- Black Bakelite became a common material used in Art Deco designJuan Silva/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Spanning the two decades between World War I and World War II, the easily recognizable Art Deco style encompasses a period of technological advancement, global upheaval and the expansion of mass-produced goods. Developed first in Europe, the clean lines, sharp edges and color-blocking elements of the Art Deco aesthetic emerged in most modern cultures around the world. While available materials, manufacturing and local influences shifted shades and tones of colors used in other countries, the original European Art Deco color schemes dominated the design style across the globe.
Black, White and Silver
- Perhaps the most common color scheme associated with the Art Deco look is the color palette of black, white and silver. The high contrast of the monochromatic color scheme is found in the fashion, architecture and furniture design of the 1920s and '30s. Inspired by the machine age and the availability of new materials like chrome and plastics, the severity of black against fresh whites and sleek metallics evokes both the masculine influences and sensuality of the time period. The shining, mirrored surfaces prevalent in Art Deco design evidenced itself in black lacquer, glazed white Vitrolite and silvered mirrors. However, nonreflective, brushed aluminum was just as prevalent as polished chrome in Art Deco color schemes.
- Following the intricate, flowery designs and subdued color palettes of the Art Nouveau period, the designers during the era now known as Art Deco embraced the bright, primary hues on the color wheel. Crimson reds, royal blues and vivid yellows overtook the muted burgundies and dusty greens prevalent in previous decades. In fashion, the social freedoms taken by flappers inspired less-constricting, more revealing clothing that skimmed rather than concealed the body. While the cut and shape of clothing shifted over the years, designers continued to reflect this rejection of conservative clothing by abandoning austere colors for dramatic purples, reds, blues and emerald greens.
- Though not as common as bright, primary hues and monochromatic palettes, pastel shades have their place in Art Deco design. Not to be confused with the pale, muted hues found in Art Nouveau, pastel colors used in Art Deco design maintained a tonal lightness. In posters and graphic work produced during the '20s and '30s, pastels were used as highlights and accent colors to shade or contrast the dominant, more brilliant hues. Turquoise, lavender, pale blue and light yellow were the most common pastel colors, although sparingly used in European Art Deco design. Pastels were more likely found as a dominant color in North America where the influence of the Southwest style had a greater impact.