The Aesthetics of Home Design, Fashion, and Antique Rugs in 20th Century Scandinavia, 19th Century France and 17th Century Persia
One of the most interesting aspects of buying vintage carpets and antique rugs is learning more about the cultures that created them. In this post, we’ll take a look at three different time periods, on three different continents, and the design and aesthetics that each culture created, including the beautiful vintage rugs and antique carpets in Nazmiyal’s inventory that came from these cultures.
Mid Century Scandinavian Design
Scandinavian design of the 20th Century, above all else, is functional and without frills. The harsh climate of the region, coupled with the culture’s heavy emphasis on survival and making one’s own way contributed to the idea that the usefulness of manufactured products is more important than the products’ ornamentation. This is not to say, however, that Scandinavian design isn’t beautiful.
The simple shapes and minimal decorations that Scandinavian design utilizes make for products that are cleanly modern and a pleasure to use. Contemporary Icelandic product designer Katrín Eyþórsdóttir, who has written extensively on the subject of Mid-20th Century Scandinavian design, sums up the era’s design personality as “beautiful, simple, clean designs, inspired by nature and the northern climate, accessible and available to all, with an emphasis on enjoying the domestic environment”.
Like other Scandinavian design of the mid-20th century, vintage Scandinavian rugs are minimal yet beautiful. Relying on geometric designs, color blocking, and symmetry, vintage Scandinavian rugs are cheerful and modern-looking.
What are the characteristics of Mid Century Scandinavian Design?
Mid-century Scandinavian design, which emerged primarily during the mid-20th century, is known for its minimalism, functionality, and emphasis on clean lines. It has had a lasting influence on modern design.
Here are some key characteristics of mid-century Scandinavian design:
- Minimalism: Mid-century Scandinavian design prioritizes simplicity and minimal ornamentation. It seeks to achieve a sense of understated elegance through clean and uncluttered spaces.
- Functionalism: Functionality is a core principle of Scandinavian design. Furniture and objects are designed to serve a purpose efficiently while maintaining a sleek and unobtrusive appearance.
- Natural Materials: Scandinavian designers often use natural materials like wood, leather, and wool. Light-colored woods, such as teak and birch, are prevalent and contribute to a sense of warmth and comfort.
- Clean Lines: Straight, simple lines are a hallmark of this style. Furniture and architectural elements feature smooth, unadorned surfaces, creating a sense of order and harmony.
- Form Follows Function: Scandinavian designers adhere to the principle that form should follow function. This means that the design of an object or piece of furniture should be dictated by its intended use, resulting in elegant, efficient, and ergonomic designs.
- Neutral Color Palettes: A muted and neutral color palette is typical of mid-century Scandinavian design. Whites, grays, and earthy tones dominate interiors, with occasional pops of color provided by textiles or small decorative items.
- Open and Airy Spaces: Scandinavian interiors often emphasize open floor plans and an abundance of natural light. Large windows and minimal window coverings allow for a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors.
- Iconic Furniture: Several iconic furniture pieces emerged from this era, designed by luminaries like Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Alvar Aalto. These include the Egg Chair, the Wishbone Chair, and the Paimio Chair, among others.
- Modularity: Scandinavian design frequently incorporates modular furniture and shelving systems that offer versatility and adaptability in various living spaces.
- Craftsmanship: Despite the minimalist aesthetic, Scandinavian design places a strong emphasis on craftsmanship and quality. Handcrafted elements and attention to detail are highly valued.
- Textiles: Textiles are used to add warmth and texture to interiors. Wool and linen fabrics are common choices for upholstery, curtains, and rugs.
- Functional Art: Scandinavian designers often blur the lines between art and function. Everyday objects like lamps and chairs are elevated to the status of art through their elegant design.
- Environmental Consciousness: Scandinavian design has a strong tradition of sustainability and eco-friendliness. This commitment to environmental responsibility remains a significant influence on contemporary design in the region.
- Hygge: The concept of “hygge” is integral to Scandinavian design. It represents a feeling of coziness, comfort, and contentment. This is achieved through warm, inviting interiors and the use of soft, natural materials.
Overall, mid-century Scandinavian design embodies a harmonious blend of form and function, combining minimalism with warmth and comfort. Its enduring appeal has left an indelible mark on modern interior design around the world.
19th Century French Design
The design aesthetic of late 19th Century France is complex; it overlapped with the austere and elaborate fashions of the Victorian age, but was also highly influenced by the style of the newly-opened far east, and a flourishing trade between Western Europe and China and Japan. These two styles collided to form the ornate and elaborate aesthetic of late 19th Century France, falling under the international umbrella of Art Nouveau.
This style is characterized by fluid, curving lines, and a flat, two-dimensional look. In interior design and the decorative arts, popular motifs during this time period were stylized floral, elaborate iron gating, and gold leafing. Wooden furniture was stained dark, and tended to be heavily carved, while fabrics like velvet and brocade were popular for upholstery.
Floral designs dominate the rugs of late 19th Century France, although pictorial rugs depicting hunting motifs and mythological & biblical scenes were also popular. The light colors of antique French Aubusson rugs, which were popular during this time period, call to mind the earlier Rococo period of the 18th century.
What are the characteristics of 19th Century French Design?
19th-century French design, often referred to as the “Napoleonic,” “Restoration,” and “Second Empire” styles, went through several phases and influences. These design characteristics evolved over the century, reflecting the changing political and cultural landscape of France.
Here are some key characteristics of 19th-century French design:
- Neoclassical Influence: At the beginning of the 19th century, neoclassical design continued to be influential. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture, this style was characterized by clean lines, symmetry, and a focus on order and proportion. Furniture and interiors often featured classical motifs, such as columns, pilasters, and decorative friezes.
