Interior Design

I. Introduction

Interior Design, the development of indoor living and working spaces, usually involving both practical and aesthetic decisions.

II. Professional Interior Design

Professional interior design can be divided into two distinct specialties: residential design and nonresidential, or contract, design. Residential design concerns the interiors of apartments and houses—that is, dwellings. Nonresidential design concerns public spaces such as concert halls, banks, offices, building lobbies, theaters, restaurants, hotels, and religious buildings. Many contract designers specialize in one or more of these areas.

Sometimes the architect and designer are one and the same, or an architect and an interior designer may collaborate on a project to create a single unified whole. More often, however, the designer works independently in an existing space, making cosmetic changes to the structure as necessary.

Professional designers normally work from a scale drawing, usually of an existing space that cannot be restructured, although minor architectural changes (location of doors, walls, electrical outlets, and lighting fixtures) may be involved. The designer creates effects with a wide variety of design components, including lighting, colors, fabrics, floor and wall finishes, custom functional and decorative elements (such as cabinetry or woodwork), and furniture. The designer's final choices are guided by the client's tastes and budget, as well as the intended function of a given room.

The lighting, whether natural, artificial, or a combination of the two, has a profound effect on the atmosphere of the room. Lighting is taken into account when a color scheme is being determined. The cool colors (blue, green, gray) and the warm colors (red, yellow, orange, brown), the strong dramatic colors (red, brown, purple, black), and the less prominent colors (beige, pink) can contribute a great deal to the feeling created by a room. Certain colors have the effect of enlarging a space (white and the cool, light colors); others, of diminishing it (black and the warm, dark colors). Certain colors blend unobtrusively with other colors; the same colors in differing intensity or shades can become strikingly emphasized. Small objects in a room can be rendered conspicuous if their colors contrast with the background colors of the room.

Texture is another element that contributes to the overall impression of a room. Bark cloth, slate, brick, glass, plaster, glazed chintz, damask, linen, polished wood, silk, wool, linoleum, and tile—all have different textures that can add to the effect of a decorative scheme.

III. History

As archaeologists continue to demonstrate, human concern for improvement of the immediate environment has always been present.

A. The Ancient World

Apart from their religious significance, the drawings on cave walls suggest that humans of prehistoric times had some eye for beautifying their surroundings by the addition of color and natural imagery. Historical accounts of the Mesopotamian and Palestinian cultures show progressive advancement in planning human habitations, and Egyptian temples, tombs, and palaces, many of which survive today, evidence close attention to interior spaces. Recent discoveries of artifacts, utensils, and furnishings from ancient Chinese cultures indicate a highly sophisticated concept of pleasure in everyday life. From the beginnings of Western civilization, marked by the achievements of the Greeks, among other ancient cultures, many examples remain of conscious exploitation of interior space. Ancient Roman culture, which assimilated and emulated that of Greece, became even more fascinated by the boundless possibilities for controlling and enhancing the human environment. The classical style has had a vast influence on Western taste throughout history. The Eastern cultures—especially those of India, China, and Japan—have also influenced Western design, but neither as directly nor as early as the classical tradition.

The modern dimensions of interior design in the West began to take shape in the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) in Europe. The remainder of this article is a historical survey of domestic interior design in Europe and America from that time to the present.

B. The Middle Ages: Romanesque and Gothic Interiors

During medieval times most people lived in hovels or huts that provided little but shelter. The nobility and their retainers lived in structures built mainly for defense (see  Castle).

