The role of interior design originated from the discipline of architecture. It became it’s own discipline around the 14th-16th centuries due to the rise of the Renaissance. During this time, interior design was mostly for the rich and aristocratic. Interiors then were set up and designed in a way to show off the status of the owner. By the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution gave way to a broader practice of interior design and it became a commercial venture that was now affordable for the middle classes as well. As prosperity grew, so did the demand for more housing that was comfortable and elegant, for is where the burgeoning middle class was able to show off their newfound wealth.
Today, interior design is about making a space beautiful yet functional and not necessarily about showing off status and wealth, although that can be still be a need for some clients. With the availability of mass produced items, almost anyone can create a lovely, well-designed space.
One point in history that I have always been interested in is the Victorian era. Since moving to the UK we have always lived in a Victorian home and I absolutely love the period features. Being a more contemporary style gal, I tend to enjoy the mix of new and old. But what exactly was Victorian interior design all about and how does it differ from today?
First was the way that the rooms of the house were used. The Victorians had very defined purposes for their rooms with the parlor being the most important. That is where they showed off their possessions as they entertained their friends and family. It was a significant room in the house and therefore was the most decorated. Everything was on show!
Eclectic Victorian collections! (original source http://www.telegraph.co.uk`)
On the other hand, the hallway was very muted and painted as to not compete with the other rooms in the house. Today, many houses have open plan living areas that include the reception room, a dining area and kitchen. The kitchen is the most important room for many these days and therefore a lot of effort and expense is put into that room. Storage is very important for homeowners now, as most do not want all their items on show. Styles are a more clean and minimal versus the cluttered styles of Victorian homes.
What we might now call a bit “busy”! (original source http://www.dur.ac.uk)
In contrast to Victorian days, the hallway can actually be a wow factor in a house and most try to make a hallway that is inviting and makes a statement about the style of the rest of the house.
The furniture in Victorian times was often very plush and ornate. Modern tastes generally call for something a bit more streamlined and designed for comfort. As opposed to pattern upon pattern as in the Victorian times, nowadays it is more about one or two really stand out statement pieces in either a bold colour or pattern. Most modern homeowners would find the style and décor of the Victorians very over the top and fussy.
Although wallpaper is starting to now make a comeback, it is not as widely used today as it was in the Victorian era. Whereas the Victorian’s covered all walls with wallpaper, in usually very busy patterns, modern homes will use wallpaper more sparingly. Some will use subtle wallpaper in one room or perhaps a bolder one on just one wall.
Sample Victorian wallpaper (original source http://www.victorianwallpaper.com)
The floors in Victorian times were usually covered with rugs, many of them being of Persian or oriental style. They used several rugs in one room and usually clashed patterns. Modern homes still use area rugs but now it is usually a feature piece or conversely an item that blends in with the furniture and compliments it.
Finally window treatments have changed over time. The Victorians used curtains and drapes that were heavy, dark and voluptuous. They were not only used as part of the décor but also needed to keep out draughts. Now people enjoy open, airy and light spaces. Usually drapes and curtains are lighter in colour and are used more as a decorative feature and for privacy. A popular contemporary choice of window coverings is Californian blinds. They provide the privacy when needed but do not compete with the furnishings and let in plenty of light.
Very elaborate indeed!
I myself, will stick to the contemporary style I have in my home but I will always keep the Victorian original features such as the fireplaces, the mouldings, the cornicing and tiling. Those features can both honour the Victorian design styles and add character to a modern home.