If you need help matching a painting to your existing interior designs then look no further. This short tour will take you through different period styles, furniture designs, interior décor movements, and contemporary trends. From the Japanese art of flower arranging to the mass-produced necessities of Ikea, you’ll certainly find something to suit your tastes, and your home.
We’ll start this tour around popular, historic, en vogue, and contemporary domestic interiors and how to complement them with paintings, with something both a little bit out of the ordinary and entirely commonplace. Neither an interior décor movement nor a furniture style, we begin this tour with Ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers. Any well-kept home is bound to be greeted with the odd bunch of flowers; filling the best vase on the mantelpiece or giving warmth to the kitchen table. But the Japanese art of Ikebana is more complex, with rigid rules describing how best to create balance with formal and angular arrangements.
A short cut to Ikebana perfection is to hang a kakemono on the wall, to lie in wait for the presence of flowers as and when they arrive. A kakemono is a traditional hanging scroll mounted with calligraphy or a simple design. Alongside Ikebana arrangements, a kakemono is an integral part of the tea ceremony in Japanese culture. If our choice of Kakemono isn’t right for your walls, this astonishingly elegant study of cranes in flight by the artist Suzuki Kiitsu is sure to complement any floral room.
Many homes feature Arabesques without their occupants even knowing it. More traditionally acquainted with the vivid designs of wall tiles, the carved wood of Arabic calligraphy, or the complex weave of Persian carpets, Arabesque decoration was originally intended to be a stand-in for the magic of God’s creation. Due to Islamic strictures forbidding the depiction of human or animal forms, early Islamic artists had to get creative. The result was an astonishing and previously unseen system of geometric perfection that, at its best, looks like a view into eternity.
If a corner or dedicated room of your home features rich Moorish designs reminiscent of the majestic Alhambra Palace in Spain, then Edwin Lord Weeks’ painting provides a sumptuous Orientalist fantasy to add to the impression. For a less Western-shaped view of the Moorish palace in its heyday, Frederick Childe Hassam’s Impressionist view of the grounds markedly plays down the rich designs, allowing the Arabesques in your own home to fill in the blanks. But for full-on Orientalist charm, Jean-Léon Gérôme’s, Arnaut Smoking has it all; a hookah, the lattice window, the unrestrained artistic fascination with exoticism; providing ideal balance to the subtlety of Arabesque designs.
Stage 3The Baroque
The Baroque style was all about overload, luxury, and drama. In interior décor its spirit was translated by countless craftspeople that specialized in stunningly ornate, winding natural wood designs, or winding foliage expressed in gold or silver. Some call the Baroque gaudy, and certainly if not balanced with a certain sense of restraint it can go a bit overboard. But due to the sheer extravagance of the Baroque, it would be foolish to recommend playing it down with some Abstract or Modern works. If crests, chubby cherubim, and gilded grandeur is what you’ve chosen, then buy the ticket and take the ride; go Baroque plus.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s works, coming off the back of the Mannerist movement, are more restrained than later artists, but still retain that sense of bombastic contemplation, allegory, and splendor. Peter Paul Rubens built a career on achieving the impossible and created religious, pagan, and downright dizzying images of unrestrained Baroque madness. But Nicolas Poussin found a fine way of balancing Rubens and Gentileschi’s approach, and started a tradition of French painting that would see the country eclipse Italy as the heartland of artistic production.
If your home is full of pagodas, stylized dragons, and Chinese calligraphy, then you share the same tastes as many of your eighteen-century ancestors. In the 1700s Chinoiserie was a veritable craze, and Chinese objects flooded into a Europe hungry for as much as they could get. The trend was largely expressed in silk and porcelain, the latter of which was exported to Europe in absolutely immense quantities. Quickly recognizing how the market was leaning, many British and French designers began to learn how to imitate Chinese designs and created their own hybrid versions. Many modern homes still display the influence of Chinoiserie. If you have a display of Asian-style vases, porcelain, or indeed anything in the iconic light-blue and cream color scheme, then including a dragon, a stylized bird, or a rolling landscape would perfectly complement the arrangement.
By the early eighteenth century, with the subtlety and refinement of Chinoiserie in fashion, Baroque artists started to scale back their extravagant, decadent designs. The result was Rococo, which appeared in interior decoration as similarly ornate, elegant, and fluid, yet with a more enhanced sense of balance, order, and a healthy dose of humor. Rococo paintings would suit well any room with a lot of high-quality dark wood, pale cream and marble tones, and rich, thick-weave textiles. Jean-Honore Fragonard’s The Swing is pure Rococo charm. If gazing into the crystalline depth of the garden isn’t enough, the trajectory of the dainty pink shoe is sure to captivate attention.
Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, perhaps poking fun at the seriousness of his Age of Enlightenment in The Monkey Antiquarian, was a remarkable painter of still life and expressive portraits. Any work by this influential figure would match a Rococo room. However, Jean-Antoine Watteau was and still is considered the leading painter of the Rococo era. His refined landscapes, dotted with quietly content revelers, are a beacon of refinement and elegance.
To complement the rich and earthy pastel tones of pottery, it is worth going back to the smoke-blackened world of Industrial Revolution-era England. Following the beginning of archeology and the resultant interest in pottery designs from Ancient Greece and Rome, one enterprising potter called Josiah Wedgwood set up his own factory in 1759, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. His methods of manufacturing pottery, as well his stunning designs, bought pottery ware into the mainstream.
Otto Didrik Ottesen’s A Bouquet In A Wedgwood Rosso Antico Vase, Set In A Niche shows that even by the late-eighteen century Wedgwood’s designs were already considered worthy of featuring in a work of art. As a lifelong campaigner for the abolition of slavery, and the great-grandfather of Charles Darwin, Wedgwood was a veritable Good Samaritan of ornament design. Due to his love of the works of the animal painter George Stubbs, many of Wedgwood’s designs featured copies of Stubbs’ subjects. A full-size reproduction of one of his paintings would be a fine reminder of that social role once played by the humble art of pottery.
One current that has remained constant through the history of interior décor is a love of materials, textiles, and bulky tapestry. From medieval homes onwards, textiles have been an important part of home design, and we can guarantee at least one part of your dedicated interior will feature a set of textiles that really completes the room. If so, why not choose a timeless design such as a coat of arms designed by Louis Saint-Ange-Desmaisons. These crests have gone in and out of popularity over the centuries, with this design being created during the Empire Style era, where Neoclassical styling was all the rage. If something modern seems more appropriate, you can’t get more iconic than Mark Rothko, whose eye-catching abstract designs can be found incarnated in countless other colors, shades, and hues.
That sense of minimalism can be found also in Kazimir Malevich’s A Peasant Woman, with an added touch of figurative intensity. Works like this will complement a room where the star item is textiles without drawing focus away.
Stage 8Neoclassicism and the Empire Style
After the French Revolution and the crowning of Napoleon as Emperor of France, everyone in Europe (even those under attack by the French armies) went Empire-mad. Neoclassicism had dominated artistic imaginations for half a century, but the Empire Style was more concerned with extending the grandeur and pomp of the ancient world into the homes, plazas, and gardens of the great and the good. If you have a Neoclassical theme running through your home; lots of stone, marble, stark and simple designs, or even a growing collection of classical-style sculptures, then paintings along the theme of the Empire Style would be the perfect addition.
Jacques Louis David’s painting of Madame Récamier bought the style into the realm of fashion, with the introduction of the concept of the Empire Silhouette. The most famous interior designers of the era included Charles Percier, whose research and preparation studies can be found in our catalogue. Both examples here strike a fascinating balance between architectural sketch and Surrealist dreamscape; reminding the viewer of the lofty ambitions of the Neoclassical movement that made sure that pillars, columns, and grand staircases impressed themselves upon cities worldwide.
Stage 9Regency Style
Understandably, the British were terrified of the French Revolution. Having just lost their American colonies, they were worried that the same kind of insurrection might happen at home. Therefore, the Neoclassical and Empire Style was translated into a slightly more elegant and streamlined version that was quintessentially British. Georgian houses, with their trademark quiet grandeur, can still be found in cities from London to Boston. Perhaps the most famous example of the Regency style in architectural design is the spectacular curved row of houses in Bath, in England. David Cox’s Lansdown Crescent, Bath, shows a view of the block when it was brand new, and must have been an utterly futuristic sight for contemporary eyes.
To complement your Regency-style home, a typical painting of the era would rekindle that sense of lofty charm. Angelica Kaufmann was one of the most famous painters of the Regency era, but her popularity was confined to the upper classes. James Gillray, on the other hand, was popular across the board. His cartoon caricatures are what most people think of first when they imagine the world of Georgian London.
Stage 10Queen Anne and Chippendale Furniture
Anyone with a taste for fine antique furniture will have heard of Queen Anne and Chippendale. These two memorable names are a mark of immense quality, and while originals occasionally cost the price of a house, high-qualities imitations are no less magnificent. Both Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture made healthy use of the cabriole leg; a design inspired by chair legs and furniture legs seen in ancient Roman murals. Looking a bit like a curved goat’s leg, the cabriole leg can be found on many ornate chairs, tables, wardrobes, coffee tables, and the like. To complement these types of elegant furniture, why not try hanging a painting reminiscent of the ancient mythologies of Greece and Rome.
