The 20th Century was a period of great moments. This was the century that saw a paradigm shift in everything, from politics to science (I’m made to understand that politics is in fact a science, but I see no need to get into semantics).
Innovations like the Internet changed the way we interact with each other and with our world, new genres of music had us thinking that they don’t make them like they used to (and wishing that they did) and crazy fads (read platform shoes) that came and went, and still give us something to laugh about.
In the world of art and design, we had movements and styles that left an impact that will not soon be forgotten.
Even today, elements and attributes of these styles can still be applied to home design and décor without making your home look like a not-so-welcome blast from the past.
Let’s look at how, in no particular order, you can get the best of this epic century into your living space.
Although it didn’t emerge in the 20th Century, art nouveau (French for “new art”) made through the first years of the century, dying out around World War II.
Drawing inspiration from nature, this style was characterised by sinuous flowing lines and “whiplash”curves (they literally mimic curves generated by the crack of a whip), while vines butterflies, dragonflies, birds, seaweed, flowers and grasses were forms from nature that were commonly applied in furniture, fabrics and architectural elements.
Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but how do we translate this into your home? Start with colour. Subtle and muted shades that include pastels, white and off-white, mustard, olive, brown, lilac, sage, peacock blue and gold (in tasteful, not garish doses please) are the perfect backdrop to build on this style.
Wall murals and wall paper in the highly stylised nature motifs will go farther in adding authenticity than just plain walls.
When it comes to furniture, architectural elements and fixtures, the materials to use are stained glass, hardwood and wrought iron.
Stained glass with vine, floral or bird themes inlaid in hardwood doors, or in windows or lighting are a great place to start.
Finding authentic furniture is not going to be easy, so instead find a craftsman to replicate a similar piece from the era (don’t settle for just any furniture maker and risk disastrous results).
When it comes to accessories, paintings reminiscent of the era and sculptures that employ glass and wrought iron is the way to go.
This style may cost a pretty penny (handcrafted pieces never come cheap) but this decorative style’s appeal is well worth it.
Bauhaus was a school in Germany that existed form 1919 to 1933. It combined crafts and fine arts, and was famous for creating the approach to design that it taught and propagated.
Bauhaus creations lacked ornamentation as the aim was to balance form and function. The result? Modern and minimalistic designs.
Look out for furniture in simple clean lines made from tubular steel, glass and leather, possibly with the classic box-stitched squares (the Barcelona Chair is one of the iconic pieces from Bauhaus).
Bauhaus was the world’s introduction to modernism and functionalism, so it has undoubtedly stood the test of time.
Some styles are not as easily applicable to home décor as their reach did not stretch to architecture, interior design and the decorative arts.
However, there are definitely themes or elements that can be borrowed and applied.
Fauvism was a short-lived avant-garde style that only survived the first few years of the century. This, however, did not stop it from being influential in the evolution of art.
One of its key characteristics was strong and vibrant colours. Translation? Go bold. Trade in ‘muted’ and ‘subdued’ for splashes of saturated colour to add vibrancy to a space.
And if anyone has a problem with the brilliant blue rug you plan on investing in, tell them you are being spontaneous, a characteristic that both Fauve painters and their brushstrokes possessed.
Surrealism was an art movement born in the 1920s known best for the visual art and literature that it spawned.
Its philosophy was based on discarding rational thinking, reality and reason for the imagination of the subconscious.
The result was that surrealist works featured a juxtaposition of unrelated objects, the element of surprise and incongruous changes in scale (a lot of you are probably wondering how I’m going to reel this one in.
Maybe the imagery of Alice in Wonderland will help you put it into context).
While surrealism in interior design has not been fully explored, the easiest way to apply this style is to go for the unexpected.
Imagine a six-foot-tall flower vase (not that you’d be able to see any flowers in it). That’s definitely something that would throw people for a loop. Or how about a chair shaped like an oversize shoe?
If you think I’m mad ,I believe I’ve made my point. Push the boundaries of your creativity and if the result is disorienting, then you’ve done a good job.
An art movement of the 1950s, pop art drew on popular imagery (cartoons, famous icons and branded packaging) for its subjects.
Posters and collages in the style of pop art are the most successful way to decorate your home without losing the message of where your inspiration has been drawn from.
Pop art images of Marilyn Monroe are the most famous, but today you can get images of a number of icons whose portraits have been represented in this style.
Creating contrast with bright colours is another way you can apply the style into your space.