In larger dwellings, the principal room was the great hall, which served for cooking, dining, and sleeping. Before the introduction of separate rooms for sleeping—a practice that began toward the end of the Romanesque period (11th century to 12th century)—all the retainers slept in the great hall, the women occupying a space enclosed by curtains. The great hall might be as long as 18 m (as long as 60 ft) and as wide as 6 m (as wide as 20 ft). This large area was covered with a roof supported by great wooden beams or trusses, which in later times were carved or painted. The ground floor, which was made of stone, earth, brick, or tile, was, in northern Europe, covered with rushes, straw, or leaves. During the time of the Crusades (12th century to 13th century), the use of Asian rugs (see  Rugs and Carpets) brought from the Middle East came into vogue; these were initially used as decorative additions and not as floor coverings. The Normans hung tapestries on the walls of the great halls (see  Tapestry). Need for insulation against heat and cold led to the plastering of the stone walls; after plastering came into use, the walls were often decorated with paintings in fresco. The principal objects of furniture were tables, benches, stools, and large storage chests, usually of oak. The storage chests, made of wrought iron or wood reinforced with wrought iron, were of particular importance: Most of the possessions of the lord of the castle, and also those of his retainers, were stored in these chests so that they could be removed expeditiously if military attack or fire made abandoning the castle necessary.

After the introduction in the 14th century of cannons and gunpowder, the castle no longer provided adequate protection. In addition, the establishment of relatively peaceful conditions in Europe, together with the rise of a merchant middle class, led to a demand for homes more comfortable than the castle and more suited to the needs of daily life (see  House). Consequently, the Gothic manor house and the château began to evolve. Two- and three-story town and country houses were built, with living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and storage space. The first such houses appeared in Italy, England, and France by the 13th century. After 1400 the use of tapestries, usually made in France, became general in northern Europe for wall coverings, for partitioning large rooms, for hanging over doors, and for enclosing beds. Wood shutters, formerly used on windows, began to be replaced by curtains.

C. Renaissance Interiors

The houses of affluent people in the Renaissance (14th century to 16th century), contained large rooms and high ceilings elaborately ornamented with painted decorations and plaster moldings, usually derived from ancient Greek and Roman styles. Both the decorations and the furniture of the rooms were calculated to create an effect of richness and magnificence. In France and Italy, where such famous artists as Benvenuto Cellini and Raphael created household decorations, a room was judged by the ornamentation on the ceilings and walls. Little furniture was used. Sideboards (dressoirs), chests (cassoni), and clothes presses (armoires) were designed to complement the formal, symmetrical architectural features of the rooms.

In England during the early Renaissance, houses were typically constructed in the Tudor style, approximately half timber and half brick and stone. Lavish use was made of wood paneling and of such features of Gothic art as mullioned windows, elaborate chimneys, fireplaces, and mantels. Rooms were simple and dignified, with few articles of furniture or accessories. Ceilings and walls were decorated with plaster moldings or hung with tapestries. Windows, doors, and the large four-poster beds characteristic of the period were draped with heavy velvets, damasks, and brocades.

D. Baroque Interiors

France set the style of interior decoration for most of Europe from the 17th century to the 19th century. Two decorative styles predominated in 17th-century France, named after the kings in whose reigns they developed: Louis XIII (Louis Treize) and Louis XIV (Louis Quatorze). The former style prevailed during approximately the first half of the century; it was a development of French Renaissance style that still retained some Gothic features, such as angular or square-shaped furniture. In the second half of the 17th century and the first two decades of the 18th century the Louis XIV style prevailed; it was characterized by solidity, dignity, and a profusion of ormolu (gilt bronze) ornamentation. It possessed the classic quality of symmetry, but it was baroque in its elaborateness and ostentation (see  Louis XIV, XV, XVI Styles). The Château de Versailles is the most famous specimen of the style. Among the designers who contributed to the decoration of Versailles were architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Charles Lebrun, director of the Gobelins factory, which manufactured all the royal furnishings. Gobelins tapestry came into extensive use in France and elsewhere during this period.

Also during this period, walls began to receive special attention as areas of decoration. Instead of solid wood paneling, walls were covered with graceful carvings, termed boiserie, often gilded and influenced by Asian designs. From the 18th century on, walls were frequently framed in molded strips of wood.

In England the ornate Jacobean style dominated the first quarter of the 17th century; it employed many elements derived from the art of ancient Greece and Rome. During the Puritan protectorate (1653-1660), by contrast, the tendency was toward greater simplicity in the design and decoration of rooms. The Restoration (1660) again brought into fashion a heavy and ostentatious style. After the accession of William and Mary (1689), decorative influences from the Netherlands restored simplicity to English interiors. The English rooms of the last decade of the century were designed for intimate and comfortable living. They were small, with low ceilings and many windows. Ceilings were unornamented; walls and floors were usually of wood. Asian rugs were coming into use as floor coverings, and painted or printed wallpaper was designed to resemble tapestries and textiles.

