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Italian Art Deco Magic: Beauty of Italy’s Design Era

Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first.

Antonio Gaudi

As a group of architects living and working in Italy, we have had the privilege of witnessing the beauty and greatness of Italian Art Deco. Join us as we take a journey back to the twenties and thirties to explore the world of the Art Deco movement that transformed architecture, art, and interior decoration. 

From stunning buildings to exquisite furniture, fonts, and posters, Art Deco thrived in every aspect of Italian design. In this article, we’ll unveil the history, remarkable artists, and designers who shaped Italian Art Deco, and explore its profound impact on the world of design. Get ready to discover the wonders of Italian Art Deco like never before!

1. Art Deco in Italy

I Villini delle Fate

In Italy, the Art Deco movement is known as “Liberty Style, (Italian: stile liberty) which translates to “freedom style.” 

Art Deco was a distinctive movement that introduced novel styles of artistic and architectural decoration, and while it was not limited to Italy, Italy did contribute significantly to the development and distribution of Art Deco across Europe. 

Following the economic and political evolution that followed World War I, Art Deco thrived in Italy.

This style was distinguished by its utilization of contemporary materials and designs, coupled with classical elements from Italian art and architecture. 

Art Deco in Italy was associated with luxury and charm and was used to decorate some of the country’s most famous buildings and public spaces.

2. Art Deco Architecture

Coppedè District, Italian Art Deco

Out of all the fields, Art Deco exhibited its success and prosperity most prominently in Italian architecture. 

This style of building is characterized by its stylish and non-minimalist approach. 

Architects of the time aimed to create fresh, modern structures that were unlike any previous styles.

Art Deco Features:

  • Art Deco buildings used modern and traditional materials like plaster, chrome, steel, aluminum, copper, and decorative glass.
  • Geometric and decorative patterns such as pyramids, flowers, and zigzags adorned the structures.
  • Uniform details, bold contrasting colors, black and white combinations, gold and silver, and bright colors were used to create visual effects.
  • Geometric designs decorated windows and doors, and fragmented shapes with vertical lines and triangular shapes with stepped points were common in the Art Deco facade.
  • Architects often added garlands to the corners of buildings to enhance their height and grandeur.

Buildings are constructed in the liberty style and are characterized by unique and impressive decorations and carvings. Below are some examples of prominent architecture of Art Deco.

See also Italian Architecture Houses: 11 Fascinating Insights

Italian Art Deco Architecture 

Palaces of the Ambassadors

Italy’s architecture is renowned for its decorative and floral elements from the Art Nouveau movement. However, a few structures also boast the symmetrical and dramatic Art Deco style. From that era, numerous buildings and structures showcase Art Deco architecture. 

Here are some of the most remarkable examples:

Coppedè District

Palaces of the Ambassadors

The Coppedè district in Northern Trieste is a striking collection of Art Deco buildings and streets in a neighborhood to walk and visit. 

Designed by Gino Coppedè in the 1920s and 1930s, the area features 18 palaces, 27 buildings, and villas adorned with ivy-covered walls, statues, and marble sculptures to liberty style. 

Notable structures to visit include the Spider Palace, Fairy Villa, embassy, school, and several private buildings.

Lion decorations in Coppedè
Lion in Coppedè ,Rome via wikimedia

The Coppedè district’s buildings boast intricate facades, ornate decorations, and unique architectural details featuring fantastical creatures and mythological figures. 

This neighborhood is widely regarded as one of the city’s most interesting and distinctive areas.

Piazza del Mincio

Piazza del Mincio Roma

Piazza Mincio is Located in the Trieste neighborhood of Rome, Italy, Mincio is a liberty-style square named after the Mincio River that flows through northern Lombardy. 

Built-in the early 1900s, the square is renowned for its Art Nouveau buildings featuring ornate decorations, curved lines, and floral motifs that concentrate on Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.

See also Architecture in Italy: 5 Branches of Cultural Gems

3. Italian Art Deco Artists

In Italy’s Art Deco period, numerous artists expressed their creativity in a variety of categories including architecture, art, decoration, and design. 

After discovering Art Deco Architecture, now it’s time to meet some of the most renowned Italian Art Deco artists.

