While reading interior design blogs, you've probably encountered many of the same interior design styles; minimalist, industrial, Scandinavian, Bohemian, farmhouse and glam seem all the rage, and, often, all the range as well. If you can't see yourself finding comfort in these styles that, with their similar attitudes to use of wall decor (barely anything), use of furnishings (less is more), use of colour (black, white, grey, pastels, metals and beige are best), use of unity (mixes of 'quirky' difference) are often not that different, then you might get frustrated.
Fortunately, these styles are not the only interior design styles that are out there. In fact, if you can see past the trendy, the contemporary and some arbitrary new rules, like, for instance, 'never buy sets', 'only paint one wall bright' and 'maximize light', there is a whole world and history of interesting decor to tap into. In this article, we will discuss five of these forgotten styles and talk about how they might be just the style for you.
Arts and Crafts
This style is native to England and could be your ideal style if you'd like to live in a cottage in the countryside or you would have liked to have been an interbellum Oxfordian professor. It is notable for its use of wood panelling, exposed woodwork in the structure of the house, stained glass-windows, open fireplaces, colourful tiles and wallpaper designs and a darker, but warm earthy colour pallet.
Arts and crafts evolved as a reaction against the emerging commercialization of the design market and tried to celebrate craftsmanship from the art of vase making and painting to carpentry and floor laying. Not only does this mean that arts and crafts interiors should generally be able to stand the test of time, but it also means that they appreciate craft that is born from genuine love. While it might be more difficult to find the right handy men or the money that is required for an arts and crafts interior, the style is definitely a rewarding and timeless one, as it stands for calm, serene, but still cosy environments that often feel as natural to us as a hole to a hobbit.
Most people know Gothic design only from medieval European churches, but interestingly this style has also been used in some houses. Indeed, after the Middle Ages this style became popular again in the Victorian era under the influence of popular “Gothic” novels and romantic historical fiction and was used in new residential buildings of the time, as well as, of course, new churches. And even now, the Gothic trend has not completely disappeared yet, with some people still designing and decorating their houses as Gothic as they can reasonably make them.
The Gothic Revival style, as it is called, is achieved by airy rooms with medieval style furniture and rich, heavy textiles that are nonchalantly draped. Big stone walls, with intricate stone work or dark wood panelled walls provide a classic backdrop, while high windows and ceilings end in pointed arches in classic Gothic interiors. Dark, intricately carved wood forms the basis for big beds, armoires and castle chairs. Dark green, blue and red silks for bedspreads, window dressing and throw blankets are finished with golden trimming and tassels.
Art nouveau is a classic, but not yet dated European style that might appeal to lovers of the fin de siècle or the roaring twenties. Paris is famous for its art nouveau style, but in Berlin, Brussels and Prague, this style has a prominent place as well. Art nouveau is also a total art style, which means that it should be taken on in every aspect of life. Indeed, its goal is to evoke a harmonious and natural unity, with cutlery specifically created to match the curtains and the chairs and even the dresses of the women of the house.
This makes pure art nouveau a costly and emotionally heavy style to take on, but if this does not seem daunting, or if you don't mind being a bit sacrilegious by only trying to recreate a sense of art nouveau, there are ways to do it right. Like with many older styles, wood panelling is also widely used in interiors in this style. While other keep it classic and straight, however, art nouveau likes to make long and “windy” curves. Wall painting follows the same type of patterns, just like windows and furniture. Furthermore, art nouveau likes depictions of airy and slender animals and characters, like nymphs, ibises, reeds, dragonflies, mermaids and herons. Lastly this style likes coloured light and uses chards of coloured class in windows, door panels, skylights and lampshades.
Rococo, which is also sometimes called “style rocaille” for its pebble and shell-like ornamentation, is one of the most well-remembered interior styles of the 18th century. Many of our modern interpretations of this decade hark back to this style, though at the time it was only an afterwhim of its more influential mother, the baroque style. Rococo can also be called 'late baroque' as it had its peak at the end of the baroque period.
Baroque and rococo had a lot in common, like high ceilings, a predisposition for an abundance of ornamental, curvy woodwork and trompe-l'oeils, but both in many ways expressed a completely opposite perspective on life. While baroque was serious, with biblically and epically inspired wall-paintings, dark wood and a heavy amount of marble and gold, rococo embodied a more light, frivolous spirit, expressing itself in whites and pastels, small delicate ornamentations and paintings of mischievous cherubs.
While heavy baroque hasn't really stood the test of time well, rococo has actually succeeded in making us believe it was far more common than it actually was. And this shouldn't really be all that surprising. It's easier for us to believe that the big wig-wearing aristocracy from before the French Revolution were indeed the frivolous and light-headed people we have been told they were. Moreover, while baroque seems alien to our modern light and air-loving sensibilities, rococo seems reasonable to us as a style that wouldn't give a headache and might actually add something.
A style that makes one immediately reminisce about Christmases and skying is the Bavarian style. This style is most seen in hostels in Germany (specifically Bavaria) and other old continent winter and mountain hiking spots like Tyrol, Austria, but can generally be found everywhere where snow is a normal part of life.
The Bavarian style can be identified by its abundant use of uncoloured, spotted wood. If everything or almost everything, from the ceiling to the walls, the floor and the furniture are made from exposed wood, you are on the right track. If not all wooden, then the walls might be coloured a neutral tone of paints as well. Apart from that, a traditional Bavarian interior would also have a large earthen fireplace that becomes cosily warm when lit and little spots of colourful fabric in the form of short curtains, table cloths, seat cushions, etc. Lastly, decorative plates or antlers can often be found in Bavarian style interiors too.
The last style on this list is not a specific regional or historical style, nor a style by a specific school of thought, but a style that we often associate with an archetype that speaks to a lot of us. I'm talking about the decorating style that could be associated with a Victorian era explorer. This style reminds us of Jumanji-like fantasies about life on the forefront of discovering exotic fauna, flora and cultures, when far away places were still unknown and travel contained an element of danger.
Appropriate for a Victorian explorer-home decor is a general classic basis with wooden flooring and panelling, light, but warm colours on the walls, like beige or broken white and a seemingly random mix of curiosities. These could be plants, replicas of Egyptian sarcophagi, bas-reliefs and medieval harnesses or original world-art. Furniture can be a mix as well with Chinese dressers and African-style chairs. The Victorian explorer-style is a very loose style that leaves a lot of room (literally) to express your personality. Of course, for some, this style might err on the insensitive side, because if done poorly, it might be accused of fetishizing the colonial past or other cultures, but if you feel that exploring history, cultures, nature and places really defines you, you should be able to find a way to make this style work for you.
More information on these styles can be found on the following sites:
- Rococo - Concepts & Styles | TheArtStory
- Identity of Classic Interior Design - Gothic Style | Algedra
- Gothic Revival Style | Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide
- Gothic Interior Design | LoveToKnow
- Art Nouveau | History, Characteristics, Artists, & Facts | Britannica
- Arts & Crafts Homes
© 2020 Douglas Redant