For a softer look with a nature theme look to repeating leaf, branch or feather patterns.

Flooring - There are three general categories here, wood / parquet, tile and carpet.  Wood / parquet flooring is a classic for Art Deco interiors.  Laid in geometric patterns that highlight the natural beauty of the wood, parquet floors have an elegant style that's also highly durable.  For additional durability and even less maintenance, good quality parquet effect tiles can be an excellent alternative to wood.

Flooring

Tiled floors can feature any of the colours mentioned in the section above, but black and white tiles in a chequerboard design are particularly popular for the style, or you can opt for a more abstract geometric design for a contemporary look.

 

Black or white marble tiles are often used for their luxurious, opulent appearnce, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.  We learnt the hard way that you pay for what you get when it comes to marble tiles and its also worth noting that all marble tiles can stain.  We replaced the cheap marble tiles we bought, which were rough and uneven, for ceramic marble effect tiles instead.  While the quality of the marble print can vary from low to high resolution depending on the quality, if you pick a tile with a high resolution print then, like us, you'll likely find the average person will struggle to tell the difference unless they very carefully inspect them.  

Carpets with geometric patterns or softer nature inspired Art Deco patterns are available, but perhaps the more common option here is to go for a neutral un-patterned carpet to create the perfect backdrop for an Art Deco inspired pattern elsewhere in the room, a rug with a geometric design for example. 

Rugs - A parquet floor overlaid with a large rug featuring a bold geometric pattern is a great Art Deco look.  The entrance hall of Eltham Palace in South East London is an excellent example.

Rugs

Other options include zigzag or chevron pattern rugs, while black and white is the classic option here, you can opt for one of the deep colours mentioned in the section above or even a pattern of opposing zigzags for a more contemporary look.

The original Art Deco era coincided with the era of big game hunting and that's why you'll sometimes find animal based rugs in interiors of the style.  These days of course, it's just the pattern that's used for the rug not the actual skin of a wild animal.  Staying on the natural world theme, feather and leaf patterned rugs can also be added for a softer look.

Fireplace Surrounds - These should be bold and rectangular.  Original fireplaces were made of concrete and often featured tiles in various colours.  Stone and wood fireplaces make a great modern alternative and are available with various step designs.  Avoid a protruding plinth for a more authentic look.

Fireplace Surrounds

For a slightly more contemporary design you could opt for a plain rectangular surround, again, avoiding any sort of protruding plinth.  A wood surround is another option to consider.  They tend to give a cosier and less formal look.  

Mirrors - A key element of most Art Deco interior designs the right mirror can instantly add the shapes and glamour that characterise the style. In addition, they add a sense of depth, space and light that make them perfect for rooms that could do with a bit more natural light and rooms with a darker colour scheme. Bevelled mirrors can help injected even more light thanks to their multi-faceted nature.

Mirrors

As a cornerstone of the style, you won't be surprised to learn that there's an almost endless range of designs available.  Sunburst or fan design mirrors are perhaps the most classic example and really shout Art Deco.  For a slightly more modest look there's a vast number of geometric shaped mirrors that you could opt for instead, hexagons, rectangles and so on - look for mirrors framed with a polished metal geometric design to tie in nicely with your Art Deco theme.  

Manhattan style mirrors nod toward the Streamline Moderne development of Art Deco. They have a particularly elegant form that's reminiscent of the stepped architecture of sky-scrappers built during the original Art Deco era.

A further option is to go all in with a fully mirror panelled wall.  This option adds maximum perceived depth and light, but, as you can imagine, it does need careful consideration and placement.  

Curtains - When it comes to curtains it's a similar story to wallpaper in the sense that you've got plain, geometric pattern and nature inspired patterns to choose from, but with the added dimension of texture.

Curtains

As mentioned previously, a hint or more of black and silver / chrome or gold / polished brass is usually present in Art Deco room designs, so it's a case of finding a colour that complements them well - deep yellows, reds, greens, blues and pinks for example.  Lighter, neutral colours are also an option and when it comes to patterns, you can either opt for a geometric pattern, a nature inspired pattern or simply go with plain curtains.  

