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Interior Design in Ancient Civilisations

ancient civilisation interior design

Interior Design is often influenced by history and appropriated into the present day. The Interior Designer’s job is to take heed of history and deliver the most appropriate style for their project or build.

We take a look at some of the very earliest interior design trends, developed by the first civilisations on earth.

Roman Empire

Romans were all about colours, patterns and murals. Surprisingly furniture was kept to a minimum, despite the ornate architecture with pillars and arched ceilings. Never a bare wall, the Romans certainly took interior design seriously.

According to one history blog: “Roman interior design consists of mosaics, stucco and frescoes. Romans are known for having extravagant floors with patterns lots of landscape views either framed or painted.” (1)

Ancient Egyptians

As one of the first settled civilisations, possessions meant a lot to the Ancient Egyptians. So much so the dead were often entombed with their worldly goods such as chests, gold, plaques and more. The poor had less in the way of what they could call their own and consisted of mats and blankets they used on the naked floor. The rich however could afford the “import costs” of expensive materials so were able to posses decorated hand-carved chairs and beds with cushions and mattresses.

Study.com said: “Egyptian beds were often carved with images of deities who protected households. The headboard itself might have symbols relating to the rising sun, including the deities associated with this daily phenomenon. Some other characteristics of Egyptian beds are also definitive of traits found in all Egyptian furniture. They were low to the ground and almost always had four legs carved with animal feet.” (2)

Ancient Greeks

Similar to the Egyptians your wealth described whether you had countless artefacts or took the more “minimalist” approach. Outer city homes generally saw bare walls or simple hanging. Urban city homes such as Athens were more like to see frescoed walls with commissioned art.

The Greeks followed a somewhat similar style to the Romans which saw mosaic floors, minimal furniture and arches. The exception to this was the use of stylised iconic Greek vases and woven rugs (for the floor and walls). SFGate say you can “Mimic the ancient Greek aesthetic in your modern home with bright, whitewashed stucco walls, gently rounded arches connecting airy rooms, wood-paneled and beamed ceilings, and bright blue shutters and doors. Blue-and-white striped cotton rugs enliven a waxed hardwood floor.” (3)

Islamic Golden Age

Said to take place around 8th to 14th century AD, the Islamic golden age took influences from other civilizations around the world to form their own unique style. From an architectural point of view this included using columns and pillars like the Romans. In the interest of maintaining privacy (an important aspect of Islam) these were often stacked around a private courtyard in the middle of the house.

Internally, wonderfully coloured floor cushions and ottomans were used to provide comfort. The walls would have been decorated in words from the Koran in the popular calligraphy style – originating from that era. As Home Syncorise said: “The Islamic faith prohibits Muslims from drawing human and animal images. So, they created a unique form of art called Calligraphy; the art of writing. Verses of the Muslim holy book (the Koran) were used to decorate mosques and homes.” (4)

Do you have a piece of interior design or architecture you associate with a particular era? Or do have any ideas or submissions for our blog? Email marketing@hunterdunning.co.uk.

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1. Justine., ‘History of Interior Design’, https://history1jvs.blogspot.com/2014/01/classical-civilization-rome.html, 31/01/2014
2. Muscato, C., ‘Ancient Egyptian Furniture: History & Design’, https://study.com/academy/lesson/ancient-egyptian-furniture-history-design.html, [Accessed 05/07/2019]
3. ‘Ancient Greek Interior Design’ https://homeguides.sfgate.com/ancient-greek-interior-design-87781.html [Accessed 05/07/2019]
4. Lama., ‘Exploring Islamic Interior Design’ http://homesynchronize.com/exploring-islamic-design/, 18/04/2012