Art Nouveau Movement in Design

By Oliver Burns

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February 16, 2015|Luxury Design

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  • n the late 19th century the Art Nouveau movement launched in Paris and London and swiftly became internationally renowned.  It broke away from the traditions of earlier design styles, which took their cues from history and drew inspiration from its surroundings and nature. The intention of the style was to focus on excellent craftsmanship, avoid unnecessary decoration and encourage a belief that the function of an object should dictate its form.  This resulted in designs that were at the time considered by many to be ostentatious and evoked either a love or hate attitude. Encompassing all areas of art and design including interiors and architecture, the outcomes of Art Nouveau took on one of two guises, linear and streamlined designs or those which were fluid and organic.  Designs commonly featured stylised botanical forms or long vertical lines and the whiplash curve, as it is known, is synonymous with the era.
Image via Oliver Burns

Rene Lalique worked as a jewellery designer during the period initially freelancing for renowned jewellers such as Cartier he then went on to start his own business and became highly recognised as one of Frances leading Art Nouveau designers. Pieces such as the Cactus console table are still used today and draw inspiration from Lalique’s early career with the stylised leaves creating an elegant platform upon which the table top rests.

Utilising a single statement piece such as this is a sophisticated way in which to pay tribute to this historical movement within a contemporary interior.

Images sourced via Atmos Studio (left) and Architectural Digest (right)

It was not only objects such as furniture that embraced the essence of Art Nouveau, architecture also aimed to encompass its ethos through sweeping natural shapes.

Picking up on the curved and fluid forms seen at the time, this staircase on the left acts to serve not only its functional purpose but creates a sculptural focus within this interior. With each tread flowing horizontally into the wall and vertically to become part of the balustrade, it is an ideal example of true craftsmanship, which was a key characteristic of the Art Nouveau movement. On the right, a similar sweeping staircase mimics the pattern in the warm and earthy coloured mosaics, another key feature of Art Nouveau interiors.

Image via Oliver Burns

Modern day designer Christopher Guy also takes a lot of inspiration from this era with many of his chairs featuring the high backs and black lacquered gloss finishes popular at the time. He also uses lots of curved shapes and botanical influences, seen in his Allure headboard and Foliage mirror above. Used in this modern day scheme, the classic acanthus leaf embellishment adds an elegant nouveau twist the room.

Art Nouveau flourished for only 20 years before being brought to an end by World War I, making way for the geometric shapes and lavish colours of Art Deco. The 1960’s bought a renewed interest in Art Nouveau and inspirations from this movement are still prevalent in design today. Although certainly not as ostentatious as during its inception, these Art Nouveau inspired designs remain either loved or hated by their audience and are sure to create a talking point within any interior.

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