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A timeline of British interior design

From the lavish woodwork of the Tudor era through to the influence of Pinterest
   Katie Byrne  |  written on: 19-02-2018 14:00pm

Take a step back in time and feast your eyes on the definining styles of interior design through the ages...

The Tudor design period (1485–1603)

With a growing economy from expanding trade, individuals were becoming wealthier and starting to build luxury homes with lavish interiors. Property owners would demonstrate their wealth with fine oak-panelled walls, decorative plasterwork and elaborate fireplaces.

The European Renaissance started to influence the Gothic British style, with walls and windows covered in intricate patterns based on classical illustrations.

The Georgian design period (1714–1830)

Georgian interiors were known for their elegance and lightness of touch. Completing a ‘Grand Tour’ around Europe, particularly Italy, for two or three years, was fashionable amongst the upper classes. This meant that lots of foreign influences found their way into British interiors. The design reflected this neo-classical movement, with Palladian styles, seen today in cities such as Venice.

The Victorian design period (1837–1901)

This era was typified by an eclectic mix of styles. The design reflected the expansion of world trade and growing global influences being found in Britain.

Mass production and affordable products allowed homeowners to fill their rooms with textiles and furniture. However, a reaction to mass-production led to the ‘Arts and Crafts Movement’, championed by designers such as William Morris.

The Edwardian design period (1920–1929)

The excitement of the Hollywood silver screen filtered through to design: rooms were glamourous and sophisticated with geometric and angular shapes.

People would dream of fantasy rooms for hosting lavish cocktail parties and royal patrons. Moreover, travel was especially popular (especially African safaris), so exotic touches such as animal skins, ivory and tortoiseshell, were all the rage.

The 1930s/40s design period (1930–1949)

There were several different looks for the home. First, there were Art Deco and modernism styles. These were typified by clean, streamlined shapes and a lack of ornamentation. Buildings looked like ocean liners with curved sun-trap windows edged with blue railings and portholes. There were also lots of pseudo-historical styles, from mock-Tudor houses with half-timbering and neo-Georgian styles.

The post-war design period (1950 – 1959)

The 1950s was the age of the consumer, with the post-war boom leading to a culture of materialism and a desire for the latest home furnishings.

There were several styles to choose from: an American diner style with bubble-gum colours, neon and kitsch, or a designer style with furniture and textiles decorated with geometric patterns. These have subsequently become design classics.

The swinging '60s design period (1960 – 1969)

The previous decade's love of American design was replaced by a more British-focused style. Interiors had creative twists on Victorian and Edwardian styles, the ‘20s and art nouveau. Groovy pop art and opt-art inspired patterns and styles were often used.

The space age had a big influence with capsule and pod-shaped furniture; hippie pilgrimages also brought oriental ornaments and rugs to homes.

Back-to-nature and the 1970s design period (1970 – 1979)

The early part of the decade was a ‘hangover’ from the ‘60s, dominated by pop art, vibrant colours and newly-available plastic furniture. However, recession and high unemployment led to a less flamboyant period of design.

A ‘back-to-nature’ movement arose with a homespun ethos creating Victorian-style florals and hand-me-downs, with lots of wood, rattan and rustic kitchenalia, and handicrafts such as macramé.

Floral overload: the '80s design period (1980 – 1989)

During this period, an Art Deco revival occurred in the realm of design. Clean-lined shapes with modern curves were prominent, but angles and ’30s-inspired arches also infiltrated the home in a style known as ’80s Deco. Art Moderne-style artwork, ceramic curves on modern vases, and rounded furniture were all popular. This decade also saw a twee floral overload.

Simplicity of form and the '90s design period (1990 – 1999)

After the maximalism and opulence of the ‘80s, typical early ‘90s design was focused on simplicity of form. Funky clashes and bright colours were seen as dated, whereas white and beige were considered as contemporary and trendy.

Blonde wood and Scandinavian inspired design was very popular, giving interior spaces a bright, fresh and roomy atmosphere.

Modern times: 2010 and onwards

So far, this decade has seen a very ecletic style flourish, with global influences prevalent in design but also a retro revival harking back to the '60s and '70s.

Social media, especially Pinterest, is giving people greater access to widespread design inspiration. Self-expression has come to define the approach to interior design in this period.

By Melanie Adams, Retails Development Manager at Wallpaper Direct





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Katie Byrne


Katie Byrne is a writer, editor and filter fan (coffee, not Instagram), and lives in a Georgian-built flat that features various statement cobwebs.