We’ve all heard the phrase “Art Deco” peppered into conversations here and there—and it makes us think of the Empire State Building in New York City or the colorful exteriors on Miami’s Ocean Drive, both prime hallmarks of Art Deco architecture. But how exactly did this style come into being? The term “Art Deco” was first used in the early 20th century, it appeared as a backlash against the highly stylized Art Nouveau movement. Art Deco’s unique approach was a bit of a contradiction at times—sleek but often handcrafted structures, intense but not overly ornate, showy but not excessively fancy forms. New materials began to emerge—from chrome and plate glass to luxurious finishes like exotic woods, lacquered surfaces, and shagreen. On the whole, furniture and decor started leaning to sculpture, mimicking the period’s architectural and interior centerpieces of smooth and streamlined surfaces and vertical lines. Structures designed in the Art Deco style had specific energy and vitality.
As the style garnered popularity, the look became associated with the future. If we were to look at an Art Deco home or bank lobby, for example, we’d see a lot of metallic materials and elaborate patterns, we usually associate it with figures like ‘The Great Gatsby.'” Despite its European roots and prominence throughout American cities, Art Deco still exhibited a global influence. Earlier Art Deco works very much resembled Asian and South American design but with a modern European twist. Later on, it became more minimal, and we start to see the seeds of mid-century modernism.” On the whole, the style’s popularity has undoubtedly remained valuable, maybe because it looked so fundamentally different than what came before it. That said, when the economy took a significant downswing due to the Great Depression, the style dimmed down a bit. But a little innovation kept the movement alive for a few more years. That’s why antique dealers are always on the hunt for Art Deco pieces made during the’ 20s—they’re worth more, says Linden, simply because they’re made of more precious materials. While World War II signaled the official end of the Art Deco movement, the style did, as many styles do, come back around later in the 20th century.