Pieces of Time Locked in 20th Century Interior Design Jade Pulman Arts & Culture Once a luxury for Egyptian pharaohs and royal families, interior design has come a long way from its origins to include all classes of society. As modern houses transformed into homes, everyone wanted to personalize their own space and become proud of the comforts they created. As such, the trends of interior design tell us a lot about the history, art, and social structure of a society, which is an important exercise in understanding the overall evolution of the craft. Historical Influences Our past always influences our present, and it is no different with interior design. Everyone has a favorite decade or century, something that draws them to the past and inspires them to create something new and more efficient. A great example of this habit can be found in furniture styles and fabrics. Textiles like velvet, once popular in the 14th century, made a comeback in the 1970s and again in modern décor with slight modifications in color, comfort, and manufacturing techniques. Velvet, once difficult and costly to make from Kashmir reserved only for aristocrats, is now easily produced and considered retro rather than classy. Another popular part of your home with a long-evolving history is the wine cellar. Wine storage began in Iran 7,000 years ago when it was buried underground in clay pots. Leave it to the French to begin to dig caves just to store their wine to prevent spoilage. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that homeowners combined this ancient storage technique with modern luxury by creating wooden show rooms with wine cellar doors to entertain guests with fruitful wine. Historical artifacts discovered in the 1920s also stroked people’s interest in mimicking the past. Archeology revealed marvelous ancient designs like Egyptian and Native American styles that couldn’t help but be implemented into home decors. Artistic Influences Prior to the 20th century, art was more of a means of representation rather than expression of culture. This changed when art became a widespread revolutionary act while interior design flourished. Both occurrences led to an awareness of individuality and personality that spread into the home. Artwork became the centerpiece for home design beginning with the Art Nouveau movement. Motivated by design and not history, the Art Nouveau period showed people that interior design can be a place for innovative fashion accomplished through ornamentation. This style married personal fashion with the décor of one’s home, believing “all arts should work in harmony in order to create a ‘total work of art’: buildings, textiles, furniture, jewelry, [and] clothes…” This eventually led to a more creative abstract form of design led by the Art Deco modernist period of the 1920s, where fashion took a commercial turn. A more minimalist and natural era followed as art continued to include geometry and abstract shapes; simultaneously, a more practical interior design complemented art’s simplicity. Social Influences People’s homes reflect the events around them, from disasters like war and hardships like job loss. The economy and social structure of a society can influence how décor is made, from cost production to the raw materials used. The 20th century saw both social highs and lows allowing for an array of styles to emerge. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the West began to produce materials such as iron, glass, and brick quickly and cheaply. Used as architectural design, this theme also made its way inside the home. As technology progressed, so did the idea of the future, as seen in Art Deco’s Age of the Machine. Designs began to look more rebellious as technology portrayed a window of possibility. Modern cars, fast trains, and the concept of flying created an era of discovery that made its way into home design. The first new wave of feminism during this period also challenged traditional design by reflecting the female body as a work of art that incorporated itself into knick-knacks around the house. During several decades of war, new counter-cultures began to emerge paving the way for empathetic and figurative design. This movement hoped to capture the social issues of society, from consumerism to nationalism, which created the first “pop art” between the 1940s and 1960s. A war-heavy society was followed by a recession that forced people to focus on their budget. Synthetic material like plastic and plywood helped people get through the tough economy beginning in the 1970s. This began the age of modern simplistic design made cheaply. The everchanging design of the home showcases the study of human culture over the decades. We can pinpoint the era of a home just by analyzing its design. Colors, shapes, figures, materials, and historical influences all play a part in shaping these distinctive capsules of time. They are very much a part of history as they are of art and society. So much so, that these designs have created a timeline of creative genius. As we move forward, the style of tomorrow can be the only uncertain aspect of interior design. We know that our past never disappears, but it is hard to say what else will inspire the next wave of artistry. What do you think will influence the next trend? Featured image courtesy of Library of Congress.