Interior design is often mistakenly thought to be a modern phenomenon, but this is simply not true. While the workings of designers commonly shown on TV – featured on Oprah specials, or explored through home-fix-up programs – place the emphasis on decorating rather than design, famous designers in the past have set the foundations for how we look at and decorate our homes.
Revolutionary designer William Morris, of the mid-19th century, has had possibly the most impact on design still visible today. Morris was most famed for his textiles and wallpapers, which featured repeating patterns and a flat use of line and colour, reflecting the influence medieval designs had on his style.
The use of Asian design tradition in interior design is a strong influence on the work of another influential designer, Paul Pioret. Poiret began in fashion, but was most influential in his work with wallpapers and textiles in an Art Nouveau treatment of floral designs. His work is often credited as the inspiration for the Art Deco movement.
In recent times, designers like Jaques Garcia, Alberto Pinto, John Fowler and even Sister Parish harken back to the past with their use of classical, opulent style, but the most notable designers have reached forward. British designer Jonathan Reed pursues elegant minimalism in his interiors. Reed uses a variety of textures in a few basic shades when decorating a room, with an emphasis on natural fibres complemented by one or two elegantly futuristic touches, such as silver-plated lamps.
French designer Andree Putman also keeps her interiors clean and uncluttered but cubist in style. Putmann makes use of cubism to add functionality – for instance a stocky four-poster bed, featured in a Parisian apartment, which conceals storage areas in its posts to free the room from wardrobes or dressers. Putman keeps colour to a minimum, leaning toward stark black-and-white, but masterfully incorporates natural materials within this palette.
Fellow Frenchman Philippe Starck, renowned for his non-conformist attitude, takes a more organic approach to interior design. Self-confessed as uneducated in design, Starck frequently uses amoebic shapes in his furniture designs, and is not afraid to incorporate the work of other designers when fashioning a room.
Of modern interior designers, however, perhaps the most well known is Nina Campbell. Campbell’s style is like a graceful riot, using multitudes of different patters within a room while mixing colour tones to create harmony. Campbell’s style makes much use of classical fabrics and patterns but uses them in such a haphazard manner that she has a postmodern affect, one that is uniquely her own.
Interior design, thanks to the advent of reality TV, is swiftly being delivered into the hands of more media-savvy owner-practitioners, such as regular Oprah guest Nate Berkus. Berkus epitomises current do-it-yourself interior design, working with a mix of materials to create comfortable, uncluttered rooms which can be easily maintained on a budget.
Another notable new name is Rachel Ashwell, founder of Shabby Chic and TV host. Ashwell uses existing objects, providing a more accessible decorating style for the modern home. Ashwell’s style places an importance on a cozy, almost country house feel, which appeals to top names including Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Anthony Hopkins and Julia Roberts.
This trend toward the practical may well continue in interior design as access to the finer things in life continues to be eased out of the hands of the rich.