As humanity was collectively spending more time inside, interior design and architecture grew in artistic relevance. Sophisticated materials, design elements, and perceptions of space and light became worthwhile as men and women relied less on physical work outside in the fields. Hence it is an art that first emerged in more advanced societies. Furthermore, creative explosions in interior architecture would often coincide with golden ages. In this blog, we will present an overview of interior architecture’s evolution overtime.

Greek and Roman Interiors

The first sophisticated interior designs emerged around the Mediterranean, where Greeks and later Romans invested in interior spaces to display their culture, traditions, and way of life. Romans have left mosaics and frescoes depicting mythological scenes, historic, and family events. The architecture of a Roman citizen’s home is a reflection of the social status he and his family have, but also his rank in the political and tribal hierarchies. In some ways this is still true in today’s society, because trends in design often correlate with how much wealth an individual has.

Gothic and Medieval Designs

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century was a set-back for all arts, including interior design and architecture. We didn’t see very much art until the 8th and 9th century, when Gothic style emerged as a mix between Germanic and Roman influences. The Medieval approach to interior design was heavily oriented towards religion. Indeed, the inside of official buildings representing an institution or a powerful lord’s authority were laid out to remind beholders of God.

Buildings sanctioned by divine authority were designed to provoke spiritual awakening or provide a comfortable environment for meditation or prayer. Patrons sponsored the best masters and craftsmen, who carved out, painted and erected the most elaborate pieces of design in human history. A rich individual would find it advantageous to associate his name and fortune with artworks that magnify human abilities for the glory of God. The ecosystem created between institutions, patrons and artists allowed countries like Italy, France and Spain (under Muslim rule) to become cradles of innovative and breathtaking architectural achievements. Materials used varied, however the proper Western European style was characterized by dark shades with materials like dark wood or stone. Marble is often used, especially for Gothic structures (Cathedral of Koln, Duomo di Milano). The spectrum of used colors varies; the north is characterized by black and white contrasts while the south integrates many secondary colors.

Baroque

When The Renaissance kicked in the near the end of the 14th century, the ecosystem previously described saw an additional source of patrons: rich merchants, soldiers and politicians that derived their power and authority from the world itself rather than divine figures. While the religious angle was preserved and experienced evolution and shifts, renaissance art was characterized by a return to nature. Baroque for example reintegrates natural elements by randomizing structures and design languages.

Baroque comes from the Portuguese word “barocco” which means “irregularly-shaped pearl”. Baroque interiors often play on contrast, overwhelming the beholder with light or darkness, brightness or blurriness. Artists were experimenting with shapes, materials and volumes, coming up with new models of interior layout. The baroque style found its full expression in Mediterranean countries and in the New World; Spanish colonial baroque characterizes the historic settlements in the Americas.

The baroque style has contaminated the neo-classical overtime, especially in Britain. Robert Adam has operated this mix in the mid-18th century. While he was working with neo-classical frameworks and overall design language, his innovative integration of baroque design elements (still life images, ribbons, medallions etc.)

Neo-Classical

The profound shift the industrial revolution brought on the European real estate market shifted interior design priorities. Habitability was increasingly becoming a focus, especially with the second industrial revolution that brought to consumers new inventions (massive electrification). 19th century interior design and architecture is mainly oriented towards neo-classicism (one of the best examples being France and the neo-classical redesign of Paris in the late 19th century). Rich owners often romantically reactivate aristocratic designs, as a clear signal of identification. The materials used are also a display of wealth, as colonial expansion provides consumers with more exotic materials.

The neo-classical approach, while apparent in France and the United Kingdom, does not characterize other countries like Italy. In the industrial north, the emergence of the liberty style is a clear return to the Renaissance spirit. While remaining classical in its structure (notably for its use of horizontal symmetry), the liberty style incorporates baroque elements and the Greco-Roman fascination for floral motives and mythological depictions.

Art Deco, Futurism, and Pop Art

Art deco would later build on this liberty style foundation. In the beginning of 20th century, Italy is experimenting a cultural shift as it is molded for the first time by a centralized national state. Internal migrations contribute to combine regional arts and techniques. Art deco is a natural result of such a phenomenon. Rome features an entire district designed and built by the art deco architect Gino Coppedè. It is the most exhaustive use of art deco design elements in a real urban setting. It is characterized by the use of arabesques (inherited from the Neapolitan neo-bourbon style), curves and shapes that insisted on transmitting an impression of movement and fluidity. It was the artistic representation of humanity’s spirit at the time: fast-paced transformations that shaped the destinies of millions like never before, alongside unprecedented technological progress.

