Gold leafing, hand painted walls, applied mouldings – these are just a sample of elements that have been used to infuse a room’s atmosphere with glamour and richness throughout the ages. Methods of enhancing a wall or ceiling, many of which date back to the seventeenth or eighteenth century (perhaps even earlier!), still impact the way we design today, though often with a more minimal expression. There is something to be said for the fact that we continue to use the most classic ways of dressing an interior space to add richness and glam.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed a remarkable change in daily life and decoration. International trade made it easier for many great materials to be imported to and from Europe, the Far East, and North America. England in particular benefitted greatly from this as it satisfied a growing demand for elegant interiors. The English strived to replicate styles that were popular throughout other parts of Europe.
We can often gain understanding of modern techniques for design and decoration by looking to the past. Below we compare the most stunning ways that interior walls were historically decorated and how we still utilize these amazing techniques today.
Gold attracts. It instills an atmosphere of richness and is visually alluring, easily catching the eye. Historically, gold was used to convey wealth, status, and luxury.
Gold leafing has been an integral element of interiors for decades and is still used in today’s designs. Marie Antoinette’s bedroom at Versailles (above, left) exudes elegance, its gold accents nodding to wealth and hierarchy. The gold leafing on the walls of this room is an eye-catching decorative element that extends to the ceiling, furniture, and lighting. This interior is an exceptional example of gold leafing used to the maximum.
The modern day hallway (above, right), on the other hand, showcases a stunning gold leaf ceiling that is subtly eye catching and accents the other hints of gold in the space, helping to ground the dark, rich walls. Gold leafing adds a stunning layer that helps to achieve that tangible vibe of richness so prominent in the 1800s, still timelessly perfect for interiors today.
Stencils have long been an elegant and decorative method of showcasing an artist’s raw ability. Stenciling has been around for thousands of years, but was especially showcased in eighteenth and nineteenth century interiors, mimicking the most recognised wallpapers of the time. When fabrics and prints started to become more readily commercially available, an incredible array of artists were inspired to display their own interpretations of these in interior spaces. Today, stenciling is still an expression of artistic ability and can be subtle or bold, depending on the interior. There is something still so undeniably classic about a stencilled mural.
There’s something so special about the softness of old mirrors. Antique mirrors add a certain old world charm to a space and provide a hazy edge to their reflective qualities. They can also bring texture and colour to an otherwise cold and hard space. Mirrors with antique finishes have been used in interior decoration since the seventeenth century and are especially popular today for helping to imbue a room with a sense of nostalgic beauty.
HAND PAINTED MURALS
Hand painted murals were once something only the churches, kings, and queens could afford, but in many places today these remnants of the past are on display for everyone to enjoy. When murals were painted, it was said that the distinguished architectural elements of the given space were harmoniously incorporated into the painting. The painted murals found in today’s designs exude the same elements and compliment the interior spaces they are painted in. Murals will always be a decorative form of art and can add the most stunning focal point in an interior or offer subtle, timeless beauty.
Interior mouldings don’t just enhance a room; the intensity of decoration within the mouldings underlines that room’s importance. Heavy decorative features were often used to impress one’s guest in the eighteenth century. Most decorative features were therefore very extravagant, with rich gold leafing and intricate plaster details. Today we continue to use decorative mouldings, but usually in a minimal way as a means of adding visual interest to a room.