Bring the Optimism of Art Deco and Art Moderne Back

Bring the Optimism of Art Deco and Art Moderne Back

In the years after the”war to end all wars,” the world enjoyed an economic boom in the Roaring Twenties, followed by the Great Depression. Not surprisingly, these years of boom and bust took bodily form in the two great design tendencies of these decades: art deco and art moderne.

Now we associate those enduring styles together with the iconic Chrysler Building, Hollywood’s golden age, transatlantic steamship travel aboard liners such as the SS Normandie and high-speed intercontinental travel on trains like the 20th Century Limited.

In the elegance and monumental symmetry of art deco to the fluidity and optimism of art moderne, we can learn much from these styles — lessons which may be apropos, as we also have only gone through our own decade of economic boom and bust.

Peterssen/Keller Architecture

Deco or Moderne — What is the Difference?

From industrial items to household accessories to architecture, the art deco and art moderne styles became all encompassing in the’20s and’30s.

This house has all of the identifying elements of art deco design as it pertains to art moderne. Rigid, rectilinear geometry gives way to soft, flowing curves, while cantilevered, pipe-railed balconies combine with porthole doors to evoke the air of transatlantic voyages on the great ocean liners of the period.

Generous use of luminous and decorative glass block — a timeless cloth of the art deco and art moderne styles — brings abundant light to the interior by day and generates drama at night when the result is reversed.

Cassandre Classic Art Deco Poster – $90

Industrial and graphic design were heavily influenced by the art deco and art moderne aesthetics. While these styles share similar ideas of symmetry and boldness, items in the’20s are more severe in their geometry, while the artwork moderne of the’30s is more curvilinear.

Radically different in their Victorian and Edwardian predecessors, new boat, train and auto designs of the 1930s exemplified rate, elegance, power and elegance with their streamlined hulls, swept-back superstructures and softly curving forms. Nothing exhibits this fashion better than the poster for the SS Normandie in the mid-’30s.

Interior Styles, Inc..

Pure Art Deco

Having an emphasis on abstract geometry as well as bold shapes and colours, art deco at its heart is a highly stylized and decorative aesthetic ideal for underfloor surfaces. The style’s painterly effect is suitable for dressing up doors…

Kelsie Hornby, ASID, Elegant Designs, Inc..

… as well as walls and floors to form richly decorated surfaces. As the Great Depression deepened, the design waned in popularity in the 1930s.

Tongue & Groove

When they decorative and were not patterned, art deco interiors were colored. A metallic sheen and darker colours created intimate and cozy interiors. While trimming still was used, it was more rectilinear and severe than previous variants. The cove and ogee moldings of yesteryear were substituted with stepped and square profiles.

Erik Johnson and Associates

From Deco to Moderne

I can not stress enough that these styles epitomize the zeitgeist of the’20s and’30s. While both art deco and art moderne relied upon daring shapes and charm, the harshness of the geometric shapes and richly decorated surfaces of art deco gave way to the less gilded, more fluid and gentler qualities of art moderne as the Great Depression lasted, creating ostentatious displays of wealth undesirable.

And while art deco furniture might be too large and plush, like marshmallows on steroids, relaxation and elegance did not disappear in art moderne — they simply became somewhat thinner and more linear.

TEA2 Architects

A Combination for Today

The essentials of art deco and art moderne are as important in modern designs since they were in the’20s and’30s. The simple, clean, white cubic types and ziggurat roof of art deco, combined with cantilevered, pipe-railed balconies of art moderne, hark back to that age, while an asymmetrical massing and articulation of kinds upgrades and freshens the whole.

Mal Corboy Design

Now we could use a number of that forward-looking, optimistic fashion. Whether it’s through a mix of old wood, contemporary laminates and classic appliances and accessories which brings us ahead…

Garret Cord Werner Architects & Interior Designers

… or even the exuberance of stainless steel and highly reflective surfaces, so our houses can give us the sense that we’re going someplace.

Like passengers around the 20th Century Limited producing our way out of New York to Chicago in the age of streamlined design, we’re hurtling forward to the future. It might be a future where our houses express precisely the same sorts of can-do spirit and limitless chances as the houses of their art deco and, particularly, the art moderne styles did. What will the houses we find there be like?

A Guide to Art Deco Style
More Architectural Styles

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