The rise of fascism in the 1920s introduced futurism in Italian and European interior architecture. Futurism was heavily characterized by rigidity. This is apparent when when observing the dynamics of Fascist architecture. Squares and rectangles are at the center of any fascist compositions (cf. The Italian Civilization’s Museum in Rome, the Court of Justice of Milan, etc.)

Both styles did not survive the second world war. Art deco was considered vulgar while futurism was perceived as grim. The discovery of new styles thanks to the increasing European integration and the spread of the American way of life helped shape a new conception of style in Europe. Scandinavian design (with Danish and Swedish design firms gaining worldwide recognition) set the pace for an approach focused on providing an experience, a mood, rather than a simple functionality. With the influence of pop art and the 1970s, designers started to experiment with colors, materials, shapes, volumes, textures and overall structures like never before. Plastic and the advent of consumerism provided opportunities at every level to create art and innovate.

Today the myriad of interior design and architecture schools is so diverse, that willing to identify the main trends would be challenging. However, we can notice that the use of design elements in a certain way contributes to create at least bridges between somewhat similar approaches. Indeed, modern architecture has greatly valorized natural light, functionality, space optimization and connectivity. These are defining features of recently built mega-structures (Sydney opera house, Burj El-Arab, Petronas Towers etc.) and contemporary interior design. The use of glass, aluminum, steel and increasingly carbon fiber has favored this trend, especially with the rising interest for urban solar exposition.

In conclusion, design languages have varied according to the availability of materials, technological capabilities, cultural preferences and geographic necessities. While all these criteria determine how a community will organize its way of living, the social and cultural backgrounds of the elites (who were the ones building the most durable structures) were displayed through interior design and architecture. Not only to give a concrete basis to their abstract ideas (God, nature or ancestry), but also to set the pace of the entire society, as the elites’ artistic, philosophic and ethical frameworks are effectively the entire society’s references.


Today we’re going to take a look at the history of bathrooms.

Hygiene is an extremely important part of successful civilizations, this is especially apparent in light of recent events. Since the bathroom is where hygiene begins and since we design bathrooms we’d like to go on an educational journey through the ages and see how and why bathrooms have evolved.

Ancient Greece:

The ancient Greeks were known for many things but their toilets weren’t one of them. Even though their contribution to plumbing wasn’t as great as it was in the arts or mathematics, it’s still worth taking a look at.

We might not hear about it that much when studying the ancient Greeks, but they did have a plumbing system, or at least in some parts of Greece. The Minoans, who originated from the island of Crete, had somewhat of an influence on the ancient Greeks and enjoyed a heyday from around 2700 to 1450 BCE.

The Minoans, who originated from the island of Crete, had somewhat of an influence on the ancient Greeks and enjoyed a heyday from around 2700 to 1450 BCE. They are cited as being the first civilization to use underground plumbing for washing and using the bathroom. This shows how people from the Minoan civilization maintained their personal hygiene.

Among the Greeks a person was always bathed at birth, marriage, and after death.

 

 


Ancient Rome:

About 2,000 years ago, a high-ceilinged room under of one of Rome’s most opulent palaces was a busy, smelly space. Inside, a bench, perforated by about 50 holes the size of dinner plates, ran along the walls. These holes may have been used by some of the lowest members of Roman society.

Ruins of bathrooms were uncovered at Pompeii. These were found to be communal bathrooms. Some of them were beautiful, with frescoes on the walls, sculptures in the corners, and rows of holes carved into cold, Italian marble slabs.

Interestingly, these Roman toilets didn’t flush. They were tied into internal plumbing and sewer systems, which often consisted of just a small stream of water running continuously beneath the toilet seats.

 



Medieval Times:

 

When the medieval times came, the practice of public bathing had largely disappeared in the west. Public bathing did, although continue in the middle-east. This is where Roman-style public bath-houses were known as ‘hammans’. It was found that one of the earliest surviving hammans, dates back as far as the 12th century. These hammans are situated and can be found in modern-day Syria. It is said that Baghdad alone housed tens of thousands of bathhouses in its prime.

In the late middle-ages, Roman-style public baths were reintroduced to Europe. It was reintroduced by crusaders and other travellers to the middle-east who had discovered some of these public baths there.

In medieval England, public steam baths known as ‘stews’ were popular as a social meeting place. Stewhouses, (more formally known as ‘bagnios’) were first established on the south bank of the River Thames in the mid-late 12th century. It was common for the opposite sexes to bath together at these baths. Eating facilities were also sometimes provided at these ‘Stewhouses. Stewhouses were used until the 15th century, when Henry VI ordered their closure after they had become used as brothels. A Public uproar caused him to change heart, but he only allowed twelve to reopen.

The start of private toilets came from Medieval castles in Europe. These castles were fitted with private toilets known as ‘garderobes’, typically featuring stone seats above tall holes draining into moats.

