Art Deco Architecture : History, Style & Characteristics

Nov 30, 2021

Art Deco embraced all kinds of art, crafts & fine arts. It was applied to ornamental art like interior design, furniture, jewelry, textiles, fashion, and industrial design, infamously applied to everyday things. Soon architecture and therefore the visual arts of painting, and graphics presented art deco flair.

Art Deco designs are symmetrical, geometric, streamlined and pleasing to the eye. This style was avant-garde art of that period, which challenged viewers to seek out meaning and wonder within the unapologetically anti-traditional images and forms.

Art deco designs showcased modernism that changed into fashion. Its products include both independently crafted expensive and ready-made items, but, in either case, the intention was to make a sleek and non-conventional elegance that symbolizes wealth and class.

When did Art Deco Originate?

The term art deco originated in 1925 from an exhibition held in Paris. Organized by an Artistic fellowship referred to as “Society of decorator”. It was led by Hector Guimard, who was the founder, with fellow Art Nouveau artists Eugene Grasset & Paul Follot.

Art Deco was also referred to as style Moderne. Originated as decorative arts & architecture of the early 19th Century. It was established broadly in western Europe in 1920 and spread across the US by the 1930s.

How did this style evolve and how long did it stay?

The art deco style, fostered by architects and designers round the world, spanned the "Roaring Twenties", the great Depression of the first 1930s, and the years leading up to the Second war .
It suffered a decline in popularity during the late 30s and early 40s, when it began to be seen as too gaudy and lavish for wartime severity, after which it quickly fell out of fashion.

Art deco was an Avant garde movement, it quickly resurfaced in the 1960s with the Pop culture and Pop Art movement. The major revival of Art Deco was growing interest in graphic design, it resurged again in the 1980s. It was effectively adapted to the fashion industry and appeared in several jewelry and fashion ads.


Design elements from this era continue to influence design, art, fashion, and Architecture. Important features of the style include -

· Smooth wall surface

· Sharp edged, linear form

· Styled by ornamental elements using geometrical, zigzags forms etc

· Has relief decorative panels

· Stepped or set back front façade

· Strips of windows with decorative spandrels

If you were to use Art deco style in your design in a wonderful, almost playful manner you need to follow these design principles & Aesthetic.

Horizontal and Vertical lines

Art Deco style plays profoundly with vertical & horizontal lines creating heightened spaces drawing your attention high up the building.

When you walk through the entrance of the Art deco building, through its massive metal & glass door it creates a lasting bold impression. The art of this style is "Dramatizing the visual perspective." You can interject windows & doors in a series of rows & columns that draw the attention of the users. Primarily these lines are used to create grandeur and monumental experience.

Geometric shapes

You’ll find various triangles, zigzags and other basic geometric shapes combined within the theatrical facades of buildings and lavish interior designs in this style. A signature characteristic of this style is that the support of sharp angular shapes within a corresponding design element or stark transitions from one section to subsequent. It’s there in everything from wallpapers to picture frames.

Elaborate details

One of the distinct trademarks of art deco design is that the lavish detailing of architectural elements, lighting and furnishings. The design was significantly influenced by art and architecture from fascinating places around the world. This suggests that buildings, furniture, and other interior decor include magnificent Egyptian, Parisian, Oriental, and other assorted designs. Intricate bas-relief carvings in various materials were favorite ostentatious additions of this era and were often the focal point of the space.

Ornate interiors

Art deco interiors are often ornate and lavish, filled with lacquered, lustrous wood, shining gold, and modern lighting fixtures. Whimsical geometric floor designs in tile or over-the-top wall mosaics depicting gods or scenes from nature often adorned the majestic rooms of banks, courthouses, or cinema halls. Heavily exquisite crown molding and intriguing ceiling accents ensured that no square inch of a space was left dull to the attention.

Sweeping curves

Art deco’s angular geometric shapes and straight lines are blended with attractive sweeping curves. These smooth lines were united artistically in many grand staircases and arched entrances


Art deco style is highly symmetrical in design, which is a characteristic that comes from its modernism effect. Balance was a crucial consideration for the architecture of that time. It was an important time to display stability and authority through spatial experience in all administrative buildings. You will witness this in 1920s courthouses, financial buildings and other institutions. These buildings demanded a visual and aesthetic power. Art deco achieved this creatively and stood the test of time.


Art Deco with its ornamental & luxury aesthetic is still relevant and resonates with designers to create a bold and rustic look. The designers use materials that have an ornamental quality to them. Marbles and granites, also metals in silver, gold, and brass finishes are all seamless accessories to art deco interiors.

There are few approaches to colors in art deco interior design—bold and moody palettes of dark greens, purples and blues and black to bright white palettes with just pops of dark colors.

Whichever colour direction you go, it will be paired with metallics within the accent furniture, decor, and lighting. Contemporary art deco interior design mixes the key elements of this design style with other architectural styles and eras, for a glance that’s varied and unique. There are numerous ways to bring this look to life today.
Art Deco style brings new thoughts to the present and helps us reinstate important buildings from the past, keeping them alive for future generations to understand the beauty of such movement.

Art deco Structure

One of the most famous example is the Union Terminal (1933)

Designed by Alfred T. Fell Heimer located in Cincinnati, Ohio

The massive half dome structure with Indiana limestone façade with an Archean age entryway (oldest stone on earth), is the prime example of Art Deco Architecture.

Light buff sidewalk leads to the pink porphyritic granite fountain & towards a steel frame, masonry curtain walls, concrete floor terminal.

Let’s look at some art deco furniture & art!

There are many notable pieces of furniture from the era, one of which is the Hill House Chair.

Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Capitol Hill House Chair is a dining chair that has a theatrically high back with a ladder-like design of sleek black wood slats, ending with a grid of wood at the highest.

Some Sculptures!

Art Deco sculptures have become very fashionable, typically made from bronze, marble, ivory and other exotic materials. One among the leading famous sculptures of that period is designer Max Le Verrier’s “Clarte,” which features a nude woman leaning backward and holding a lightweight in her outspread hands.

Closing Thoughts!

The art deco movement lasted until 1940, which is when famous modern designers were beginning to make progression with Modern architecture. During this, Art Deco architecture is frequently seen as a progression period between traditional styles like Victorian and more modern design styles.
In summary, Art Deco architecture signifies a transitional period between traditional and modern methods to putting together. The dated spans between 1925 - 1940 and is an easily recognized style in renowned American city buildings.


Arpitha Acharya

Arpita is always in the quest to discover new experiences. She is relentless in conveying thoughts & sharing her explorations. Her only forte is writing & sometimes communicating with furry animals.