E. Rococo Interiors

In France the baroque style of Louis XIV was succeeded in the third decade of the 17th century by the rococo style of Louis XV. Rococo was characterized principally by elaborate but delicately curved lines. The dwellings of the noble and rich generally had wall panels of carved wood; unpaneled walls were sometimes painted in pastel colors, with designs imitated from Chinese art or with stylized representations of scenes from nature. A characteristic feature of the Louis XV room was its small marble mantel exquisitely carved with a curved design; above the mantel was a richly carved and painted overmantel with a mirror (trumeau). The draperies and upholstery used in the Louis XV style were of fine texture and were patterned with scroll, ribbon, and flower motifs. Lighting fixtures, fireplace accessories, and hardware were of finely chased, often gilded metalwork. The floors were of wood laid in marquetry patterns or in larger, geometric parquet designs. The use of Aubusson rugs, made in tapestry weave at Aubusson, France, and of Savonnerie rugs was a feature of the Louis XV room. Special kinds of furniture were created to fill the needs of intimate social life, among them the chaise longue, the type of upholstered chair known as the bergère, and a small desk called an escritoire.

In Germany and Austria, and particularly in Bavaria, the rococo style developed independently in a rich and fantastic manner. For example, the pilgrimage church of Die Wies (1745-1754) near Munich by Dominikus Zimmermann has an exuberant playfulness of form and decoration not found in religious structures west of the Rhine. Flemish-born architect François de Cuvilliés created the famous Amalienburg Pavilion (1734-1740), a royal hunting lodge in Munich that combines a chaste neoclassical exterior with opulent interiors considered the supreme secular monument of the rococo.

In the last third of the 18th century the Louis XV style was succeeded by the Louis XVI, characterized by classical restraint and deeply influenced by neoclassical art and architecture. Louis XVI furniture and decorations had straight lines and right angles. Rooms were smaller, less formal, and more specialized: the bedroom, boudoir, dining room, and library became distinct types. Wall paneling in the Louis XVI room was less profusely carved. In wall painting, scenes from nature gave way to designs with classical elements. Doors, windows, and marble mantels were of classic rectangular design. Ceilings were in most instances left unornamented; occasionally, when a more luxurious effect than usual was sought, ceilings were painted to represent sky and clouds.

F. The Adam Style and the Beginnings of American Interior Decoration

The Georgian style, characterized by dark mahogany furniture and paneled or plasterwork wall decoration, dominated English interior design during the first three quarters of the 18th century. In the 1770s the neoclassical designs of Scottish architects Robert Adam and his brother James (see  Adam) set the style in Britain for the next two decades. Robert Adam considered the interiors of the large country houses he designed to be integral components of the whole structure, and he devoted great attention to wall decoration, furniture, and fittings for the main rooms. Adam interiors are characterized by formality, symmetry, simplicity, and the use of details from ancient Greece and Rome and of broad surfaces of delicate color. These beautifully proportioned and elegantly ornamented rooms had a great influence on English master furniture craftsmen of the period: Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite (see  Hepplewhite Style), and Thomas Sheraton.

In the earliest American homes comfort and beauty were secondary considerations. The New England interiors of the early 17th century were characterized by low ceilings, large fireplaces, and small windows. More provisions for comfort marked the New England interiors of the late 17th century. The walls were finished with rectangular wood panels of upright boards; the ceilings were beamed; and the fireplace, centered in the house, took up most of one wall and was usually spanned with a heavy carved beam. The floors were constructed of wide boards, sometimes painted or covered with painted canvas floor cloths. As the merchant class in the American colonies began to import books on architectural style and furniture from England, the colonial style, a modification of English Georgian, began to take form. The Adam style of furniture and interior decoration influenced the work of noted American architects Charles Bulfinch and Samuel McIntire. Wealthy interiors of the 18th century were characterized by painted woodwork, an abundant use of pilasters and cornices, mantelpieces of carved wood, and floors of wide boards. Imported wallpapers were in general use, as were rich fabrics such as damasks and satins for draperies.

