History of the Art Deco

History of the Art Deco

The Art Deco movement, a distinctive and influential design style that emerged in the early 20th century, left an indelible mark on the visual landscape of North America. Characterized by its bold geometric shapes, lavish ornamentation, and a fusion of modern and traditional elements, Art Deco became synonymous with glamour, luxury, and progress. This article explores the history of Art Deco in North America, tracing its origins, evolution, and enduring legacy.

Origins of Art Deco

The roots of Art Deco can be traced back to the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. The term "Art Deco" itself is derived from the event's name. The movement emerged as a response to the preceding Art Nouveau style, which favored intricate and organic designs. Art Deco, in contrast, embraced sleek, streamlined forms inspired by modern advancements, including the machine age, aviation, and industrial progress.

Spread to North America

Art Deco quickly crossed the Atlantic and found fertile ground in North America, where it became the defining aesthetic of the Roaring Twenties and the subsequent interwar period. The United States and Canada, in particular, embraced the style's marriage of luxury and functionality, making it a symbol of the modern age.


One of the most prominent manifestations of Art Deco in North America is in architecture. Skyscrapers, hotels, theaters, and government buildings embraced the movement's signature features. The Chrysler Building in New York City, completed in 1930, is a quintessential example, with its stainless steel crown, geometric setbacks, and stylized gargoyles. The Empire State Building, completed in 1931, also exhibits Art Deco characteristics, with its setbacks and decorative motifs.

In Los Angeles, the iconic Griffith Observatory, completed in 1935, combines Art Deco elements with a celestial theme, showcasing the adaptability of the style across different contexts. The Marine Building in Vancouver, Canada, completed in 1930, is a notable example of Canadian Art Deco, featuring nautical motifs and lavish ornamentation.

Interior Design

Art Deco left an indelible mark on interior design, transforming homes, offices, and public spaces. The movement's emphasis on opulence and glamour is evident in the use of luxurious materials such as chrome, glass, lacquer, and exotic woods. Geometric patterns, bold colors, and streamlined furniture became hallmarks of Art Deco interiors. The Radiobar, a famous Art Deco interior in the Rockefeller Center in New York City, epitomizes the style with its polished surfaces and elegant design.

Film and Transportation

Art Deco also permeated the worlds of film and transportation in North America. Hollywood adopted the style in film sets and costume design, creating a visual language that echoed the sophistication and allure of the era. The iconic ocean liners, such as the SS Normandie and the Queen Mary, epitomized the luxurious and modern aesthetic of Art Deco in transportation.


While the Art Deco movement waned in popularity with the onset of World War II, its influence endured, and the style experienced a resurgence in later decades. Today, numerous buildings, interiors, and artifacts from the Art Deco era are preserved as historic landmarks, testifying to the enduring allure of this distinctive design movement.


The history of Art Deco in North America reflects a dynamic era of innovation and cultural transformation. From the towering skyscrapers of New York City to the glamorous interiors of Hollywood films, Art Deco left an indelible mark on the visual landscape of the continent. Its enduring legacy can be seen in the preservation of iconic structures and the continued fascination with the style's blend of elegance, modernity, and optimism. Art Deco remains a testament to an era that celebrated progress and embraced a bold, distinctive aesthetic that continues to captivate and inspire today.

Back to blog