What Wallpaper Designs were typically seen in Art Nouveau?

Textiles and wallpaper were an essential element of Art Nouveau interior design. Wallpaper design had its beginnings in the Arts and Crafts movement when William Morris produced woodblock-printed wallpaper designs that were revolutionary for their time.

Why you should have Art Nouveau in Your Home

If you’ve fallen in love with Art Nouveau, you’re not alone. Art Nouveau is a unique and beautiful style of art, architecture, and interior design, and one that is always a focal and talking point in the home.

This style has a beauty that is related closely to the natural world and this has ensured its enduring popularity since its development in the late 19th century, and it contributed greatly to the development of Art Deco. After the dark times of the Second World War and buttoned-up style of the 1950s, it inspired the psychedelic designs of the 1960s and has continued to influence design ever since.

What is it?

The origins of Art Nouveau can be traced back to the revival of interest in medieval life and gothic architecture in mid-19th Century England which led to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Artists and designers such as William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones moved away from industrialism, seeking a return to simple craft work created out of natural materials and manufactured by one person or a small group. The Arts and Crafts movement brought the return of handcrafted, artisan-made pieces such as wallpaper, furniture, stained glass, tapestries, pottery and tiles. These designs sought to display the beauty of the materials and the skill of the craftsman.

The design came from the same search for new forms in nature but took a more artistic path using sweeping sinuous curves and more radical designs. Materials such as cast iron and steel, glass and ceramics were widely used. This design style developed throughout Europe and parts of the United States with different countries showing many distinct styles.

What’s the difference between Art Nouveau & Art Deco?

Just before the Second World War the popularity of Art Nouveau had already started to fade. After the hardships and destruction of the First World War, people were looking for something new and exciting that also brought a taste of luxury. Art Deco left the preoccupation with nature and embraced the influence of industrialisation and improvements in lifestyle that modern manufacturing brought. Designs became symmetrical and streamlined and this extended to practical objects as well as architecture and interior design, making machine-made objects more aesthetically appealing.

In terms of style it is organic and flowing, designs relating to ideas from nature. In Art Deco design forms are streamlined and stylised and there is a glamorisation of the industrial from small practical items to factory designs such as the Hoover building near London.

What was Art Nouveau Architecture like?

It is difficult to generalise too much about Art Nouveau Architecture because each country developed the style in their own way but they all have certain design elements in common.
Shapes were drawn from nature with many decorative details on the front of buildings like stylised trees, leaves and flowers. Curves were used on roofs and both horizontal and vertical surfaces. Buildings were often asymmetrical and doors and windows arched or curved to echo organic forms.
Materials used were often stone or reinforced concrete with large and intricate designs in terracotta, glazed tiles and mosaic. Both outside and inside they were decorated with intricate designs in metal and glass.
Examples of the Best Art Nouveau Houses and Buildings Across the World
There are many stunning examples of Art Nouveau architecture to be seen mainly in Western Europe and the USA. Here are just a few of the best examples:
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, now sadly damaged by fire, is a masterpiece that combines Art Nouveau with traditional Scottish architecture.
Barcelona has many amazing examples by Gaudi, not just the famous Sagrada Familia but also the Casa Batllo.
A rapid expansion of Brussels at the end of the 19th century resulted in numerous large and smaller buildings and houses in a distinctive style of Art Nouveau. Some of the best examples were designed by Victor Horta, such as the house that is now the Horta museum, and there is also the Old England Building department store designed by Paul Saintenoy and Paul Cauchie’s house with a facade adorned with intricate decorations.
In Vienna, some remarkable examples are the colourful Majolikahaus adorned with majolica tiles and the Secession Building designed to display the work of Art Nouveau artists such as Klimt.
There are also some fine buildings to see in Prague, particularly the Hotel Central and Hotel Europa.
In Paris of course everyone remembers the entrances to the Paris Metro but a walk around the city will discover many beautiful Art Nouveau facades.

If you need advice or help in moving forward with your Art Nouveau-inspired decorating, don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions, more than happy to help.

What Colours Were Typically Used in Art Nouveau?
The Art Nouveau style was not afraid of using colour, but the colours used were warm, mid-toned tints and colours were placed alongside each other to give a subtle effect. Colours were taken from the natural world – those seen in animals, insects, plants and wildflowers.

Art Nouveau encompassed not just architecture but also all types of art and crafts. Posters such as those by Mucha using shades of brown with touches of subtle green or blue, paintings by Toulouse- Lautrec blacks and browns with ochre yellow and earthy reds. Paintings by Gustav Klimt using shining gold, but still shades of brown and very subtle accent colours.