 

Faux silks and velvets suit the style particularly well thanks to their luxurious look and feel.  There's plenty of choice when it comes to different types of curtains - go for something like a pinch, pencil or due pleat for a more traditional look or eyelet, tie or tab top for a more contemporary style.

Furniture - Strong geometric, streamlined and symmetrical forms work well when it comes to furniture, look for prominent vertical lines, angular details and sweeping curves.  You should also find that modern Art Deco inspired furniture benefits from modern materials and proportions – larger usually.

Highly polished or lacquered woods suit the glamorous and luxurious nature of Art Deco.  Walnut, ash, maple and ebony were popular in the original era due to their elegance, so look out for woods with particularly beautiful grains that are emphasised by highly polished or lacquered finishes.

Furniture

Lacquered wood gives an especially glossy finish that adds to the opulent look while reflecting enough light to make darker pieces of furniture seem lighter and less imposing.  Items can also be lacquered to a specific colour – black and, or, white gives a particularly classic Art Deco vibe, while one of the deep colours mentioned in the section on colour above, or a pastel shade gives a more bespoke look.

Marquetry is especially well suited to the style.  Look for marquetry in geometric patterns or even a sunburst design if you want to make a clear and bold Art Deco statement. Marquetry not only emphasises the high-end luxurious look thanks to the crafsmanship involved, but really showcases the beautiful natural grain of the wood too.

In addition to wood, inlays can be in mother of pearl or polished metal, brass and chrome for example. On the subject of polished metal, you’ll find it’s a common feature of Art Deco inspired furniture when it comes to details like feet and handles. It helps further emphasises the luxurious look while giving a slight futuristic industrial appearance that’s typical of the style.

Pale woods and simple shapes for larger items like wardrobes, cupboards and cabinets help create a light, airy feel and help prevent them from dominating the room.

​​Another option is to choose furniture with mirrored surfaces which not only fits right in with a glamorous Art Deco interior, but also injects a fair bit of reflected light from their multifaceted surfaces.

 

When it comes to upholstery on sofas and chairs, look for velvets and other plush materials that add to the overall sense of luxury and opulence. Faux silk cushions are one option that can help with this.  Colours can either be rich and bold or light and neutral depending on the scheme you’re aiming for.  Another dimension is the use of pattern – look for strong geometric patterns or nature inspired shapes like feathers and leaves for a softer appearance.  Having said that, the more usual, and safer, option is to opt for a single un-patterned colour for sofas and chairs and having pattern on rugs, cushions, curtains, etc. instead.

Lighting

Lighting - There are three broad categories here, ceiling lights, wall lights and freestanding lights.  Ceiling lights can become a great focal point when an appropriate design of light is used, especially if it's an elegant crystal chandelier. The combination of multifaceted crystal glass and polished metal fittings makes them an especially good choice for Art Deco interiors.  Match them with a darker colour scheme for extra glamour.  

Of course, there's lots of other options aside from chandeliers, look out for geometric or angular shapes, symmetrical designs and polished metals to ensure the light suits your scheme.  

Up-lighters work well for wall lights, again, look for geometric shapes and polished metals.  For a slightly more traditional look you can include coloured glass and for the ultimate Art Deco statement, look for sunburst designs in coloured glass.  Interestingly, during the original era glass would have been sandblasted, etched or enamelled as opposed to coloured.  These days though, coloured glass on modern pieces will give you a similar look.  While on the subject of the original Art Deco era, chrome was a brand new material at the time, hence its extensive use.

Freestanding lamps are the easiest way to add a touch of Art Deco style.  As with ceiling and wall lights, the choices are almost endless.  Options for desk and floor-standing lamps range from the traditional, possibly with coloured glass, to the more contemporary.  Either way it's again a case of looking out for geometric shapes and polished metals that suite the style.  Alternatively you can opt for a more nature inspired piece, think leaf and feather inspired patterns while avoiding floral designs that fall too far into the Art Nouveau category. 

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