The History of Art Deco and Why It’s Still Relevant

You might see the words “Art Deco” plastered on ads for homes, furniture, art, and decor. If you’re unsure what exactly this refers to, or frequently confuse Art Deco with Art Nouveau, this is your guide to this important style revolution, and advice on finding pieces like an Art Deco style coffee table today.


In the 1920s and 1930s, artists and architects in Europe began exploring a contrast to Art Nouveau style, a period of design marked by minimalist takes on natural themes. While Art Nouveau was using restrained motifs of vines and leaves as mainstays, Art Deco turned to an even more basic principle: geometric shapes. Thus began a revolutionary style that became synonymous with influence, elegance, and modern practicality.


The Art Deco style used geometric patterns like triangles and semi-circles as primary features, repeating them playfully, venturing with their themes and intrinsic qualities. Architects, artists, and furniture designers began imbuing their work with repetitive sharp edges, perfectly mathematical symmetry, and practical features that were geared toward the owner.

Because Art Deco was prized by the fashionable elite of their time, people today associate Art Deco with gold and steel, products that were expensive at the time and expressed high value. For instance, an Art Deco coffee table for sale today may be black and gold to reflect the sought-after furniture of the 20s and 30s.


Eventually, the Midcentury Modern style of design and decor took over Art Deco, which had all but declined in popularity in the late 1940s. Now, though, homeowners are rediscovering the simple elegance of Art Deco, preferring it to the cold and utilitarian Midcentury Modern pieces that postdated it. Due to this resurgent popularity, you can find pieces like an Art Deco style coffee table in many furniture shops.


The modern consumer should take care to find authentic pieces that take the best from Art Deco, rather than costume pieces that poorly imitate this design period that defined the roaring 20s. Look for materials like mirrors, real metal, and inlaid high-quality wood, as well as boldly contrasting color choices. When you shop for a piece like an Art Deco style coffee table, take care to also remember the proudly independent mentality of the time, and buy straight from independent designers as opposed to corporate mass-producers of gilded furniture of poor material quality. Try pairing authentic and artistic pieces with simple, understated furniture so as not to overwhelm the room with strong patterns and shapes.

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