From Gatsby-themed parties to Miami’s elegant hotel strip, the art deco design style has had a lasting impact on modern culture. It also continues to be a top choice for interior design styles in the home, especially in the bathroom.
Here’s how to incorporate the glitz, gold and glamour of art deco interior design into the bathrooms of today.
What is Art Deco?
Art deco is an architecture and design style that emerged in the 1920’s after the first World War. It is primarily characterized by rich colors (think black and gold), delicate detail work and bold geometry.
The glamor and luxury inherent in art deco is achieved through the use of eclectic shapes and patterns, style writer Melissa Minton says. Plus, touches of gold should always be incorporated wherever possible. Gold instantly adds light and elegance to a room, editorial assistant Aoife Valentine at House and Home explains. This is because it bounces light around the room and adds a glittery and elegant ambiance to any space.
Art deco design also incorporates monochromatic color palettes, with black and nude typically stealing the show. Monochromatic color schemes also work well with gold touches because dark hues balance out the gold to provide the perfect contrast.
Luxury design website LuxDeco points out that the art deco movement was inspired by the industrial revolution. Wood and metal touches are often present in art deco design, giving it a distinctly modern look that continues to feel avant garde.
It’s also important to note that art deco styles vary across different cultures and countries. American-inspired art deco designs tend to assume sleeker, more rounded motifs, like florals and feminine shapes, interior stylist Sarah Akwisombe writes. In contrast, designs emerging from Europe lean towards more cubist and geometric styles inspired by aviation and high-contrast imagery.
To explore a more unique and global-inspired spin on the art deco look, look no further than ancient Egypt. The Art Deco Society of New York explains that the design style was initially inspired by the pyramids of this ancient culture.
Original art deco designs borrowed motifs from historical figures like King Tut — whose tomb was discovered in 1922. The discovery in fact created a design period called Egyptomania, which spread across fashion, interiors and architecture. This is why Egyptian reeds, scrolls and other decorative symbols were recreated across The Chrysler Building in New York and other notable buildings of the time.
The Guardian Building in Detroit Art is one of them, design writer Elizabeth Stamp says. Here, teal mosaics, stone murals and glittering stained glass echo the decorative touches of Egyptian temples.
And there are a number of art deco buildings in London too that assumed Egyptian-inspired motifs, notes journalist Ella Braidwood. These include the Daily Telegraph building and the head office for the Royal Institute of British Architects. The latter features two Egyptian style sculptures of a man and a woman, symbolizing the inspirational forces of modern architecture. The Carreras Cigarette Factory is another distinctive building and features elegant bronze cat statues and a number of Egyptian-inspired engravings.
The colors and patterns on both the exteriors and interiors of these buildings can certainly help inspire design schemes for art deco bathrooms.
Because patterns are a hallmark of art deco style, design writer Bettina Deda explains that it’s important to introduce a bold pattern early on when creating an art deco space. Geometric patterns are particularly popular in art deco design, and can show up across tiles, wallpaper, curtains and other accessories.
The repeating fan design is one pattern that’s particularly popular in art deco reinterpretations. Jenna Milliner-Waddell at Elle Decor features such patterns including one called Havana Noir, which is a dark wallpaper with delicate gold fan designs that creates a dramatic, old-world look. She highlights another called Golden Trellis, which is a bright peach-colored wallpaper with a latticework design stamped in gold. These create starkly different atmospheres when used in the bathroom, yet both feature the gilded patterns.
Other patterns popular in art deco are fans, chevrons, zig zags and trapezoids. Sunbursts are another, Lauren Flanagan at The Spruce writes, especially when used as a mirror border. These sunbursts tend to be inspired by the jagged edges and points of skyscrapers, an ode to the industrial growth of the era.
Stylized animal prints like shark fins and zebra designs are also popular in art deco, as it tends to treasure all things exotic. Materials inspired by crocodile leather, ivory, palm trees, desert landscapes, precious wood and pearls also suit the theme, Small Design Ideas explains.
Beyond wallpaper, vanities can provide a unique opportunity to showcase art deco patterns. For example, consider the antique dresser created by Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop created. After painting it black, gold paint and gold leaf were applied in a geometric pattern of lines and spheres. While this example dresser was used in a bedroom, the same technique could easily be applied to a bathroom vanity.
In fact, this black and gold painting technique could be used with virtually any decor item in the house. Artist and illustrator Jenny Batt adorns three black candlesticks with complimentary gold patterns that instantly feel elegant and new. Candles are a great addition to the bathroom, especially when soaking in a luxurious clawfoot bathtub.
Bathrooms already adorned with vintage tile will lend themselves well to the art deco theme, because they have character, color and history. However, new bathrooms can also recreate the look by choosing the right colors, patterns and schemes.
House of Home CEO Carlinea Williamson showcases an art deco remodel that used marble mosaic tiles for the floor and black and white tiles on the walls and around the tub. This helped create a look that echoed the original art deco roots of the home while supporting modern sensibilities in the bathroom.
Tiles featuring spiral motifs are also popular in art deco interior design. These are usually white with a black center, Brian D. Coleman at Arts and Crafts Homes writes. Herringbone and basket weave tile designs also tend to show up in art deco bathrooms. All of these patterns make it easy to incorporate monochromatic schemes into the space.