Art Deco vs Mid-Century Modern: How to Know the Difference

Art deco and mid-century modern are two adored styles that were birthed in the last century. While they both have distinct looks and characteristics, they are often mistaken for one another. Let’s go over some of the main distinctions between these two design styles to help clear up any confusion you may have. 

What Is Art Deco Style?

Art deco is a style of design known for featuring ornate and geometric patterns. An art deco style interior or exterior has a regal, sophisticated, and elegant feeling. This style originated in France and was a dominant fixture of design and architecture throughout the 1920s and 30s. 

What Is Mid-Century Modern Style?

Mid-century modern is a design style characterized by clean lines, minimalism, and functional spaces. As the name suggests, the style was born in the middle of the 20th century, with its prominence seen from the 1940s through the 70s. 

How Are They Different?

It’s true, these two styles share some similarities. However, there are quite distinct from one another. In general, mid-century modern is seen as a more approachable style that plays on the natural world with simplicity and functionality. On the other hand, art deco style tends to be more ornate and elegant feeling, often featuring more intricate designs and motifs. Here are some of the biggest differences between art deco and mid-century modern for further clarity. 


Art deco design is all about opulence, so the patterns and lines seen in this style are much more intricate and ornate than what you’ll find with mid-century modern. One of the hallmarks of this style is bold and symmetrical patterns, with different shapes used as a mark of glamour and elegance. Thus, the repetition of small, yet bold shapes is a distinct style of art deco. 

Mid-century modern uses bold lines and distinct silhouettes in furniture pieces and architecture but isn’t as focused on patterns or symmetry throughout the design. You’ll see many large and organic-inspired shapes with mid-century modern, but not as much repetition or intricate motifs. 


You will find many different colors and shades in mid-century modern design–especially the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. Bright and vibrant-colored fabrics are often used in furniture and other accessories as an accent against a more neutral palette for the rest of the room. 

With art deco, you’re more likely to see metallics, black, and grey mixed in with each other for a luxurious appearance. 


A product of the golden age, you will see much more use of metallic and glazed materials in art deco style. The structure and durability of these materials play on the rich and bold look that art deco strives for, creating a sense of opulence and elegance with gold and silver. 

Mid-century modern plays with some of the newer materials that were emerging in the middle of the last century, including laminate, plastic, and plexiglass. Thus, much of the furniture and decor found in this style will be made from these materials that were innovative at the time. However, natural materials like glass and wood are still staples of the style as well.