Herbert James Draper’s Lament for Icarus is a fine example of the kind of dramas that drove the imaginations of designers like Chippendale. Jefferson David Chalfant’s The Old Violin, on the other hand, provides a stark balance if hung beside a fine, Queen Anne or Chippendale-style dark wood prestige piece.
Stage 11Modern Gothic
The Romanticist movement was driven by a newfound rediscovery of medieval architecture, folklore, and artistic styles. In home design and architecture this revival was known as modern Gothic and, unlike some contemporary incarnations, its not all black velvet and skulls. A home interior with a touch of modern Gothic might include heavy pewter ornaments, large candles with drippy wax, or darker color schemes. In the mid-nineteenth century the English painters the Pre-Raphaelites turned the medieval fashion into a veritable design craze, expanding the themes to the medium of illustration, interior design, and fashion.
Any home displaying a bit of modern Gothic would benefit from Sir John Everett Millais’ Mariana in the Moated Grange, a veritable rhapsody of middle-ages majesty. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s favorite model Jane Morris, as seen here in his painting Proserpine, has long been a favorite face for savvy interior designers, whereas Millais’ Autumn Leaves features such an array of different shades it would be hard for it not to match something in a modern Gothic-tinged room.
Stage 12Arts and Crafts
The iconic Pre-Raphaelite model Jane Morris was married to a pioneering English interior designer called William Morris, who founded a firm that would single-handedly kickstart the Arts and Crafts movement in interior design. Morris believed that only a fair and moral society could create beautiful things, and only a happy worker could produce fine craftsmanship. With this in mind he started the first ‘fair trade’ enterprise, producing traditional English designs with an emphasis on fair pay and good working conditions. The Arts and Crafts style later spread to all aspects of interior design, from windows to whole houses.
Arts and Crafts houses, as well as Tutor revival houses, are increasingly popular styles. Inspired by the illustrations on the margins of medieval ‘illuminated’ books, the followers of the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist movement often painted murals onto the walls of rich Arts and Crafts homeowners. Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones dramatic stained-glass style is an obvious choice, and has the power to turn any Tutor revival home into a potential Arts and Crafts paradise.
Stage 13Art Nouveau Architecture
One of the many careers that were facilitated by the Arts and Crafts craze was that of an English illustrator, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His book illustrations, as well as an emerging craze for all things Japanese, gave birth to a new movement in interior design, Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau immediately found its ideal incarnation in architectural design and was driven by the stunning, ‘whiplash’ curves or Victor Horta and Hector Guimard.
If you are lucky enough to have the kind of sumptuous tastes associated with Art Nouveau luxury then the ideal choice of art to hang on the walls is either a sample of one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s textile designs, which isolated from their product appear like an abstract masterpiece, or one of Gustav Klimt’s dazzlingly paintings. Klimt is known now as the undisputed icon of Art Nouveau painting. His ‘gold period’ even blurs the lines between interior décor and painting. But we would recommend one of his Byzantine-inspired landscapes, such as The Tree of Life, or his A Field of Poppies, which seems even more suggestive of vast riches than his gold-flake paintings.
Stage 14Art Nouveau Ornaments
Art Nouveau ornaments are far more common than dedicated architectural examples, so it is far more likely that if you have a taste for the style, you have chosen to express it through some finely chosen pieces of objet d’art. Two examples of how the Art Nouveau legacy has survived into the present day can be seen in the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Wiener Werkstätte Style. Still a household name in luxury home furnishings and jewelry, the Tiffany Company was the success story of the era. It successfully outlived Art Nouveau and maintained its glamorous allure well into the Art Deco period. The man himself, Louis Comfort Tiffany, famously turned his hand to stained glass design, no doubt inspired by William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement.
Tiffany Lamps, with their astonishingly intricate balance of light, are the most famous manifestation of his craft. Whereas in Europe, the Wiener Werkstätte, meaning the Vienna Workshop, was where the finest ornaments created in the Art Nouveau era were produced. Their kitchenware in particular is bold, stylized, and unashamedly quirky. The works of Koloman Moser, a key figure at the time, would be an ideal choice for any truly original kitchen.
Stage 15De Stijl
If you’re a fan of design classics then you’ve certainly heard of Gerrit Rietveld’s 'Red and Blue Chair'. It is an avant-garde masterpiece and a pioneering work of functional, beautiful design. Sure, it’s a common design now, but this was the original. Imagine seeing it for the first time. The fact is, if modern furniture and décor is more your taste, then no doubt you’ll own something that was inspired by Rietveld’s design. He created it in parallel with the De Stijl movement in the Netherlands.
The style grew out of both Post-Impressionism and Cubism, and was one of the first Avant-garde movements to turn its hand to interior décor. Any modern, stark, and minimal piece of statement-furniture would match perfectly with a De Stijl painting. Try Theo van Doesburg’s Still Life with Apples, with a painted frame integrated within the picture, or anything by Piet Mondrian, whose instantly recognizable abstract experiments would provide a sense of balance, disorder, and asymmetry in any modern home.
