The Evolution of Interior Design


We are in an era that is currently enjoying the fruits of hundreds of years of contributions in all the various elements of interior design.  It wasn’t even an individual practice until the early 1900’s, although it functioned as a necessity under the fields of architecture, construction and landscaping.ecclesfield_churchAttribution: Mick Knapton at English Wikipedia

St. Mary’s Church, 1500 A.D,, Ecclesfield, England

Modern interior design had its roots in the 1500’s. Although the design and architectural basis of all we know today took form in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Rome and Greece, it wasn’t until the rise of the European empires that we saw the development of craftsmen who would have the genius to create the furnishings – and an aristocracy that could afford to pay for them (not unlike today…). This was the time period when styles of fabrics and furnishings took flight and acquired definition. The various guilds expanded their artistry, inventing and re-inventing techniques that pushed the world forward to new heights of technology and luxury.

Because historical styles overlapped by many years, there is often a blending of interpretations with all the decorative elements. Governments, monarchs, religions all lent influence and variety even within the same time periods. Major style statements- whether it be the clothes we put on or the things with which we surround ourselves have always developed because there was an ego with resources to create for and a talent to produce it.  It is also interesting to note that there has forever been a flow from adherence to the strict classical design countered by a succeeding era of nature oriented, romantic infatuation of curving lines or animal themes – all features of the Greek and Roman influences. Why look into history when today is all we have time to deal with? Because it’s fascinating! It answers questions we didn’t even know we had. We learn to be better at what we create when we have an understanding of how and when trends and designs came about!

Getting the elements of the past to be accurate yet relevant in an interior today can be a challenging endeavor. None of us would really want to live in the realities of the 15th to 17th centuries but our eyes do appreciate the effort, design and beauty of the fabrics and furnishings of those times. One of the most overlooked mistakes of incorporating antique furnishings or their reproductions well is in the understanding of the character of the era. The style of every era had an overriding spirit that dictated how the people lived, learned, were occupied and felt. We certainly don’t have to copy every element down to the last detail. However, mixing the same spirits from which similar designs came will keep an interior from looking disjointed or working against itself.


1300’s Murano Glass

Architecture reigns supreme in defining style and its transition throughout history. However, the trickle down effect gives us clues as to when an antique or style was in fashion. The stem of a piece of glassware, the decorative motifs on furniture, colors and materials used, the legs of a chair and more – can all be links to the influences of the great designers along with the politics and technology down through the ages.

Chaise de Versailles

1500’s Chair

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