Published at Monday, 12 August 2019. Decoration. By Marie Williams.
Elsie De Wolfe was one of the first interior designers. Rejecting the Victorian style she grew up with, she chose a more vibrant scheme, along with more comfortable furniture in the home. Her designs were light, with fresh colors and delicate Chinoiserie furnishings, as opposed to the Victorian preference of heavy, red drapes and upholstery, dark wood and intensely patterned wallpapers. Her designs were also more practical; she eliminated the clutter that occupied the Victorian home, enabling people to entertain more guests comfortably. In 1905, de Wolfe was commissioned for the interior design of the Colony Club on Madison Avenue; its interiors garnered her recognition almost over night. She compiled her ideas into her widely read 1913 book, The House in Good Taste.
The interior walls of the home are brightly painted by the women, who work in defined patterns with lines, triangles, squares, diagonals and tree-like patterns. “Some of the large triangles represent mountains. Zigzag lines stand for water and also for lightning. Small triangles, especially when the widest area is at the top, are found in pre-Islamic representations of female figures. That the small triangles found in the wall paintings in ‘Asir are called banat may be a cultural remnant of a long-forgotten past.”
A pivotal figure in popularizing theories of interior design to the middle class was the architect Owen Jones, one of the most influential design theorists of the nineteenth century. Jones first project was his most important—in 1851, he was responsible for not only the decoration of Joseph Paxton’s gigantic Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition but also the arrangement of the exhibits within. He chose a controversial palette of red, yellow, and blue for the interior ironwork and, despite initial negative publicity in the newspapers, was eventually unveiled by Queen Victoria to much critical acclaim. His most significant publication was The Grammar of Ornament (1856), in which Jones formulated 37 key principles of interior design and decoration.
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