Stage 16Art Deco Furniture
After the golden age of pre-World War I Art Nouveau, the roaring 1920s and 1930s were dominated by Art Deco. Having grown out of Cubism, Art Deco emphasized geometric forms, sleek, streamlined designs, and held a special priority for certain materials such as walnut wood and Bakelite. As one of the most popular revival styles in the sphere of contemporary interior décor, Art Deco is most noticeable in its exuberant use of chrome metal, deep black stone, and Egyptian-style monumentality. To heighten the sense of Art Deco glamour without choosing an overtly Art Deco painting, Arthur Hacker’s Neoclassical studies are a fine choice.
But if Jazz Age fun is what you are after, Georges Barbier’s Farewell is a joyous celebration of this unparalleled age of glamour. While William Ablett’s 1920 painting The Flapper perfectly sums up the attitude and dress of the new feminine styles that went hand-in-hand with Art Deco interiors.
But it wasn’t until 1928, when the Art Deco style was well and truly engrained on the masses, did the modern age of interior design truly begin. While working at a German art school called the Bauhaus, Marcel Breuer designed another classic chair, the tubular-steel cantilever chair known as Wassily. This stark and simple design, as well as a series of iconic lamps, turned the Bauhaus style into a household name. Already by the 1930s works of Bauhaus interior décor were the stuff of high art, as can be seen in Tibor Boromisza’s fine vision of bohemia meeting modernity. The Bauhaus school created the definition of the applied arts and the incorporation of design into everyday objects.
Their legacy can be seen in every single modern design, every kitchen refitting, and every fold-out chair, To accompany any home replete with smart designs and minimal themes, try works by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, whose approach to abstraction and beauty helped shape a lot of the ideas that drove the Bauhaus school.
Stage 18Vintage and Shabby Chic
If there is one thing that’s dominating the tastes of interior designers worldwide, it’s the shabby chic style and the vintage revolution. For the past decade, vintage fashion has crept from thrift-store loving bohemians to furniture shops across the globe. Even wallpaper designers have gotten in on the act. While vintage and shabby chic is very hard to define as a coherent style, it does involve a fair amount of pastel colors, throwback nostalgia, and some sandpaper-and-brush distressing. A pastel masterpiece in both senses of the word, Edgar Degas’ Blue Dancers retains both a sense of bohemian cool while upholding its fine-art credentials. Its unique, snapshot-style angle also gives it a sense of imbalance that would work well in a vintage room.
Retro film posters used to be the reserve of dedicated collectors, but due to the vintage craze can now be bought at most neighborhood street markets. If you want your home to truly stand out, try Kazimir Malevich’s 1926 poster for the silent film Doctor Mabuzo, or Mieczyslaw Szczuka poster from the same year which kickstarted a long lineage of Polish film poster art.
Stage 19Modern, Mass-Produced, and Minimal
We haven’t said the word yet, but you knew it was coming: what about Ikea? Although it may adorn the homes of half the world, Ikea is nothing to be embarrassed about. It may be soulless and mass-produced, but it’s also truly egalitarian: everyone has the same. Modern mass-produced and minimal design grew out of Bauhaus’ desire for beautiful and functional designs to make their way into everyday life. It all started when Scandinavian designer Alvar Aalto made a stackable three-legged stool that promoted the mass-industrialization of simple, useable furniture. To heighten the appeal of any Ikea-furnished home, it is best to look to the abstract, non-figurative, and experimental paintings of the European avant garde of the early twentieth-century.
El Lissitzky’s Soviet propaganda poster Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge is also ideal for an Ikea-assembled room, appearing, as it does like the hieroglyphic flat-pack assembly instructions. But for a faultless classic, Mark Rothko’s 1962 White and Black in Blue is a perfect tribute to Ikea, that big blue building block we all love to hate. Umberto Boccioni’s 1913 Furutist painting Dynamism of a Cyclist remains startlingly modern a century after it was first painted.
Stage 20Mix and Match
But if, like many of us, you want to decorate a room that is a mix and match of some, or all, of the previous styles, then there is a wealth of choice out there. In fact, choosing the right painting for a varied and mixed room has the potential to tie the room together and unite all of the disparate elements into a coherent whole. The art styles of Decoupage and Collage would work perfectly in a room like this. Both are the arts of cutting things out and pasting them back together into a new, surprising, and refreshing whole. Some of Henri Matisse’s finest later works were completed in the Decoupage style, particularly his 1952 Blue Nude series. As for collage, some of the early modernists made entire careers out of the cut and paste style, while others, like Juan Gris and Marcel Duchamp, incorporated the cut and paste collage style into their Cubist masterworks.