What Are the Characteristics of Art Nouveau Decorating?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier
Art noveau often features plant and flower motifs.
Art noveau often features plant and flower motifs.

Art nouveau was a popular artistic philosophy that arose during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style served as a bridge between classic and modern art movements, and influences are found in everything from jewelry to architecture. It emphasized ordinariness and the naturalness of an object, and thus these characteristics are key in art nouveau decorating. Other features of art nouveau decorations include a mix of curved and straight lines and an affinity for flat patterns and designs. Plain curtains, stained glass, and natural wood flooring are some of the common features in an art nouveau-inspired room.

Staind glass is common in art nouveau decorating.
Staind glass is common in art nouveau decorating.

Simplicity and lightness are some of the primary foundations of art nouveau decorating, as the initial movement was seen somewhat as a response against the darkness and heaviness of earlier Victorian styles. Natural wood materials are often preferred in flooring, such as oak wood that retains its original grained appearance. More neutral and light colors like white or a soft brown are preferred in interior design as well. As for windows, the large and ornate drapes of the Victorian era were replaced in art nouveau decorating by plain fabrics hanging downward on a basic pole.

Plentiful curves are also a primary feature of art nouveau design. These curves are often exaggerated and sharp, sometimes known as whiplash curves. Further, curves were used to fuse objects together. A common trope in many designs was flowing female hair or curved female bodies. Art nouveau decorating also commonly placed these curves in contrast with straight horizontal or vertical lines.

Inspired by Japanese block prints, art nouveau makes use of flat patterns and designs. The benefit of these influences lay in their versatility and their possible uses on a wide range of objects. Examples often include elements of nature such as leaves, flowers, and birds. Wallpaper is a common conduit for these types of expressions.

Since one of the main themes of art nouveau design is an appreciation for the ordinary, practitioners of art nouveau saw the possibility of art all around them. As such, focal pieces of art nouveau decorating are not limited to painted pictures or sculptures. Rather, any everyday object — from a plate to a chair — can become a work of art.

Materials that are unobtrusive and that work well with plain backgrounds are often preferred by art nouveau designers. Glass, porcelain, and wrought iron are some of the most common components for sculptures or other additives. Stained glass and Oriental features such as those found in rugs are perhaps the only somewhat stylized concession. These objects serve as another outlet for the flat patterned designs popular in art nouveau decorating.

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    • Art noveau often features plant and flower motifs.
      By: Brad Pict
      Art noveau often features plant and flower motifs.
    • Staind glass is common in art nouveau decorating.
      By: jhansen2
      Staind glass is common in art nouveau decorating.