Gino Coppedè

Building in Dora, Rome
A building by Gino Coppedè in Dora, Rome photo by The Doc

In 1917, Gino Coppedè (1866-1927) began working on a series of Art Nouveau buildings in the city of Rome which are now famously known as the “Coppedè Quarter”. 

Coppedè was an Italian architect renowned for his distinctive and eclectic architectural style that blended Art Nouveau, Gothic, and other historical styles.

Apart from the Coppedè Quarter, in later years, Gino Coppedè also designed several other buildings in Italy, such as villas, palaces, and public buildings. His work was highly influential in creating the Art Nouveau style in Italy. 

Today, his designs and buildings are appreciated for their creativity, unique personality in tradition, and aesthetics.

Messina Palace Magaudda
Palace Magaudda in Rome by Gino Coppedè

Gio Ponti

Image of Gio Ponti
Gio Ponti 1950s

Gio Ponti (1891-1979), a famous Italian architect, industrial designer, artist, teacher, writer, and publisher, designed and built over a hundred buildings across Italy and the world throughout his six-decade career.

Ponti was instrumental in modernizing Italian decorative arts and aesthetics and designed numerous objects, furniture, and decorative items that helped renovate Italian design after World War II. 

Ponti work
Poldi Pezzoli Museum photo by Sailko

He also had a distinctive approach to designing everyday objects such as cups, glasses, knives, and spoons.

coffee service 1930-35
Giò ponti for richard-ginori, coffee service 1930-35 photo by sailko

Gio Ponti had a deep admiration for the Italian way of living, and he expressed his creativity in various forms. 

Apart from designing kitchenware and tableware, he also conceived a one-of-a-kind cylindrical lamp.

Bottle with Stopper
Bottle with Stopper by Gio Ponti via wikimedia

In the beginning, Italy made many beautiful things that were influenced by the Art Deco style. The people who made these things didn’t just create small things like knives and lights but also designed entire rooms, furniture, and tables for eating. 

Even now, Art Deco things still look unique and impressive. 

In the next part of this article, we will talk more about how Art Deco was used in interior design and decorating objects.

4. Art Deco Interior Design

Italian Art Deco interior design
Art Deco interior design by Alavoine via wikimedia

During the 1920s and 1930s, Italian Art Deco interior design gained widespread popularity, boasting plentiful materials, geometric patterns, and vibrant colors. 

Marble, wood, glass, and polished metal were frequently utilized in Italian Art Deco interior decor. 

Bronze sculpture with gold leaf
Bronze sculpture with gold leaf by sculptor Paul Manship

Italian Art Deco furniture was typically distinguished by its shiny, contemporary design from the beginning. 

These objects usually had simple, straightforward designs with minimalistic lines. In Italian Art Deco interior design, bold colors like gold, black, and emerald green were frequently used.

Italian Art Deco interior design, despite its modernist leanings, also incorporated ornaments like elaborate patterns, ornamental light fixtures, and decorative sculptures.

Here are some notable places that show the beauty of Art Deco.

Albergo Diurno Venezia

Albergo Diurno Venezia
Barber’s shop in Albergo Diurno Venezia in Milan via wikimedia

In Milan city, the Albergo Diurno was constructed between 1923 and 1925 as a building divided into two parts: a public bath and a hall for craftsmen. 

Covering an area of about 1,200 square meters, the Albergo Diurno spanned 88 meters in length and 14 meters in width.

At the end of the hall, a door led to the bathroom accessible from the central corridor, adorned with a bronze statue of the goddess of health crafted by the sculptor Luigi Fabrice. 

The central corridor provided access to two bathroom corridors, a heating room, and a safety exit.

Statue of the goddess Igea
Bronze statue of the goddess Igea by Luigi Fabris in Albergo Diurno Venezia in Milan

Now that we’ve become familiar with Art Deco interior design and decoration, let’s go through the world of Art Deco furniture in Italy.

See also Italian Design Elegance: 20 Branches Analyzed 

Italian Art Deco furniture

Decorative arts in the Musée d'Orsay
Armchair by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1914) (Musée d’Orsay) photo by Sailko

Art Deco furniture drew inspiration from art styles like Art Nouveau and Art Deco, showcasing curved lines, geometric shapes, and luxuriant materials. 

