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Home > Kinds of Interiors > Modern style of interiors
Modern style of interiors

Modern style of interiorsThe various style that history has left us are like gene pools, subject to selection, combination, mutation, and adaptation over time. The descent and dissemination of these architectural gene pools through the decades breeds new varieties, hybrids -- and occasional surprises.

If we could go back in time and ask the great 16th-century Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio to describe the style of work he produced, he would call it Modern Architecture, meaning, What we are doing now. It would never occur to him to think of his designs as period, let alone Palladian. Palladios designs combined elements of ancient Roman architecture with the practical requirements of a vernacular farmhouse, resulting in a hybrid that combined both old and new.

Palladios designs have had a vast influence, still felt 400 years later. If to be Modern means to be of ones time, then all that is necessary for us to be Modern is to be alive and working now. If Modern also means that our work has implications for the future, those who come after us can judge these only in hindsight.

This was the way everyone thought until the 20th century, when a group of radicals, intent on starting over as if no one had ever done architecture before, made an ideological principle of reaching for the unique gesture. They made being Modern into an ism: hence, Modernism. Since this radical fringe took over the architectural establishment in the 1930s, what they did became Modern, and the work of people who just went on doing what they had done before (i.e. inventing the new based on their experience of the old) was called Period. This intentionally derogatory label was attached mostly to interior decorators, who over the last 50 years resisted the shock of the new in favor of the comfort of the old or a combination of the two.

Today, the energy of the Modernists has all but evaporated and what seemed so cutting edge in the 1930s looked rather, well, period by the 1990s, by which time the style had become as predictable as Louis XVI. We can now safely say that Modernism itself has emerged as one of the period styles that the Modernists were so intent on superseding. Consequently, nearly everything today could be labeled either Modern or Period with equal justice.

What this publication means by Period design, however, is something more definite. We are not necessarily promoting the re-installation of rooms dismantled from historical monuments, nor are we primarily concerned with the restoration of house museums, or with designs intended to replicate authentically a specific historical epoch -- although we welcome these activities and can learn a lot from them. Our interests in Period design primarily concerns the ongoing activity of an historically-based culture applied to the art of the domestic environment. We are interested in the artists, craftspeople, architects, builders, homeowners, and decorators who are making new settings for everyday life out of the materials and methods we have inherited from our predecessors. They include someone who designs a room as a study in a specific style, such as that of 18th-century France or 1930s America.

We also admire a room that gathers together elements from different times and places, perhaps uniting them by a consistency in proportions, materials, or formal design. Integrating invention and inheritance is what good designers have always done, and the results of this approach, whether we call it Period, Traditional, or Modern, remain attractive to all but those still obsessively pursuing the shock of the new. Even noted Modernist architects like Peter Eisenman and Richard Meier choose to live in traditional houses in contrast to those they design for their clients.

Today, the energy of the Modernists has all but evaporated and what seemed so cutting edge in the 1930s looked rather, well, period by the 1990s, by which time the style had become as predictable as Louis XVI. We can now safely say that Modernism itself has emerged as one of the period styles that the Modernists were so intent on superseding. Consequently, nearly everything today could be labeled either Modern or Period with equal justice.

What this publication means by Period design, however, is something more definite. We are not necessarily promoting the re-installation of rooms dismantled from historical monuments, nor are we primarily concerned with the restoration of house museums, or with designs intended to replicate authentically a specific historical epoch -- although we welcome these activities and can learn a lot from them. Our interests in Period design primarily concerns the ongoing activity of an historically-based culture applied to the art of the domestic environment.

We are interested in the artists, craftspeople, architects, builders, homeowners, and decorators who are making new settings for everyday life out of the materials and methods we have inherited from our predecessors. They include someone who designs a room as a study in a specific style, such as that of 18th-century France or 1930s America. We also admire a room that gathers together elements from different times and places, perhaps uniting them by a consistency in proportions, materials, or formal design. Integrating invention and inheritance is what good designers have always done, and the results of this approach, whether we call it Period, Traditional, or Modern, remain attractive to all but those still obsessively pursuing the shock of the new. Even noted Modernist architects like Peter Eisenman and Richard Meier choose to live in traditional houses in contrast to those they design for their clients.

Designing a new building in a traditional style is more than just combining disparate elements into a melange. The traits must work together, they must satisfy our aesthetic and practical requirements, and they must result in a hardy new plant that will flourish in its new setting. But how might a designer fluent in a particular historical style solve a problem that didnt exist when the style arose originally? How can we find a Period solution to air-conditioning grilles or large-screen televisions? How can one design an addition to an historic house which looks like the original architects returned a hundred years later to enlarge the house themselves? It is instructive to see how the Colonial Revival architects adapted 18th-century house types to include such modern innovations as indoor bathrooms, closets, kitchens, and garages. Shutze and his colleagues Charles Adams Platt, Dwight James Baum, and William Lawrence Bottomley, to name a few, were expert at adapting ancient models to new needs.

Designers today are doing the same by bringing the period-style mind to bear on present-day needs. One day future commentators will look back at the period design of our time and come up with a label for it. Perhaps the best advice is not to worry too much about objective historical accuracy while, at the same time, ignoring the pressures to conform to a predetermined program for what design of our time ought to be. It is enough to concentrate on what is appropriate and suitable and let history take care of itself. The period style of our own day is (as it always has been) largely out of our control and, like any breed, will undoubtedly take on a life of its own, much to our surprise.

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