Art deco was huge in the 1920s and 1930s across Europe and the United States. It was vibrant, colourful and full of life. It was also known for shape, form and pattern, which is perhaps why it has seen revivals regularly ever since.
Art deco is a style that never really went out of fashion, but would go through phases where you could see it everywhere.
Other times, you would see art deco in characterful places or upmarket bars and restaurants.
It’s such an engaging design scheme that it has endured over a century.
If you’re planning a revamp or are designing a new restaurant, you could do a lot worse than art deco.
There is huge design freedom and huge scope for interpretation.
What is art deco design?
The style itself uses simple shapes, clean lines, geometric forms, luxurious colours, lots of gold, real wood and a mixture of all those things within one place.
It’s an excellent style for a restaurant as it provides great freedom to express individuality without being pastiche.
It’s a powerful style that can be just as effective today as it was a century ago.
Here are a few ways to use art deco design in a restaurant.
Art deco typically uses bold colours alongside metallics such as silver and gold. Think yellow, red, blue, green, pink, black and similar bold colours.
The scheme also uses subtle colours to offset the boldness, pastels, light pinks, light blues, white and other neutrals.
The key is to balance the scheme using all these colours without overloading the space.
Art deco furniture is often large and simple. There is no fine detailing like with other schemes, which is an advantage for restaurants.
There’s a mixture of lacquered furniture with gold or silver elements or natural wood furniture where the texture and colour of the wood is allowed to shine through and be part of the design.
Image: Covet House
Flooring is a similar mixture. You can go from parquet flooring with a high polish to thick faux fur rugs in very bright colours. There’s also leopard and other animal prints, fake animal furs and thick carpets or black and white tiled floors.
It’s a wood floor that most people think of with art deco. High quality, high polish parquet or herringbone floors, lots of natural wood.
There was also a later option for tiles, but it’s wood that’s usually the star of the show.
Brass and copper accents
Brass and copper both feed into the metallic part of art deco. Whether it’s a geometric shape on the wall, decadent lighting or wall panels, brass or copper worktops, bars or tabletops, or something else.
This is yet more good news for restaurants. Brass and copper are malleable so can be shaped, yet are very hard wearing. They are easy to maintain, stain resistant and able to survive daily use in high traffic areas.
Brass and copper accents also look good!
Bold patterns were a signature of art deco. That over-the-top glamour that seemed as though it would overwhelm a space and then didn’t.
You can use wallpaper, patterned furniture, frescos and friezes, pictures, ceiling decoration or anything you like. As long as the pattern is bold, geometric and fits the period, it should work.
Bold patterns can be layered for a little maximalism or tempered with pastels to keep things balanced.
Image: Melody Maison
You could use small mirrors to decorate narrow spaces or floor to ceiling mirrored panels to elevate a space. Despite making a room look larger, they can also add intimacy to a space, ideal for private dining.
Plain mirrors work but mirrors with decorative motifs or geometric shapes can work exceptionally well.
Panelling and plasterwork
Depending on the overall style of your restaurant, wood panelling is also an art deco classic. It remained as a big part of room design throughout the period and is still popular now.
As is plasterwork on the ceiling. Geometric patterns left over from the 19th century epitomise the style. It’s also a great way to elevate a space without dominating it.
Panelling and plasterwork require more work in the initial fitting out but can last the test of time, which makes that effort well worth it.
Image: The Curious Department
Fabrics have a definite place in art deco style but require a little forethought for a restaurant. If you can integrate rugs, fabric wall hangings, soft furnishings and rich curtains, it can add a lot to the design.
You could go classic white, black and gold or rich patterns. There’s a lot of flexibility available with fabrics. Your main challenge is figuring out where you can use them in the design!
As you can see, there’s a lot of scope for expressing individuality while keeping within the overall art deco style.
You can create something that epitomises the era or implement it into a wider scheme. Work it right and you can mix and match art deco with minimalism or maximalism and have a little fun while you’re at it.
No wonder art deco still endures a century after it was first created.
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