G. Empire and Victorian Styles of Decoration

Early 19th-century interiors in Europe and the United States were decorated largely in the Empire style that had dominated France during the Napoleonic era (1804-1815). The Empire style of furniture was modeled on classical and Egyptian styles and often incorporated ornaments of ivory, ormolu, and brass. A modified form of this style was developed in America and was known as the Federal style; one of its chief exponents was New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe.

The Victorian style of heavily ornamented interiors displaying many pieces of furniture, collections of small ornamental objects, and surfaces covered with fringed cloths prevailed in middle-class homes in England and America during the latter half of the 19th century. Moreover, in both countries, techniques of mass production promoted the use of reproductions in many different styles. This vigorous eclecticism held sway until the beginning of the 20th century and the growth of the functionalist movement in interior design. Presaging that trend, the Arts and Crafts movement, led by British poet, artist, and architect William Morris, pioneered in the effort to reject opulence in favor of simplicity, good craftsmanship, and good design. The immediate influence of the Arts and Crafts movement is evident in the unique work of Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the early 20th century, which combined the solidity of Arts and Crafts interiors with the grace of art nouveau. Art nouveau, which flourished at the turn of the 20th century, featured curved lines (the so-called whiplash curve), undulating surfaces, and imaginative exoticism in interiors, such as those in the mansions created in Brussels by Victor Horta and in Paris by Hector Guimard.

IV. 20th-Century Approaches to Interior Design

After World War I (1914-1918) the breach between the traditionalists, who devoted themselves to furnishing rooms with antiques or reproductions of them, and the functional modernists, whose aim was to originate new styles in keeping with 20th-century life, became even wider. The modernists themselves were divided into several schools. One school, working in a style called art deco, freely modified the traditional historical styles and adapted them to the needs of contemporary life. The interiors created by this school utilized pastel color schemes and rich-textured draperies and upholstery. Another group, the Dutch De Stijl, designed interiors with bold primary color schemes and cubist patterns, with an emphasis on rectangular forms.

A third group of modernists, led by the Bauhaus school in Germany, designed interiors in keeping with the functionalism typical of modern architecture (see  Modern Architecture). This group utilized steel, aluminum, and plywood, among other materials, to make simple, practical furniture, known as Bauhaus furniture, unlike that of any historical style. Its best-known exponents were architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, and Walter Gropius. Designers in Scandinavian countries used bright colors, curves, and softly molded but simple lines. Foremost among them was Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, renowned for the chaste simplicity of his designs in wood.

In the United States, interior design has become a widely practiced profession. Its foremost exponents in contemporary design have been architects, such as Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, and artists, such as sculptors Harry Bertoia and Isamu Noguchi. Among the most prestigious design firms is Knoll International, founded as Knoll Associates in 1938 by German-born entrepreneur Hans Knoll; he pioneered the popularization of works by the Bauhaus designers and also commissioned work from Eames, Saarinen, Bertoia, and Noguchi, among many others. Such recent art movements as op art and pop art have strongly influenced interior design, especially in the bold use of color and geometric forms. Revivals of interest in art nouveau and art deco, as well as in the Arts and Crafts movement, have also influenced taste in interiors. One of the most striking of recent innovations is the style called high tech, which employs industrial, medical, and other technical equipment as components in residential room design.

Not all modern interiors rely solely on the elements of the 20th century, however. Since the early 1950s the influence of the old has taken its place alongside modern developments as an integral part of creative design schemes. A juxtaposition of fine antiques or reproductions with designs in steel and glass has enhanced many contemporary interiors.

See also  American Art and Architecture; Bauhaus; Empire Style; Georgian Style; Hepplewhite Style; Louis XIV, XV, XVI styles; Queen Anne Style; Roman Art and Architecture.


"Interior Design," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


© 1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation.

All rights reserved.