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The colours of Art Deco

From Resene – All about Art Deco

With its simplified forms, daring fun colours, marked geometry, sense of drama and focus on making a statement, Art Deco styles have inspired many decorators since.

The Art Deco era welcomed in a wide variety of colours. The Roaring 20s brought with it lively colours celebrating the prosperity. In the 30s, happy pastels and clear brights were a welcome escape from the dreariness of the depression.

Click on the colour palettes below to load colours...

Plums, pinks, oranges...
Blacks, greys, metallics

On exteriors these were typically used as accents, often in contrasting colours, picking out the Art Deco detailing and patterning, against walls of white, off-whites, creams or pale pastels. Window frames and sashes would be a light colour, while doors would often be a dark colour such as blue or green.

Interior colours in this period were paler even than the previous period with pastels being common. 'Whites' in china and fabrics were not a pure white but tended to be a soft or biscuit cream, which teamed well with the prevalence of soft pastels. A greater complexity of interior colour was introduced with stained glass and lead light windows. Metallics and black are fundamental colours with slightly shaded whites and solid creams. These ground the more whimsical pastels and combined give that Art Deco sense of drama.

When choosing an Art Deco colour palette keep these key themes in mind:

  • Elegant, opulent, modern, functional
  • Rich sophisticated glamour – paired with golds, steel, black
  • Sharp contrasts – sharp blacks meet stark whites, geometrics, hard angles, vivid oversaturated solid colours
  • Intricate patterning and geometrics to emphasise colour contrasts
  • Opposites attract – symmetry – straight lines and angles, curves and simplicity, black with white
  • Architectural curves, softness, soft hues, pastel undertones, warmth
  • Bright balance and layering of tones
  • Warm interior neutrals, often creamy
  • Polished, high sheen finishes
  • Steel influences, metallic, drawn from the wealth of new industry
  • Warmed greys, greens and steel greys
  • Pastels, graduated, from soft and creamy to bright and happy
  • Moody depths, combined with metallics
  • Art Deco furniture tends to be big, strong, streamlined and practical. In keeping with the furniture style, fabrics feature geometric designs or solid colours. Forget the frills, forget the florals.
  • Black and white wallpaper and flooring is at the heart of many Art Deco spaces.
  • Lighting was usually made of chrome and glass.

As a counterpoint to edgy industrial looks, Art Deco revival offers a new opportunity to bring an abundance of refined luxury and opulent elegance to interiors. Since these designs have such a strong inherent character and understated glamour, they’re best suited to a minimalist setting. Pick a few things you really, truly love with shapes, patterns or colours that complement one another and don’t overdo it.

Art Deco had its heyday in the 1920s-40s, before decorators turned to Mid-Century Modern style for their interiors.


All about Art Deco

The style we now call Art Deco originated in Europe in the early years of the 20th Century, and its heyday was from 1920-1940. Art Deco expressed all the vigour and optimism of the roaring twenties, and the idealism and escapism of the grim thirties... more

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