In the beginning, the fusion of fine detailing with geometric and curved shapes, using luxurious materials such as velvet, leather, wood, and metal, was a symbol of Art Deco furniture. 

Bold colors like gold, silver, green, blue, and red, inspired by natural elements like flowers, leaves, and birds, added a unique feeling to the furniture of this era.

The specialized beauty and vibrancy of colors in Art Deco furniture prompt the question of which creative and artistic minds were behind this style. 

Let’s become familiar with some of the artists and designers who created this style of furniture.

Art Deco chair and screen
Art Deco chair and screen in the Paris Museum photo by SiefkinDR

Italian Art Deco Furniture Designers

During the Art Deco period in Italy, talented designers were responsible for creating interior decor. 

Among the most renowned furniture designers of the era were Carlo Bugatti and Pietro Chiesa.

Carlo Bugatti 

Italian designer Carlo Bugatti
Photo of Carlo Bugatti taken in 1920 via wikimedia

An Italian designer and architect, Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940) made significant contributions to the fields of furniture, metalwork, and ceramics. 

Bugatti’s special designs were characterized by a fusion of different styles and cultures, including Gothic, Moorish, and Japanese elements.

Salon furniture in Milan
Salon furniture by Carlo Bugatti ,Milan via wikimedia

Carlo Bugatti frequently incorporated exotic materials like ivory, ebony, and leather into his designs, complementing them with ornate metal elements and colored glass. 

His antique furniture design was equally impressive and excellent, featuring a specialized type of chair with slender, elongated back and complex carvings and inlays for rooms.

Italian Art Deco Dining Table

Art Deco table, chairs, carpet
Art Deco chairs, table by Maurice Dufrene and carpet by Paul Follot via wikimedia

Typically rectangular or circular, an Art Deco dining tables were fashioned from materials such as wood, glass, or marble. 

Table bases were crafted using specialized materials like metal or wood, often adorned with decorative elements like geometric shapes or Art Deco-style leaves.

Italian Art Deco dining table
‘Domus Nova’ dining room in Museum (Milan) photo by Sailko

Art Deco table tops are frequently featured in laid patterns crafted from contrasting materials, like a wooden table with a marble or glass centerpiece. 

Art Deco dining tables were often accompanied by matching chairs that defined Art Deco design elements. 

Art Deco dining chair
Superleggera chair by Gio Ponti via wikimedia

Chairs often had seat and back covers and were decorated with decorative elements such as brass or chrome.

Join us as we discover the fonts and posters of the Art Deco era.

5. Italian Art Deco Fonts

During the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras, new typography styles emerged and gained popularity in Italy and other countries. 

Let’s explore two notable fonts from this time period that influenced the printing industry.

Futura Font

Futura Fonts
Futura Helvetica capitals comparison via wikimedia

Futura is a famous font from the Italian Art Deco era, designed by German Paul Renner in 1927. 

It’s known for its geometric shapes, clean lines, and modern feel, and was popular in Italy and beyond. Its large letters have bold lines and simple elegance, fitting perfectly with Art Deco style.

Bauhaus Font

Bauhaus Font
Bauhaus Luftfahrt logotype via wikimedia

The Bauhaus font, created by Italian designer Nedo Mione Ferrario in the late 1920s, is another popular Italian Art Deco font. Its geometric shapes and modern look reflect the Art Deco style that gained popularity outside of Italy. 

Art Deco style was also used in the printing industry for posters, and we’ll look at some examples.

6. Italian Art Deco Posters

Italian Art Deco posters
Jester cover 1931

During the peak of the Art Deco movement in Italy, posters became a popular medium for advertising products, services, and important events in media.

George Barbier (1882–1932)
Lady with Panther by George Barbier for Cartier, 1914

Geometric shapes and vibrant colors were common influences in the design of Italian Art Deco posters, which had a significant impact on the development of the Art Deco style in Europe and beyond. 

This artistic movement also influenced the printing industry, showcasing its splendor. 

7. History of Art Deco

Chrysler Building of Art Deco
Chrysler Building eagle photo by Jason Eppink

Art Deco, an art and design movement that emerged in Paris and Brussels city in the 1910s, encompassed a wide range of styles. 

