Interior design has a long and complex history, encompassing influences from art, architecture, and music. Of course, literature and technology also have a huge influence on how interiors look in the home, as does the socio-economic status of whoever’s living in said home.
We’ve created an interactive timeline looking at the history of interior design since the middle ages, featuring the palettes, textures, and cultural influences that made each period unique.
As technology has progressed and communications become ever-more instant, the world of interior design has become much smaller. Where in the past we may have had cultural artifacts that distinctly show what time and place a particular piece of furniture or design comes from (i.e. Asian or African interiors were quite different from Western interiors, especially pre-Industrial & Agrarian Revolutions), this has changed somewhat nowadays.
From the Victorian Age onwards and as mass production made home decoration a possibility for many, people the world over have mixed and mashed designs, taken their favourite bits and pieces of furniture from various cultures, and generally adorned their homes in colours & fabrics that were not available to them in the past.
Mass production did and still does have its critics, however. The Arts & Crafts Movement from the Victorian age, for example, eschewed cheaper, often inferior, off-the-shelf furnishings. Instead, the likes of William Morris preferred handcrafted, original pieces that reflected both the skill of the craftsman making the furniture and the taste of the person buying it.
Though there remains a somewhat heavy slant towards mass-produced furniture, the attitude of the Arts & Crafts Movement still has quite the influence in England and much of the Western World. The only difference in contemporary times is that our preferences have become more far-reaching and less quintessentially ‘English’ – although we still love our English designs, and Georgian design continues to be respected the world over.
We have perhaps become far more individualistic and expressive in our tastes as well, and originality is more important than simply following trends. The move towards high-quality, handcrafted, ecologically-friendly interiors has also had an effect on the attitudes towards interior design, especially as we have learned that great-quality interiors can last a lifetime.
Although many people in the world could potentially buy the same furniture, the fact that we now have a wealth of information and influences at our fingertips means that we can start trends all by ourselves – whether we want to or not! This also means that we can recreate styles throughout history (within reason) with far more ease than ever before.
See our interactive timeline for more on how interior design has changed over time – what colours were popular, the art, and the architecture (plus more) within each main period of English (and sometimes beyond) design history.