The bright colours in Tiffany glassware are those of flowers, birds and dragonflies and even ceramics use natural colours like the iridescent colour of a bird’s feathers.

You’ll also find many of these colours in the external and internal architecture of Art Nouveau buildings, and while many buildings have earthy tones for the exterior, some use shades of green and blue. Inside, designers were bolder, using these colours on the walls, to create sweeping bannisters, and in the furniture.

What Wallpaper Designs were typically seen in Art Nouveau?
Textiles and wallpaper were an essential element of Art Nouveau interior design. Wallpaper design had its beginnings in the Arts and Crafts movement when William Morris produced woodblock-printed wallpaper designs that were revolutionary for their time. Manufacturers and their designers began to use Art Nouveau designs at the end of the 19th century for mechanical printing techniques, which made wallpaper less expensive and more accessible, and there is a great deal of evidence to show that wallpaper was used to brighten up interiors throughout the social classes.

Following William Morris, many designers took part in the development of wallpaper in Great Britain such as Christopher Dresser, Walter Crane and Charles Voysey. Much of the growing popularity was due to the work of the Silver Studio in London which reached its peak at the turn of the century supplying manufacturers with decorative designs. In the 1890s British wallpaper designers also played a part in the development of Art Nouveau in Europe. Some of the great European architects used British wallpapers in their interiors.

In France, artist Eugene Grasset produced wallpaper designs based on flowers and plants, and in Germany Hermann Obrist specialised in floral patterns. Designs used repeating floral motifs with the sinuous leaves and stems typical of Art Nouveau.

What Furniture Designs Were Typically Used in Art Nouveau?
Art Nouveau furniture again reflected nature with its extravagant curving lines. The ‘whiplash line’ was particularly popular in Art Nouveau. It is asymmetrical and sinuous, often in an ornamental S curve which suggests dynamism and movement. Natural wood was mainly used with beautiful rich colours and grain emphasised by polish or varnish and often inlays of coloured wood.

Art Nouveau architects often designed the furniture to match the style of the buildings they were to reside in. Looking at the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Victor Horta, it is evident that the furniture is an integral part of the whole effect, not just pieces added later.

In much of the design the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement can be seen and that of the Japanese style that had become popular in Europe in the 1890s. It also borrowed from the Rococo furniture of the 18th Century.

Unlike furniture made by the Arts and Crafts movement most Art Nouveau furniture was produced in factories but designs were intricate and curving and therefore expensive.

Art Nouveau Styles for the Modern Era
We have learnt that Art Nouveau style is all about using fluid, natural, curving lines and incorporating images of nature in a subtle colour palette. There are many ways you can bring this into your own home, while making the style your own and bringing it up to date.

Look for furniture with curving lines and rich polished wood. Metal work such as bedsteads, tables and bookshelves that echo Art Nouveau design. You could use reproduction tiles to bring Art Nouveau to a modern bathroom.

Use lighting – pendants, sconces and table lamps are appropriate using stained or etched glass shades or of course a reproduction of the famous Tiffany designs. Textiles with nature-inspired designs in a muted colour palette are widely available as are art nouveau posters and prints.

Wallpaper can bring an instant and stunning effect to a room, and you’ll find both subtle and bold designs from talented wallpaper designers. You can choose from a mural-style, which will be a bold artistic statement and allow the classic Art Nouveau style to shine, or choose a repeating pattern, which is a great backdrop for modern or Art Nouveau furniture.

The Most Important Element: Preparation
If you’re going to use wallpaper in your home, especially mural-style Art Nouveau wallpaper, preparing a wall for wallpapering is the most important step. If you’ve moved into a new home and your walls are perfectly smooth, a simple lining paper will be enough to keep your expensive papers looking smooth, but in older homes you really do need to ensure the wall is unblemished and smooth before applying your wallpaper.

Any cracks or wall damage will need repairing with a proprietary filler and once dried, sanded back with 120 grit abrasive paper then one coat of primer applied.

With the walls prepared, you can begin to hang your chosen wallpaper. If you have not done this before, starting your wallpaper hanging career with intricately designed patterns is going to be a serious challenge. You’ll not only need to hang the wallpaper properly, but you’ll need to line up the design perfectly, which is a challenge.

While this may be a challenge you’re willing to take on at £15 a roll, many of the best Art Nouveau styles cost much more, and so it’s recommended to use a professional who can get it right first time around.

Wallpaper transforms a room, but poorly applied wallpaper isn’t forgiving, especially if there are metallics in the paper or if it’s in an area that receives a lot of light.

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