 


18th Century:

Bathing was not something that most people had the luxury of doing often. The first reason why that was is  because not everyone had access to hot or clean water. This is something that almost everyone has and many people take for granted in modern times, but in the 18th century this was a luxury item. Clean water wasn’t easy to find, first and foremost one must have the means to get water, this means that they would have to bring it from the water source to their bathtub, because most bathrooms lacked plumbing. The wealthy could afford to have servants do this for them but those who we’re not wealthy saved bathing for special occasions. As for toilets, this video here is explains it very well: 

 


 

Bathrooms of Today:

By the mid-1800s, the link  between hygiene and health had been realized. Soon thereafter most advanced cities began to build proper sewer systems to dispose of their excrement.

In 1829 architect Isaiah Rogers developed a game changing technology at the Tremont House in Boston. This was the first hotel to have indoor plumbing. It had 8 water closets on the first level which employed a water storage system that was on the top floor. This was so that gravity could flush the toilets into a sewer system. 

5 years later the same architect joined forces with John Jacob Aster to create The Astor House. The 6 story building had 309 rooms on five stories, and servant’s rooms on the top floor.  It had bathing and toilet rooms on every floor, with the water being pumped up by steam engines.

The bathtubs had gas furnaces with tanks attached to heat the water. The water then drained into the sewer system, and were filled by huge water tanks on the roof. 

Shortly thereafter, we discovered how to pressurize water to transport waste outside of the homes and businesses and into the sewer. 

Many ancient cultures  had primitive plumbing systems, but much of the knowledge of that technology was forgotten. 

By the 1850’s we had developed wooden pipe systems that we were using for our sewage systems but they weren’t quite sufficient.  A little before 1860 Julius Adams, the second cousin of America’s 6th President John Quincy Adams, created the first contemporary city sewage system. He would go on to print his techniques, and thus layout the blueprint for cities throughout the world. 

Businesses across the globe figured out how to properly manufacture toilets and modern bathrooms as we know them were born.


Today we’re going to travel through time and take a look at the history of kitchens.

Breaking bread is such a time honored and valued tradition that it has given a special relevance to this space where we congregate and socialize with our loved ones. But it hasn’t always been such a pleasant environment, this room has traveled down a long and winding road throughout history. Sometimes being part of the only room in a dwelling, while at other times being in the back of the house as far away from guests as possible.

the history of kitchens

Ancient Egypt:

Although we know very little about Ancient Egypt, the hieroglyphics, tools, and pottery discovered over the years have left us a general idea of what their kitchens looked like, and the tools that they used. As is often the case, the kitchen was a crucial aspect of Ancient Egyptian culture.

Its shape and size was very different from one house, temple, or palace to another. Sometimes being the only room in a tiny home, other times being a large area inside of a palace. The tools used by the Egyptians were quite simple. They employed hearths, ovens, mortars, metal blades, vessels, stone and clay urns, baskets, pans, plates, pitchers, sieves, and pestles for grinding. They used these tools to make meals such as bread, beer, wine, meat, kababs, stews, fowl eggs, and more. But they primarily consumed bread, beer, and vegetables.

1200px-egyptian_kitchen_berlin_1Picture #1

 


Ancient Rome:

Peasant Romans usually lived with their whole family in one small room. Much like the poor working class of Egypt, they didn’t have a separate room for their cooking area. As a result they cooked on a brazier in their room, or bought food from street vendors, already cooked. Alternately, slightly more well off Romans who could afford a space big enough to have a courtyard and had the luxury of cooking outside, weather permitting. Their braziers were portable so they could easily move their cooking area from outside to inside.

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Picture #2: courtesy https://dgh.wikispaces.com/Ancient+Rome

Wealthy Romans had kitchens in their houses, but they didn’t cook in them themselves – they had slaves to cook for them. Because of this, Roman kitchens were tiny, cramped, and in the back of the house where nobody would see them.

These kitchens usually had clay ovens, with a burner on top similar to our stoves, except it was heated by a charcoal fire (see picture #2). Sometimes they had wooden cupboards to keep the dishes and food in and they had racks on their walls for pots and pans. Romans sometimes used flues inside their walls to draw smoke out, but chimneys only appeared in large dwellings such as castles in the 12th century. The earliest extant example of a chimney is in 1185 at the Conisbrough Castle in Yorkshire.

 


Middle Ages:

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For the peasant cooking was done over an open fire of a one room home, just like the peasants in our last two sections. Life revolved around the cooking area because it was the source of light, heat, safety, and of course, food. They would often use a hearth, smoke rose through a louver. A  louver is a domed  ventilation structure on a roof that could be closed by pulling strings, like Venetian blinds.

