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The History of Interior Design

by John Pile

In the modern world, human life experience is largely played out in interior spaces. We may love the out-of-doors for the sense of open air and sky, for the escape it offers from life inside enclosure, but the very joy of being outside reflects the reality that so much of life is spent inside.

Buildings and their interiors are planned to serve the purposes and styles of the times of their origins, but they exert their influence on the activities and lives that they house as long as they continue in use.

The study of interior design, its development and change through history is a useful way both to explore the past and to make sense of the spaces in which modern life is lived.

Professional interior designers are expected to study design history, to know the practices of the past in terms of “styles,” and to know the names and the nature of the contributions of those individuals who generated the most interesting and influential approaches to design.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

In Glasgow, Scotland, work related to Art Nouveau was produced for a short time by a few designers led by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). Mackintosh’s work grew out of Arts and Crafts bases, but moved toward the freedom of Art Nouveau and became greatly admired by continental designers, including those based in Vienna.

For private clients and for his own Glasgow flat, Mackintosh developed furniture designs that most often used simple, geometric forms, but then introduced exaggerated proportions, extreme high chair backs, and white or black paint finishes with decorative details in violet, silver, or gold.

This article is excerpted from The History of Interior Design by John Pile, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.



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