From Art Nouveau to the Bauhaus: How Home Interiors Looked in Popular Art Movements
Art has always been a means for people to connect with space, and art movements have served as a platform for exploring new relationships with architecture. By incorporating art into buildings and interior spaces, they have been transformed, resulting in a fusion that creates beautiful, inspiring, and spiritually uplifting environments. Throughout history, various art movements, such as the Renaissance in the 17th century, Baroque in the 18th century, and Art Nouveau, Art Déco, and Bauhaus in the early 20th century, have had a significant impact on architecture. Architects drew inspiration from the ideals, concepts, stylistic approaches, and techniques of these movements, using them to create large-scale habitable structures. As the home is a fundamental expression of an architectural movement and the simplest canvas to exhibit the artistic ethos of any particular era, studying the interior spaces of houses provides a detailed picture of art’s influence on spatial organization, furniture design, product patterns, and user interaction.
Art Nouveau, Art Déco, and Bauhaus are art movements that emerged simultaneously in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as frameworks for architecture to respond to the industrial age. By exploring their relationships with architecture through home interior spaces, we can draw comparisons and distinctions between how each movement responded to the quest for new spatial experiences.
5 Art Movements that Influenced Architecture
1890s – 1920s
Art Nouveau and Art Déco were two powerful movements that dominated the worlds of fine art, design, and architecture at the turn of the 20th century. While Art Déco was more geometric and modernist, Art Nouveau was inspired by nature, featuring sinuous lines and organic shapes. It considered art to be a conceptual whole, searching for harmony in every element of a structure, from its walls and windows to its door handles, furniture, and decorative flourishes.
In interior spaces, the movement featured subtle curves and flowing lines, often with needlessly ornamental furniture pieces and surface decorations. Furniture was centered within spatial patterns, crafted with bold curved forms, and adorned with a high level of detail, where complex motifs were prevalent. These motifs included natural themes like flowers, leaves, vines, wings, trees, bumblebees, butterflies, and a variety of fauna. Every other element of the room was designed to complement and focus on the main furniture, and its floral detail extended to floorings, ceilings, lamps, or products such as cutlery in dining spaces.
Victor Horta’s house in Brussels, which was built in 1898, is a prime example of Art Nouveau in interior spaces. The undulating asymmetrical lines, thin growing columns, and arches on doorways, balustrades with intricate curves, floral patterns on wallpapers and murals, create a joyful feeling for users within the space. The use of stained glass further accentuates this, controlling light from windows, inlays, lampshades, and wall sconces, creating a feeling of celebration.
1910s – 1940s
Art Déco emerged in the 1920s as a successor to Art Nouveau. Its aim was to embrace the machine-made products of the industrial age, which Art Nouveau had protested against. By emphasizing artistic decoration through simple, clean lines and shapes, and ornamenting them with stylized geometric patterns, it embraced industrial materials and mechanization of the modern era. It started in the fashion and jewelry industries, then influenced furniture design, interior spaces, and architecture.
Home interiors in this art movement are often defined by geometric patterns and motifs, bold jewel tones, and rich material palettes. From floors and walls to doors and ceilings, surfaces were designed with geometric motifs that included shapes such as trapezoids, triangles, zigzags, chevrons, and sunbursts. Rooms featured a collage of materials, including lacquer, mirrors, polished wood, brass, metal, terra cotta, and a notable contrast of colors, creating a luxurious feel. There is a tension between the structural simplicity of spaces and the decorative ornaments of geometry that project personality across the interiors.
The new palace of Morvi in western Gujarat, India, showcases the ethos of Art Déco. Built-in 1942, it features rows of elaborately furnished drawing rooms and dining rooms peeled off from the corridor around inner courtyards. Various materials, textures, colors, and patterns are woven together across spaces, allowing art pieces such as paintings and sculptures to blend in within the spatial scene. Unlike Art Nouveau, which treated every interior element with artistic craftsmanship, Art Déco uses decorative geometry to complement other art forms.
1919 – 1933
The Bauhaus movement, which originated from its influential art school in the 20th century, aimed to reunite artistic creativity and the manufacturing of the industrial era. By doing so, it sought to design the artistry of mass production. The movement emphasized the functionality of lines, geometry, products, and space, rejecting any form of ornamentation unlike its predecessors while crafting a minimalistic aesthetic. Other defining characteristics include clean lines, primary colors, and rationality in interior design and architecture.
The home interior spaces in this movement reflected the composition of industrially designed furniture within light-filled, clean volumes. The composition draws the eyes to how the shape, color, and texture of walls, floors, and furniture complement each other. Walls are painted with simple primary colors, serving as a background to project other forms of art such as paintings and sculptures.
The interiors of the Rabe House, designed and built by Adolf Rading in 1931 in Zwenkau, Germany, reflect the Bauhaus movement. Its living rooms feature popular Bauhaus furniture such as the Cantilever Chair by Marcel Breuer and the Knoll lounge chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, configured within a play of colorful walls, floors, and ceilings.
The Art Nouveau movement protested the mass production of the industrial era by celebrating artistic craftsmanship. In contrast, the Bauhaus movement focused on the artistry of mass production. Art Déco sits as the midpoint between these two points on the art spectrum. The interiors of homes can reflect different ways in which art can be an interface to interact with space, and how home spaces can be a means of expression. The craft of space-making can incorporate art in the details of its elements, such as in Art Nouveau, complement art with stylized geometry like in Art Déco, or recess and be a background for art, as in the Bauhaus.