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Art deco house: how to determine the proper colors

Updated February 21, 2017

Sleek, cool, functional, bold, industrial, smart -- the adjectives go on and on to describe Art Deco furniture, designs, fashion, and colour-schemes. The Art Deco movement (1925-1940s) borrowed colours from nature and industrialised Europe and American landscapes and applied them to both functional and romantic art and design. Art Deco houses in the '30s and '40s displayed muted greens, creams and ruby reds highlighted with chrome and gold details. When colouring a house in the Art Deco style, consider mixing natural hues with the colour of machinery.

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  1. Browse through Art Deco furniture. If you're lucky enough to already be surrounded by chunky, sophisticated, square or rotund furniture of the Art Deco period (1925-1940s), you have the ideal colour-scheme in front of you from which to base your house colour choices. If not, take a gander at a yard sale or flip through a local garage or estate sale selling vintage Art Deco furniture. Examine the colours of those lipstick red vanity tables and glossy-brown and cream inlaid-wood cabinets. Snap a few photographs to capture the colour patterns. Note how the colours work together. Take these colour samples to a paint store to see which colours you can whip up for your home.

  2. Study Art Deco artwork. Flip through a colour photography book full of Art Deco artwork or take a trip to a gallery or exhibition focused on Art Deco artists. Select colours for your house that complement those the artists used: tawny autumn shades, muted greens, muddy pinks and eggshell blues. Or borrow the robust pastel and solid colours found in work by artists Jean Dunand, Michel Dubost, Gustav Klimt and Séraphin Soudbinine.

  3. Note the greens. In any photograph of a 1930s office, home or living room the predominant colour is green. Jade, Chinese, juniper, foam, mint, sea, fern -- all of these natural but slightly muted greens invaded the Art Deco period. Sort through paint samples or through Art Deco catalogues to find the greens you would like to use. Add beige, brown or small amounts of blue, pink, black or silver to tranquillise that natural green into a more industrial shade.

  4. Pick through costume jewellery, like Bakelite. The 1930s and '40s brought costume jewellery fashions that emphasised Hollywood glamour. Visit any antique shop and ask for jewellery made of Bakelite, one of the first synthetic plastics. Choose colours for your house that mimic these eccentric bracelet and necklace colours. Load your home with blood reds, amber tones, gold and chrome details, creamsicle oranges and clear emerald greens. Where possible, apply these practical but enjoyable colours to exterior shutters, eaves and doors.

  5. Study choice cocktail recipe books with colour images of mixed drinks. Those ice cubes, round- and square-rimmed glasses, and sunlit-coloured whiskey -- stirred or shaken with a metallic mixer -- create an Art Deco living room in a glass. Borrow those earthy colours, translucent touches and metallic hints found in olive-plopped martinis and add them into your home's colour-scheme.

  6. Tip

    Highlight natural slate greys, coral reds, violets, creams and denim blues with black and metallic accents: A silver or gold hint adds the sexy bravado of that modern age. Note that in classic Art Deco homes of the period, homeowners painted walls that complemented their neighbours' exterior and interior home designs.

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Things You'll Need

  • Art Deco artwork
  • Art Deco home-design pictures
  • Costume jewellery
  • 1925 40s office pictures
  • 1925-1940s cocktail pictures

About the Author

Noelle Carver has been a freelance writer since 2009, with work published in "SSYK" and "The Wolf," two U.K. literary journals. Carver holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from American University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from The New School. She lives in New York City.

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