Art Moderne

It’s easy to confuse Art Moderne with Art Deco, but they are two distinctly different styles. While both have stripped-down forms and geometric-based ornamentation, the moderne style will appear sleek and unornimented, while the slightly earlier deco style can be quite showy.

Common Moderne characteristics are:

  • Asymmetrical
  • Horizontal orientation
  • Flat roof
  • No cornices or eaves
  • Cube-like shape
  • Smooth, white walls
  • Sleek, streamlined appearance
  • Rounded corners highlighted by wraparound windows
  • Glass block windows
  • Aluminum and stainless steel window and door trim
  • Mirrored panels
  • Steel balustrades
  • Suggestions of speed and movement: Horizontal rows of windows or decorative bands (unlike Art Deco)
  • Little or no ornamentation
  • Open floor plans

The sleek, rounded Art Moderne style originated in the Bauhaus movement, which began in Germany. Bauhaus architects wanted to use the principles of classical architecture in their purest form, designing simple, useful structures without ornamentation or excess. Building shapes were based on curves, triangles, and cones. Bauhaus ideas spread worldwide and led to the Moderne or International Style in the United States. Art Moderne art, architecture, and fashion became popular just as Art Deco was losing appeal. Many products produced during the 1930s, from architecture to jewelry to kitchen appliances, expressed the new Art Moderne ideals.

Art Moderne truly reflected the spirit of the early twentieth century. Expressing excitement over technological advancements, high speed transportation, and innovative new construction techniques, Art Modern design was highlighted at the 1933 World Fair Chicago. For homeowners, Art Moderne also proved to be a pragmatic style because these simple dwellings were so easy and economical to build.