Wealthy individuals dined in their great halls, some of which had chimneys  and others did not. Although the chimney was invented in 1185 the internet wasn’t around quite yet so it took some time for word to spread.

This short video has some very good information about kitchens in the middle ages:

Medieval Castle kitchens were a different beast all together. They were placed outside of the Great Hall for fire safety. With spits roasting meat and large, iron cauldrons bubbling with soups and stews. Lambs, cattle, pigs, and ducks were tethered or penned nearby, some castles kept a pond stocked with fish. Herbs and vegetables would be grown in nearby gardens. Castle kitchens could be large enough to roast up to three whole oxen at a time, with feasts often reaching epic proportions.


18th & 19th Century:

This clip sheds some light on 18th century kitchens:

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Picture #4

Here we saw a rise in the french style of cooking all over Europe and North America. This meant strict etiquette, sophisticated dishes, and formal table settings. Servants played a large role in the kitchen, serving multiple dishes per course at dinner parties that lasted for hours. Dinner was often the highlight of the day and could last for hours.

 

zlata_koruna_kitchenThere were a lot of technical advancements in this era. This greatly reduce time and labor in the kitchen. One of the most interesting of these being the turnspit dog (seen in picture #4). This was a dog that was specifically bred to run in what was basically a hamster wheel that spun a roasting wheel. This trend didn’t last for too long however, because other mechanisms that work  similar to clocks were invented to keep the roasting wheel moving.

A few more important inventions were the use of coal, gas, cast iron, electricity, and plumbing. These obviously had huge impacts on the kitchen. Cast iron stoves became a staple in kitchens around 1850, and were infinitely more efficient than cooking in a fireplace. Although kitchens became much more pleasant to work in during this period, people still did not entertain guests in this area, and there was little to no storage space.

 


Early 1900s:

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Frankfort Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gas became the preferred source of heat and the kitchen as we know it slowly began to take shape. Efficiency took hold and kitchens became more practical. Just before the turn of the century Hoosier manufacturing company revolutionized kitchens with their cabinets. This began the cabinet evolution that eventually led to the seamless contemporary cabinets of today. In the 1920s came the Frankfort kitchen, designed by a German named Frederick Winslow Taylor. His focus on organization and making sure that all necessary items were within arms reach changed the way people thought about kitchen design.


1930’s & 40’s:

White House Kitchen 1948

White House Kitchen 1948 (an example of a fitted kitchen)

Another name for a Frankfort kitchen is a “fitted kitchen.” This is often used to describe a kitchen that was made in his style but not actually designed by Frankfort himself. This style blossomed during the 30’s and 40’s for those who could afford it. A fitted kitchen has cupboards, shelves, and appliances that are fixed in particular places where they fit exactly. Fitted cabinetry and appliances helped create a more intentional, attractive kitchen, and improved the workflow within the space. The invention of labor-saving devices, time-saving tools, more stylish kitchen designs made the space more comfortable, and a source of pride.


 

1950’s Through the 1980’s:
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With the war finally over and soldiers returning home we saw a large interest in home cooking, kitchen utensils, and entertaining guests. That combined with post World War 2 technological advancements had a huge impact on kitchen appliances. Quiet ventilation hoods, shiny ovens with matching refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, and designer countertops all became common place. Life was happening, once again, in the kitchen. The kitchen became a source for honing culinary crafts, displaying designer cookware and served as the hub for social activity. By the 1980’s, the idea of a completely open kitchen, with appliances designed to show off, came into being. Thus giving birth to the trophy kitchen.


The 1990’s:

A few trends from the 90’s were oak kitchen cabinets, brass lighting fixtures, white kitchens, ivy wall designs, black granite countertops, black and white tile, and hunter green paint. The 90’s saw a lot of self expression and individuality which carried over into the kitchen. Zen Buddhism was growing in popularity and led to a lot of Japanese decor entering the American household. Simultaneously other folks we’re covering their kitchens with pine tables and pine cabinets. Decor varied greatly in this era but one thing most kitchens had in common was an L shaped working area.


Kitchens of Today:

Kitchens these days may vary greatly from home to home, but there are a few trends dominating the current marketplace. Right now we’re seeing a lot of contemporary kitchens. A true contemporary kitchen elegantly blends beauty and function. As a result, we see a lot of cool colors, lots of cabinet space, large islands, and quartz countertops. As for cabinets design we’re seeing a lot of clean lines, veneers, and doors without handles. Below is an example of a contemporary kitchen that’s common to see in higher end homes. Notice how the cabinets are integrated with the wall and give a seamless appearance. The appliances are also seamlessly integrated into the wall. A direct evolution of the the Frankfort Kitchen. As years pass this space will evolve more. No one knows for sure what the next revolutionary innovation will be but it will be interesting to the next step in the history of kitchens.

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