Interior design is a surprisingly human activity.
I mean, duh, we’re the only species that’s cognizant enough to match a piece of stone with a sheet of glass and call it art. That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is, interior design isn’t really a product of civilization. In fact, interior design is prehistoric. And like humans, interior design has experienced its fair share of evolution.
From cave drawings and murals to Gothic and Art Deco, interior design styles and trends have constantly shuffled and shifted. So in honor of Throwback Thursday, we’re going to take a look at what interior design used to be (spoiler: some of it may look familiar). There’s too much to cover in one blog, so we’ll skim through the really olden timey days and focus mostly on midcentury interior design (1950s-1970s). Hop into our time machine and enjoy a very brief history of interior design:
It turns out cavepersons weren’t that dumb after all. They were artistic enough to decorate their homes with drawings, according to the Society of British and International Design. These basic drawings weren’t exactly the complex interior designs you see on HGTV, but it was a start. The SBID says these prehistoric scribbles may suggest that interior design expresses primal instincts. Translation: it’s just, like, who we are, man.
Mural, Gothic, Baroque and Art Deco, in that order. There were a few other styles along the way, too.
Ancient Egyptians constructed elaborate murals that expressed both wealth and religious beliefs, says the SBID. Religious beliefs and ornate murals still played a huge part in Gothic architecture when it became popular in the 1500s, but Gothic interior design also included arches, buttresses and large windows.
Things got really artistic, and kind of classical, by the time Baroque interior design rolled around in the 1700s and 1800s. Think columns and palatial arches. Then came Art Deco, which mixed a bunch of different styles and made interior design really eclectic. It’s important to remember, though, because Art Deco was all about straight lines and designs – modernity, basically. You’ll see a lot of that influence in midcentury interior design.
So even that really brief interior design history was kind of exhausting, which is why we gave you a super short version. Now it’s time for a glimpse into midcentury interior design. Why midcentury? Well, some of what you’ll see in contemporary design has its roots firmly planted in midcentury. The whole sleek and simple look that modernity brought us is still a staple in a lot of contemporary styles. Can you spot anything familiar in the pictures below?
‘50s interior design was all about bubblegum colors and curve appeal. Open, functional layouts became a thing during midcentury, as did vibrant wallpaper, carpet, vinyl and wood paneled walls. Furniture was low to the ground, color palettes were bright pinks, blues, teals and yellows, and credenzas graced the entry halls of suburban households. Midcentury designs often incorporated singular lines and simple geometric patterns, and oozed modernity. Oh, and lots of Formica, too.
OK. First off, we’re crazy about the ‘60s, and not just because of the before-its-time pod furniture inspired by space exploration. And listen. There was only one generation brave enough to clash red with purple and orange with pink and so on, and that was the baby boomers. So props, baby boomers, for giving us psychedelic patterns and flowers and lava lamps. On the other hand, they also gave us shag rugs and more wood paneled walls, so there’s a bit of mixed feelings involved. Open floor plans were still popular – just add bean bags.
Peace, love and tacky rugs. Green and gold. Wicker furniture. Timber ceiling beams. Sunken living rooms straight out of The Brady Bunch (thanks for that, Apartment Therapy). ‘70s interior design had a lot of things that you’d scoff at now. But it also brought us trends that are still very much relevant today. Earth tones and open spaces that make good use of light? Both popular now, both popular then. You also saw hardwood floors and terra cotta tile replacing vinyl and carpet.
Sources (and more good reads!):