Defining the Art Nouveau Style and Its Role in Current Interior Design Trends

As seen throughout history, design styles are a collective movement in response to an era, and they often borrow elements from previous decades and trends. At Amity Kett, our interior designers and architects love the bold and organic inspiration of Art Nouveau design, which came to be at the turn of the 19th century and has made resurgences in the 1960s and again today. We are going to define the Art nouveau style and design elements, review the history of the movement, and explain how this old world style is again making appearances in modern home design. 

Defining the Art Nouveau Style 

Art Nouveau design started in Britain in the late 1800s and quickly became popular across Europe before moving to the US and other parts of the world. It was a direct response against industrialization and standardization by artists and designers who chose to embrace the natural and organic forms found in nature. The style is characterized by asymmetrical and curved lines, a combination of dynamic materials, and earthy colors.

The goal of Art Nouveau was to modernize design, escape past trends, and create something unexpected but also familiar. Designers drew most of their inspiration from organic forms, like the curve of a plant stem or the color of a flower bud. The movement celebrates the youthful spirit and incorporates elements of play and surprise. 

The Elements of Art Nouveau Design 

Colors Inspired by Nature 

Art Nouveau draws inspiration from the color palette already provided by nature. Designers incorporated muted greens and browns as the base of their designs and accented with rich mustard yellows, vibrant blues, dark reds, and deep violets. 

Combination of Materials 

The Art Nouveau movement was guided by a dynamic spirit. With access to more modern materials and means of production, striking combinations were created from iron, glass, ceramics, concrete, and wood to create unusual forms inspired by free form lines.  

Organic Lines and Movement

Drawing inspiration from plants, Art Nouveau abandoned straight edge lines in favor of flowing lines, intricate repeating patterns, and asymmetry for an organic feel. Ornamentation was also inspired by flowers and insects for a delicate look, and repetition was utilized to stress that the space is alive and moving, like the organic world it’s inspired by. 

Art Nouveau History 

Origins of Art Nouveau 

The Art Nouveau movement originated in Britain with the floral designs of William Morris in the late 1800s. The design style quickly spread through Europe and the rest of the world and was most popular between 1890 and 1910. When thinking of Art Nouveau design, Parisian architecture and the designs of Gaudí in Barcelona often come to mind.  

Art Nouveau comes from a French term meaning “New Art,” which reflects the spirit of the movement and the trajectory away from the aesthetics of the time. Designers of the movement rejected the styles formed as a result of the industrial revolution and responded by embracing the pre-industrial world through organic and natural forms. The organic lines, intricate patterns, and diverse materials of the style ironically were made possible by modern industry and showcased modern technological advances while embracing natural elements.   

Art Nouveau was replaced by the Art Deco style in the 1920s and eventually paved the way to organic design and modernism in the mid-century. 

Art Nouveau Inspires Organic Design

Organic architecture and design focus on the harmony between humans and nature. This includes not only integrating the structure into the site for a unified composition but also thinking of the home as its own functional organism. This places a heavy emphasis on material selection and guiding motifs that build repetition and flow. Inspiration for organic design has clear roots in the Art Nouveau movement, which took inspiration from nature and utilized repeating patterns for a sense of movement and flow.  

The term “organic architecture” was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright and a perfect example of the style is the Fallingwater residence he designed in 1935. 

Art Nouveau’s Resurgence into Modernism 

While Art Nouveau began to make an appearance again in organic design, it had a full resurgence during the late 1960s thanks to an unexpected source of lasting design inspiration: hippies and psychedelic culture. 

Hippie culture originated in San Francisco during the late 60s and has surprisingly similar trends and movements as the Art Nouveau period. The culture and its aesthetics quickly spread throughout the world through posters and album art, as did Art Nouveau when the design style appeared in ads, posters, and art for places like the Moulin Rouge. 

Similar to Art Nouveau’s rejection of industrialism, the hippie movement was created as a response against the military-industrial complex and again embraced organic forms found in nature. Art Nouveau designs were reborn with new inspiration. Art, fabrics, and wallpapers embraced organic shapes and curves, flowers, and peacocks, and turned up the volume with electric and saturated colors. 

Art Nouveau in Current Interior Design Trends 

The Art Nouveau influence is again making appearances in current design trends, but with a modern twist. At Amity Kett, we are seeing a home design movement that favors natural materials and organic shapes with a contemporary feel. Again, we have started to favor a return to nature and are seeking a more connected feel to the outside world within our modern homes. 

Muted earthy tones are being combined with other Art Nouveau elements like sinuous lines, floral elements, and features like natural edge wood. Organically shaped furniture is making an appearance, along with houseplants and floral print fabrics. As we welcome a new chapter of Art Nouveau design, we can’t wait to incorporate these enduring organic elements into our future projects. 

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