- Empire Style: During the First French Empire (Napoleonic era), which began in the early 19th century, the Empire style was prominent. It was marked by grandeur, opulence, and a revival of ancient Roman and Egyptian design elements. Furniture featured rich mahogany and ebony woods, ornate gilding, and motifs like eagles, laurel wreaths, and sphinxes.
- Restoration Style: After the fall of Napoleon, the Bourbon monarchy was restored, and design sensibilities shifted toward a more conservative and traditional approach. This period saw a return to Louis XVI and Louis XV styles, characterized by lighter, more delicate furniture with intricate marquetry, floral motifs, and pastel color palettes.
- Romanticism and Gothic Revival: The mid-19th century witnessed the influence of Romanticism and the Gothic Revival. Designers drew inspiration from medieval and Gothic architecture, resulting in pointed arches, elaborate tracery, and ornate carvings in furniture and interiors.
- Second Empire Style: The reign of Napoleon III in the mid-19th century ushered in the Second Empire style. This period emphasized grandiosity, luxury, and eclecticism. Interiors featured rich fabrics, heavy draperies, and a mix of decorative styles, including elements from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo periods.
- Exoticism and Orientalism: French design during this century was influenced by exotic cultures, especially during the Second Empire. Asian and Middle Eastern motifs, materials, and colors were incorporated into furniture and decor, creating an Orientalist aesthetic.
- Innovation in Materials: Advances in technology and materials led to innovations in design. Iron and steel were used in the construction of buildings, bridges, and furniture, paving the way for the development of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles in the 20th century.
- Revival of Craftsmanship: Craftsmanship and attention to detail remained central to French design throughout the century. Skilled artisans and craftsmen continued to produce high-quality, handcrafted furniture, textiles, and decorative arts.
- Eclecticism: By the end of the 19th century, French design became increasingly eclectic, blending elements from various historical periods and cultures. This eclecticism laid the groundwork for the more experimental and innovative design movements of the 20th century.
Overall, 19th-century French design is marked by its historical references, shifts in political power, and evolving design sensibilities. It encompasses a wide range of styles, from the neoclassical elegance of the early century to the opulent and eclectic designs of the Second Empire era, making it a rich and diverse period in the history of French design.
17th Century Persian Design
The late 17th Century in Persia was a time of great cultural and artistic growth for the region. It was at the height of the Safavid Dynasty, during which crucial bureaucratic and cultural initiatives would be put into place.
The Safavids were avid patrons of the arts, which led to advancements in Persian painting, artisanal craft, and architecture. Safavid era design is known for using ornate and detail designs, incorporating naturalistic and religious motifs. Some of the most intricate and beautiful Persian carpets were woven at this time, and Nazmiyal is lucky to have several Safavid-era Persian carpets in our collection, such as beautiful antique Isfahan rugs.
What are the characteristics of 17th Century Persian Design?
17th-century Persian design, often referred to as Safavid art and design, is characterized by its rich and intricate aesthetic. The Safavid dynasty, which ruled Persia (modern-day Iran) from the early 16th to the early 18th century, played a significant role in shaping the art and design of the region during the 17th century.
Here are some key characteristics of 17th-century Persian design:
- Floral and Geometric Motifs: Persian design of this period is known for its intricate floral and geometric patterns. These motifs are often found in textiles, ceramics, architecture, and manuscript illumination. The designs are meticulously detailed, featuring flowers, vines, leaves, and complex geometric shapes.
- Use of Color: Vibrant and rich colors were a hallmark of Safavid design. Deep blues, vibrant reds, and shades of green, as well as gold and silver, were commonly used. These colors were often complemented by white to create a striking contrast.
- Illuminated Manuscripts: Persian miniature painting and illuminated manuscripts reached their zenith during the Safavid period. These manuscripts featured finely detailed illustrations, often depicting scenes from literature, history, or poetry. The use of bright pigments and intricate detailing characterized these artworks.
- Tilework and Architecture: Safavid architecture is renowned for its exquisite tilework, particularly the use of vibrant blue tiles. The exteriors of mosques, palaces, and other buildings were adorned with intricate tile mosaics, often featuring calligraphy and geometric patterns.
- Calligraphy: Persian calligraphy, especially Nasta’liq and Shikasta script styles, played a significant role in Safavid design. Calligraphy was used not only for religious texts but also for decorative purposes, often featuring poetic verses or inscriptions.
- Carpets: Persian carpets, such as those produced in cities like Isfahan and Kashan, gained international acclaim during this period. They are known for their intricate floral and medallion designs, as well as their exceptional craftsmanship.
- Influence of Nature: Persian design of the 17th century often drew inspiration from the natural world. Plants, flowers, and animals were frequently depicted in art and textiles, showcasing a deep connection to nature.
- Symmetry and Balance: Persian design places a strong emphasis on symmetry and balance. Geometric patterns are often repeated in a symmetrical fashion, creating a harmonious and visually pleasing effect.
- Influence of Islamic Art: Persian design during this period was influenced by Islamic artistic traditions, but it also incorporated elements from pre-Islamic Persian art and culture, creating a unique synthesis of styles.
- Use of Islimi: “Islimi” refers to intricate, swirling, and interlacing patterns that are often used in Persian design. These patterns can be found in various forms, from architectural ornamentation to carpet designs.
Overall, 17th-century Persian design is characterized by its opulence, attention to detail, and a harmonious blending of various artistic elements. It reflects the cultural and artistic achievements of the Safavid dynasty and continues to inspire contemporary art and design.
Click here: 17th Century Rugs from Persia from Nazmiyal.