The Aesthetic Interior- 1870-1895

Services for Real Estate Pros with The Historic Interior

I have many visitors to our site asking about this beautiful period . They will find design elements throughout their Victorian homes especially carved on the fireplace mantels that are expressly Aesthetic in origin and baffle the homeowner as to what inspired this design.

I thought you might like to learn a little about this period overall so I have taken the text on the period from my website, and placed it here on my blog. The text is by Judith Gura, a very talented writer and scholar who also wrote a must have book “The Abrams Guide to Historic Interiors” from which this text is attributed. Hope you enjoy and that this helps you find Aesthetic period details in your home.

The Aesthetic interior is beguiling in its exoticism, and almost dizzying in its mix of color, pattern, and decoration. It resists classification, mixing elements from diverse sources in idiosyncratic renderings according to the designer’s whim and client’s preference, but it invariably provides a surfeit of visual stimulation. It is either the subject of instant attraction, or immediate dislike.

Wallpaper is at the height of fashion for Aesthetic interiors, in coordinated patterns that enable designers to create intricate decorative effects. On walls divided into three sections—dado below, field or filling above, and frieze just below the ceiling—a different pattern and variation of color is applied to each area. The dado pattern is the most intense, the frieze the most elaborate, and the field the most understated, since it also serves as background for hanging paintings or prints. The frieze is often defined by a wood rail that serves also as a shelf for china display.

Colors, in wall covering, textiles, and carpets, lean toward deep, subtly shades, such as dull greens, browns, and blues, with citrine as a frequent accent. Often there are shimmery accents.

Window treatments probably have patterned fabrics, often in motifs that suggest the Asian influence, which is a common theme of this period.

In accessories, Japanese and other Eastern sources provide many of the forms as well as the decorative inspiration for striking ceramics and metalwork—the Aesthetic era produced many objects of exceptional charm and originality.

Chandeliers and lamps are as important, or more important, for their decorative value as for their efficiency as illumination. The concept of “art” furniture, rejecting the commercialism of most industrially made design, is an important contribution of the movement. Aesthetic furniture generally avoids the weightiness of most Victorian-era pieces, and its light-scaled forms reflect the influence of the Eastern aesthetic. The silhouettes of chests, exemplified by William Godwin’s Anglo-Japanese designs, may suggest Japanese cabinetry. Others might be painted or incised with images of stylized birds and foliage. Many items of furniture are painted or lacquered black or, later in the Aesthetic period, made of light-toned mahogany or satinwood. They are often carved with openwork motifs drawn from Oriental objects.

- text by Judith Gura, author "The Abrams Guide to Historic Interiors"


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