Easy Art Deco Christmas Decorating

Art deco was one of the most influential art movements of the early 20th century, and its influence is seen even today: geometric lines, symmetry, streamlining, simplicity, cool colors, and other elements of early 1900s aesthetics and philosophy. And for a really unusual look at Christmas, you can use these distinctive design elements to create a spectacular setting for your holiday parties and celebrations that will be sure to leave your family and guests truly impressed!

Typical Art Deco design with stylized lotus plants
Typical Art Deco design with stylized lotus plants | Source

The Colors

Art Deco was inspired by industrial advances of the early twentieth century, and designers of the time favored cool colors, metallics, and bold black and navy. These combinations are still with us, and can add a very contemporary and stylish look at any time of year, but these palettes will really stand out at Christmas, when most of the rest of the world is tending towards the traditional. These colors can be applied to anything: artificial trees, ornaments, garlands, wreaths, wrapping paper, and even your place settings. Regardless of where you employ these combinations, your décor will be remarkable.

Note in the illustration above, even the earth tones tend towards the cool end of the color spectrum. If you already have your house decorated in earth tones, it doesn't mean you can't use Art Deco: think tan and pistachio, or coral and aqua for schemes. For inspiration, you can check out Art Deco collections at museums and antique stores around the world.

Sample Art Deco Palette

Typical Art Deco palette
Typical Art Deco palette | Source
The stylization of the bird's feathers can be adapted to angel wings if you don't use birds in your Christmas decorations already.
The stylization of the bird's feathers can be adapted to angel wings if you don't use birds in your Christmas decorations already. | Source

The Lines

Clean, uncluttered, and repeating geometric lines are a highlight of the Art Deco movement. If you remember such iconic 1920s structures as the Chrysler Building in New York City, you will have the right idea. Spheres, cylinders, straight lines, fans, chevrons, and parabolas are combined to lend décor a sense of sleekness and modernity. The lamp pictured just below, and the bird drawing pictured at right, should give you an idea of the kind of look you are hoping to achieve.

Stylized cat lamp in Art Deco style
Stylized cat lamp in Art Deco style | Source

For decades I have loved the streamlined, idealized industrial look of Art Deco. To me it speaks of glamour and elegance, hope and optimism, and using our resources to change the world for the better. I have a few gorgeous Art Deco pieces that I put on display each Christmas, and my décor always gets rave reviews!

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Inspiration for Your Decoration

The sunburst rays and geometric designs of this door at the Cochise County Courthouse in Bisbee, Arizona make perfect designs for wrapping paper!
The sunburst rays and geometric designs of this door at the Cochise County Courthouse in Bisbee, Arizona make perfect designs for wrapping paper! | Source
The stylized bodies of the Pegasus as seen on the Queensway tunnel in Liverpool can be an inspiration for creating the animals in any manger scene.
The stylized bodies of the Pegasus as seen on the Queensway tunnel in Liverpool can be an inspiration for creating the animals in any manger scene. | Source
Another view of the Queensway tunnel in Liverpool, with details of the neat scalloped edges and simple pillars to show the clean lines of the style.
Another view of the Queensway tunnel in Liverpool, with details of the neat scalloped edges and simple pillars to show the clean lines of the style. | Source

More Inspiration

Art Deco Complete: The Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s
Art Deco Complete: The Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s

This book is the ultimate go-to guide for Art Deco inspiration. And it's a gorgeous coffee-table book, too!

 

Creating Your Art Deco Christmas

Obviously you don't want to go overboard, so don't do all of these at once. Simply pick what you think will look good to you.

  • Paint artificial trees black, grey, silver, or navy, or go for earth tones with a cool tan. Pistachio green will be in style, too. If you're really handy with a spray can, you can frost the tips with a contrasting color.
  • Spray paint garlands or wreaths one of the colors in the Art Deco palette, and wind contrasting ribbons through them. Great combinations are black or navy and metallics, particularly silver. Gray and copper is another fabulous look from that era.
  • Get plain black or navy wrapping paper and stamp it with silver-, gold-, or copper-colored paint. Art Deco-style stamps are readily available from craft stores. You can also design Art Deco-style wrapping paper on Zazzle!
  • Spray-paint glass ornaments with a high-gloss paint in one of the colors of the palette, then use a metallic color glitter to decorate. Draw your repeating geometric shapes with a bead of glue, then roll in glitter. You can also use a metallic pen to decorate the ornaments if you have a steady hand. If not, a stencil will be invaluable in keeping your designs clean.
  • Decorate satin Christmas ornaments of one of the colors in the Art Deco palette with metallic glitter or acrylic paint.
  • Keep Christmas lights blue or white; icicles should be gold, silver, clear glass, or black. If you want a really spectacular outdoor display, consider leaving your cool white LED Christmas lights in the plastic packaging to preserve the straight lines, and using the lines to create chevron, parabola, or fan patterns by fastening the plastic packaging to the exterior wall of your house. (Remove the cardboard box.) Your guests will have to get really close in the dark before they figure out the trick, and from the street the effect is unprecedented!

Coordinating Your Ideas

Colors
Lines
Materials
Pistachio
Scallops
Satin
Maroon
Chevrons
Metal
Silver
Sunbursts
Glass
Gold
Squares
Alabaster glass
Copper
Triangles
Mylar

Don't Forget Your Table Settings!

Choose clean, modern-looking lines, bold colors from the Art Deco palette, and lay out your table as simply as possible. A solid tablecloth can be embellished with metallic ribbons, even if they are discreetly pinned on or stuck on with temporary glue. Simple white, black, or clear glass plates (especially square) are all you need, with some metallic napkin rings (you can make these cheaply) and coordinating napkins. A contrasting solid table runner will highlight your setting beautifully.

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