Art Moderne (1930 -1950)

“The terms Art Moderne or Streamline Moderne are often used to describe a variation on Art Deco architecture. As in Art Deco, Art Moderne buildings emphasize simple geometric forms. There are, however, important differences:

Origins of Art Moderne
The sleek 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 International Style in the United States.

Art Moderne art, architecture, and fashion became popular just as the more highly decorative Art Deco style was falling out of favor. 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 and mid-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 were also practical because these simple dwellings were so easy and economical to build. However, the Art Moderne or Streamline Moderne style was also favored for chic homes of the very wealthy.”

“Smooth, rounded wall surfaces, often stucco; flat roof with small ledge at roofline; horizontal grooves or lines in walls (sometimes fluted or pressed metal); asymmetrical façade; casement/corner windows or other horizontally arranged windows; metal balustrades; glass-block windows, often curved. Unlike Art Deco, an emphasis on the horizontal.” “Portholes, pipe railing, wave motifs, prow like projects and other nautical references are sometimes used…Grooves, bands (sometimes called ‘racing stripes’) and balustrades contribute to the horizontality of the buildings, as does streamlining. The style we know as Art Moderne may also go by these names: Streamline Moderne, Machine Age, Nautical Moderne”

Identifying features:

  • Shape: An Art Moderne building usually has a low, horizontal shape. Art Deco buildings tend to be tall and vertical.
  • Ornaments: Art Moderne buildings are stripped of decorative details. An Art Deco house may have zigzags, chevrons, sun rays, stylized foliage, and other ornaments.
  • Color: Art Moderne buildings are usually white. An Art Deco house may be white or brightly colored.


  • Virginia McAlester, Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses, Art Moderne; New York: Knopf, 1984.
  • NAPC Glossary.