The term “art deco” was coined in 1925 after the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Crafts.

This movement had similarities to the earlier Art Nouveau style that emerged in 1890, as both aimed to blur the line between fine arts and applied arts such as furniture and textiles.

8. Art Deco definition

Art Deco skyscraper
Chrysler building detail photo by Rev Stan

Art Deco was a flourishing movement in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, including architecture, art, design, and fashion. 

Its defining features included the bold use of geometric shapes, vibrant colors, and luxurious materials.

However, the Great Depression led to its decline in the 1930s, and after World War II, modern architecture favored functional, unadorned styles and materials like plated chrome, stainless steel, and plastic. 

Art deco style cigar cutter
Art Deco cigar cutter designed by Karl Hagenauer

The simplified modern style emerged in the 1930s, featuring smooth curves and polished surfaces. 

Despite being one of the first international styles, Art Deco’s heyday ended with the onset of World War II and the rise of modernist and international architectural styles.

9. Art Deco and Art Nouveau

Art Deco and Art Nouveau are two distinct styles of art and design that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Although the two styles peaked around the same time and are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably, they have significant differences. 

Both styles emphasized decorative art, but they have unique characteristics that set them apart from each other.

Art Nouveau Characteristics

Tassel House stairway
Stairway of Tassel House, Brussels via wikimedia

Art Nouveau originated in the 1890s and lasted until World War I. This style emphasized natural forms, gentle curves, and long lines, often inspired by organic motifs like flowers. 

 In Art Nouveau, the use of iron, glass, and ceramics was welcomed, while the use of natural materials was emphasized by artists.

See also Italian Art Nouveau: 6 Valuable Discoveries

Art Deco Characteristics

Art Deco style
The Peacock Room painting by James McNeill Whistler via wikimedia

Art Deco, which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, featured clean lines, geometric shapes, and sharp angles. 

This modern style was associated with industrialization and the use of materials such as chrome and glass. 

Art Deco arose as a response to the decline of Art Nouveau, combining creativity with technology.

Victoire (1928)
Victoire by Rene Lalique Toyota Automobile Museum photo by Morio

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building Lobby
Chrysler Building Lobby photo by Tony Hisgett

The Chrysler Building, situated in Manhattan, New York City, is not only a famous and historically significant skyscraper but also showcases the utilization of Art Deco style in its interior design. It serves as an iconic city symbol, representing its architectural and cultural heritage.

Art Deco style in interior design
Interior door in the Chrysler Building (1930) via wikimedia

The Chrysler Building has notable features, including a tall spire with unique geometric lines at the top, different patterns on the exterior decorated with geometric designs. The golden peak, designed with a New York-inspired motif, is also recognized as part of the Chrysler Corporation’s logo.

Vintage Philco Table Radio
Art Deco Design Vintage Philco Table Radio photo by Joe Haupt

When Art Deco was at its peak, people used glossy wood with warm tones to make regular tables and radio tables, showing how art and beauty could be combined.

We hope you enjoyed this journey into the fascinating world of Italian Art Deco! 

From sleek lines and geometric shapes to luxurious materials and bright colors, Art Deco continues to inspire designers and artists worldwide. Although its heyday ended with the onset of World War II, Art Deco remains a beloved and influential style that continues to captivate our imagination. 

Palaces of the Ambassadors Photo By Bardia Azizi

Italian Art Deco Magic: A Recap

Italian Art Deco stands as a testament to the nation’s rich cultural tapestry, blending influences from its illustrious past with modern design sensibilities. Rooted in the Liberty style and early Renaissance motifs, Italian Art Deco celebrates nature’s splendor through intricate designs seen in art objects and architectural marvels.

From the gleaming silver embellishments adorning fountains to the elegant ivory decorations in opulent rooms, every detail reflects Italy’s commitment to craftsmanship and aesthetics. The streets of Rome become open-air galleries, showcasing the fusion of fashion and antique charm that defines Italian Art Deco and Italian Art . As one navigates through these historic streets, they are enveloped in a world where decoration transcends mere ornamentation, becoming a narrative of Italy’s enduring allure and artistic prowess. Italian Art Deco encapsulates a legacy of beauty and innovation, leaving an indelible mark on the global design landscape.