An Overview of Interior Design. Interiors are what we live and breathe at Landmass. Every day, we work in new and fascinating settings for our clients, and many of the buildings we operate in are older than our firm. Many old structures in London tell the city’s past; settings that encourage us to reflect on the history of our profession and the pioneers who paved the way for us to live and breathe the art of interior design as we know it today.
Here, we’ll look back at our profession’s history, the people who made it what it is, and the roots that shaped home and public space curation into the well-established discipline it is today.
Interior design has been a significant element of people’s lives all around the world since prehistoric times. Throughout history, notable personalities have effectively highlighted the value of beautiful interiors and captured the attention of the arts community worldwide, even if it was not always recognized or recognized as an art form. In this brief history of interior design, we hope you enjoy learning about the origins of our profession.
The concept of designing interiors to make them more practical and attractive to the people who live in them extends back to ancient times. Cave paintings, ceramics, and later furniture and rustic living appliances were foundations of early interiors, and some of the first recorded art ever done by humans may be classified as interior design. Patterns were carved into the mud-plaster walls of residences and explicit steps were taken to make the interiors more pleasant to inhabit in ancient Egyptian mud houses.
The Cretans inspired ancient Greek architects, who adopted characteristics like copper-coated beams in their homes. These would be embellished by hammering the reverse side of the metal to create a patterned look for decoration. Although little from the Greek Classical period has survived, there is evidence that the ancient Greeks enjoyed ornately decorating their furniture and household objects primarily for aesthetic reasons.
Although the term “interior design” was not coined until the early nineteenth century, artists have taken commissions from wealthy members of society to adorn their houses and public spaces throughout history.
Throughout the early 1800s, the art of interior decoration gradually gained popularity, and with the foundation of the Institute of British Decorators in 1899, it received a boost in prominence. The Institute represented over 200 independent interior designers across the United Kingdom, with John Crace as its president.
Rhoda and Agnes Garret, cousins who were instructed to be ‘house designers’ in 1874, were the first women to be recognized as professional interior designers. Their style was largely influenced by the designers William Morris, and their first book, Suggestions for House Decoration in Painting, was well received by the British middle class, who were always on the lookout for new design ideas for their numerous homes and enterprises.
De Wolfe embraced the designer lifestyle to the fullest, dazzled potential clients with her immaculate French-inspired personal style. She received her education in the United Kingdom but returned to the United States to pursue a career as an actress, soon after taking up interior design as a full-time job. Wolfe moved in with famed literary agent Elisabeth Marbury while receiving notoriety for her theatrical taste and reportedly converted their drab flat into a gorgeous living area during her stay there. This ushered in a profession in interior design that had never been seen before.
Dorothy Draper, an interior designer from the United States, began her business in 1925. Architectural Clearing House, the interior design firm she started, is usually regarded as the first formal interior design firm. Decorating is Fun!, a book by Draper that is still widely read in the business today, is full of words of encouragement for aspiring interior designers. Carleton Varney, a Draper pupil, and fellow decorator remarked, “Dorothy Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion.”
‘Almost everyone feels that there is something deep and mystical about interior décor, or that you have to know all sorts of technical intricacies about periods before you can lift a finger,’ said Draper, who believed that anyone could do it. You don’t, to be sure. Decorating is pure joy: a love of colour, a sense of balance, a sense of lighting, a sense of style, a zeal for life, and an amused pleasure of the latest clever accessories’.
As the twentieth century progressed, the globe began to enter a new era of mass manufacturing and technology. Automation and machine labor was becoming more common in daily life, and this was reflected in interior design during the period.
The Bauhaus school of art was founded in 1919 in the German city of Weimar by architect Walter Gropius. The school became known for its design approach, which aimed to integrate beauty with everyday usefulness by combining mass production principles with individual artistic vision. It was based on the concept of establishing a Gesamtkunstwerk (“complete artwork”) that would eventually bring all of the arts together.
The Bauhaus movement had a huge impact on art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography in the following decades. At various times, notable artists like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and László Moholy-Nagy worked at the Bauhaus.
During the 1920s, new manufacturing capabilities allowed for extravagant and over-the-top interiors, which have remained a snapshot of their time to this day. Buildings, furniture, jewelry, clothes, automobiles, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday goods like radios and vacuum cleaners were all impacted by the Art Deco movement. The Exposition Internationale des arts décoratifs et Industriel Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts), held in Paris in 1925, inspired the name Arts Décoratifs. It incorporated contemporary designs with great craftsmanship and luxurious materials.
Throughout World War I and World War II, as much of Europe were subjected to internal and external hardships as a result of the fighting and damage, the Bauhaus influence grew stronger. The movement’s architecture was at odds with it, displaying a utilitarian concrete design that clashed with the ornate trappings found in many interiors previous to the world’s rising mechanization.
Interior design has paralleled architecture in a variety of ways throughout recorded history. The two are inextricably intertwined, and as a result, they reflect each other and the world around them. Following the terrible Great Fire of London in 1666, Baroque interiors drew on ornamental and ornate interior trappings and were highly influenced by the arts boom that erupted in Italy at the time. Georgian interiors were all the rage in the early 1700s, with a more practical edge but aesthetic flourishes such as the now-iconic sash windows that were fashionable at the period.
Interior design statements were increasingly strong and extravagant throughout the Regency period, with vertical striped wallpaper becoming a popular choice at the time. Ornamental carved furniture was also popular, as were various other opulent embellishments that mirrored the upper class’s economic development. The Victorian era, which saw an inflow of new ideas and styles in reference to the utilization of interior space, is one of the most iconic periods in interior design history. Grand expanses, exquisite craftsmanship, and Christian-inspired iconography were regarded as the pinnacle of interior design, mirroring the opulent exteriors that preceded them.
The Edwardian era, named after King Edward VII, saw a boom of family home interior design. As cities across the western world began to spread into what we now call suburbs, interior designers faced a new challenge: designing around daily home life. Interiors that were both functional and aesthetically beautiful became the new standard.
Europe was fighting to recover from the carnage wrought by the two World Wars in the early 1900s in the years leading up to and after the wars. As a result, interiors in the postwar period were blocky, basic, and functional. As a result, the Art Deco period responded by rejecting this – opulent designs and a growing interest in futurism pervaded interiors every designer was attempting to capture the ‘next big thing.’
Every year, the styles of modern interior design vary and evolve, and new technologies and architectural achievements give up new possibilities. Interiors from throughout history are still visible today as reminders of how far art has progressed over time. Modern interior design, like many other artistic endeavors, has a tendency to look backward as well as forward, with hints and splashes of ancient designs inspiring the cutting-edge trends that appear every year.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look into the evolution of interior design. As designers, we must not only look to the future in order to chase new and intriguing future tastes, but we must also draw inspiration from the past and learn from past accomplishments.