How to Identify American Art Deco Furniture

Art Deco is that distinctive design style that can be seen in architecture, furniture and more, which many of us would label or identify as ‘retro’. The art deco style was not just restricted to buildings and furniture; elements of this design style soon found their way to objects of everyday use. Refrigerators, cookware, jewelry, clocks and even electronic items can reflect art deco styling.

Art Deco furniture is something that many of us would quickly associate with old Hollywood films and buildings of a bygone era. The Art Deco movement began in France and flourished in the first half of the 20th century but has made a comeback in recent years.

The Chrysler Center in New York City is one of the most iconic examples of the art deco design style. Many other historic art deco buildings dot the American urban space in cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco. We look at the characteristics of art deco furniture and the distinctive features that can help identify the style.


Use of Geometric Forms

The use of geometric patterns is one of the most easily recognizable of attributes in art deco furniture: designers are seen to use rectangles, spheres, zigzags, trapezoids; sun burst motifs and so on. These motifs are typically arranged in a symmetrical pattern.

Materials Used

The art deco movement was, in a sense a celebration of industrialization and mechanization and as such the materials used to make the furniture reflected this. Materials such as glass, metal, chrome and smooth, highly polished wood are usually used to create art deco furniture.

Modern industrial materials such as aluminum, Bakelite, stainless steel and plastic as well as traditional devices such as inlay work and stained glass may be used. A glossy finish with liberal use of lacquer and enamel is an essential characteristic of this furniture style. The fabrics used as upholstery for the furniture also help enhance this glossy, polished look.


American art deco furniture is associated more with the efficiency of the machine age and less with opulence. As such the designs reflected this preoccupation with efficiency. Sleek lines and smoothly rounded corners are to be seen with this furniture style. The items of furniture often expressed the optimism of the times that they were designed in, with motifs of prosperity and hope (chevrons, the rising sun and so on). The use of bold and high contrast colors is another feature of the art deco furniture style.