Everything You Need to Know About Art Deco Furniture

blue art deco living room

Forbes Masters

When you hear the words "Art Deco furniture", your mind may wander to visions of The Great Gatsby movie set: velvet finishes, sparkling gold or mirror accents, geometric shapes, and bold patterns. You wouldn’t be wrong, either. In fact, the dazzling 1920s-inspired style known as Art Deco is all about embracing high-end craftsmanship that’s steeped in old-school luxury and glamour—very à la Great Gatsby—and it's making a comeback.

Now, in our own modern, 2021 version of the roaring '20s, Art Deco is a sought-after style of decor. If you’re looking to luxe up your space, consider adding a few pieces of Art Deco furniture. But be warned: this bold, playful decor style is not for minimalist-lovers or the faint of heart. Finding chic, trendy items that strike the right balance between eclectic and elegant can be challenging. We tapped interior designers and decor experts to give us the lowdown on Art Deco furniture. Ahead, find out the history of the style, its key characteristics, and tips for the best ways to add it to your home, according to the pros. 

What Is Art Deco?

Art Deco is a style of visual arts, architecture, and design made popular in the 1920s and ’30s. It is characterized by sleekness, opulence, and geometry, often prioritizing rich colors, luxe fabrics, and metallic finishes.

What Is the History of Art Deco Furniture?

Art Deco furniture originates from 1920s Paris, taking its name from the 1925 "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes", an exhibition where French artisans and designers reimagined traditional design in a whole new modern style. This style was complete with bold colors, unique 3D designs, excellent craftsmanship, and luxurious finishes. Taking inspiration from 18th and 19th-century french cabinet-makers, the designers created one-of-a-kind pieces made of rare and expensive materials like rich woods and polished metals that quickly became popular among more affluent society members. As part of the post-World War I era, Art Deco furniture and design was supposed to capture a playfulness, optimism, and zest for life.

As Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer for Trendey notes, "The style exemplifies the time period that it comes from. The 1920s was a time of glamour, luxury, and vibrant life. The furniture and decor from this time mirror that with luxurious fabrics, highly polished metals, and ornamentation." 

Meet the Expert

  • Andra DelMonico is the lead interior designer for Trendey.
  • Travis London is an interior designer and owner of Studio London Co.

The Art Deco period peaked in popularity around the mid 20th century but continues to be popular today.

art deco living room

Alvin Wayne

What Are the Key Characteristics of Art Deco Furniture?

"Art Deco is furniture characterized by geometric detailing and shapes, exotic woods (think zebra woods and mahogany), jewel-tone colors, lacquer, mirrored finishes, and shiny metal accents," says Travis London, interior designer and owner of Studio London Co. "When I think of Art Deco, I think of furniture and style that is defined by glamour," he says. Look for velvet-clad couches, dark wooden consoles, and sleek metal bases.

One example of renowned Art Deco architecture is New York City's iconic Chrysler Building. The highly geometric design at the top of the iconic skyscraper is a namesake of Art Deco design, which often translates to furniture in the same way.

"Unlike modern geometric designs, Art Deco has more ornamental elements. Chevrons, V shapes, and zig-zags are common, " says DelMonico.

How to Add Art Deco Furniture to Your Home

"If you're looking to style some Art Deco design pieces in your home, keep in mind that a few wonderful Art Deco pieces can be the stars of the room," advises London. He says that not every single item needs to be considered Art Deco to achieve the look. According to London, "Those wonderful Art Deco pieces will tend to be the wow factor in your room, while everything else may quietly compliment the space." Here are some tips for how to add Art Deco furniture to your home.

Tip #1: Opt for Sleek Materials

art deco bedroom

Alvin Wayne

Though the first Art Deco furniture designs favored exotic wood as the main material, the style evolved to incorporate more readily available and mass-produced substances like wrought iron and glass. When looking to incorporate Art Deco furniture into your home, seek out sleek materials like metal. Then, balance them out with cozier finishes like a richly patterned rug or textured throw blanket.

Tip #2: Go Glam with Lighting

art deco living room lighting

M Wilcox Design

Glam is the name of the game with Art Deco decor, and there's no better way to complete the look than with geometric lighting. This decorative detail can set off your plush velvet furniture and natural motifs, adding depth and visual interest to the room. "Look for pieces that have multiple geometrical shapes and ornamentation," advises DelMonico.

Tip #3: Choose Rich Woods

art deco wood console

Alvin Wayne

High-end Art Deco furniture in the 1920s was made from rich, exotic woods like ebony, burl walnut, maple, or ash, giving it a deeper color, gorgeous elegance, and most importantly, unmatched durability. If you're looking to add a statement Art Deco piece to your home, search for solid-wood items complete with eye-catching geometric inlays or designs.

Tip #4: Make a Statement with Mirror

art deco table

Forbes Master

For added glamour, add an Art Deco-inspired mirrored piece to your home. The sleek, sharp, shiny edges have a dramatic effect on the space, creating a focal point for the rest of your decor. As an added bonus, select an animal-print accent to play up the luxe factor.