Art Nouveau : Style & Decor


Origins and History of Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is an ornamental style of art prevalent between 1890 and 1910 in Europe and the United States. It was characterized by the use of long and sinuous organic lines and was employed in everything from interior design and architecture to illustrations and jewellery design. The term Art Nouveau was coined by the periodical L’Art Moderne in Belgium for describing the works of Les Vingt and S. Bing. The Art Nouveau style was employed by many artists and designers. Some prominent ones include Belgian architects Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde, a Scottish designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and French architect Hector Guimard. Antonio Gaudi, a Spanish sculptor and architect, is considered one of the most original artists of the Art Nouveau movement.

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Art Nouveau was influenced by different art styles like Japonism and Celtic art. The immediate precursor of this style was the Aestheticism of Aubrey Beardsley whose work depended on the expressive organic line. It was also preceded by William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement. The linear patterns of ukiyo-e Japanese prints also had some influence. This style could be applied to a lot of artistic aspects like fine arts, decoration and architecture. As the movement spread around the world, it took on many names. For instance, in Italy, it was called Stile Liberty and in Germany, it was called Jugendstil.
The style was considered limited and old fashioned after 1910 and was soon abandoned. However, it was suddenly rehabilitated in the 1960s through exhibitions at the Musee National d’Art Moderne in 1960 and Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1959. The status of this movement was elevated through such exhibitions and it was soon considered at the same level as other major art movements that took place in the 19th century.

What is Art Nouveau?

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Art Nouveau goes by many names but the look of this particular style is quite unmistakable. This movement flourished in Europe between the late 18th century and the early 19th century. It is also known as Stile Floreale, Jugendstil and Sezessionsstil. The expressive designs of architects like Antoni Gaudi became famous with their colourful flourishes and iron and glass detailed work. The exteriors as well as the interiors of Art Nouveau buildings were equally ornate and decorated with custom furnishings and exquisite materials. The wall treatments were hand-painted as well. This style had a lot of romantic flairs and emphasized craftsmanship while industrialization was spreading during that time. You can still see a lot of beautiful examples of Art Nouveau architecture around the world from places like Scotland to Latvia.
The distinguishing characteristic of the style is the undulating asymmetrical line which often takes the form of insect wings, flower stalks, floral buds, vine tendrils and other natural objects. This line could be graceful and elegant but it could also have a whiplike force to it. The approach employed in Art Nouveau architecture is one that was completely opposed to the traditional values of clarity of structure and reason.

Element: Art nouveau style interior design and decoration

Although Art Nouveau is considered a very lavish and exaggerated style that is expensive, it can be beautifully incorporated into modern homes. The feminine and sweeping shapes of Art Nouveau decor add sophisticated beauty to any space.
Here are some ways in which Art Nouveau style can be emulated into interior design.


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The colours in Art Nouveau style are usually soft and muted. A colour palette consisting of browns, greys, lilacs and olives is suitable. Patterned wallpapers were a popular feature of this style but the spectacularly excessive designs might not be as suitable for modern-day homes. However, creating a single accent wall with an Art Nouveau wallpaper design would create an authentic effect.


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A wood finish or parquet floor helps in recreating an authentic Art Nouveau interior. You can choose some mid-toned wood or whitewash the floor as well


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The Tiffany lamp is a perfect choice for lighting in the Art Nouveau style. Stained glass shades mounted on a base of heavy bronze is one of the iconic elements of the style.


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To achieve the Art Nouveau effect in decor, you need to focus on ornamentation and decoration. Doors can have stained glass and leading that is shaped like leaves and stalks. Furnishings with straight or curved lines moving upwards is another feature. Colourful glass can be a feature in everything from wardrobes to cabinets and is reminiscent of the style.

Architectural examples of Art Nouveau:

Ban Puen Palace, Phetchaburi

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Ban Puen Palace or Phra Ram Ratchaniwet Palace is a European style palace located in Phetchaburi province, Thailand. The palace was commissioned by King Chulalongkorn the Great and finished in 1916. He wanted to use it as a retreat during the rainy season but did not live in the palace since he passed away in 1910. The Palace of Kaiser Wilhelm was taken as the main inspiration behind the design of Ban Puen Palace. It was designed by Karl Siegfried Dohring, a German architect who also designed other prominent structures like Varadis Palace. The architectural style of this palace is influenced by Baroque as well as Art Nouveau. The elegant two-storey building has spacious and bright rooms which are decorated in a luxurious way. It has a high mansard roof and rectangular roof plan. The right-wing has a domed circular hall while a large fractable is present in the front facade. Currently, the palace is a museum and is registered as an ancient monument.

Casa Batlló

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Casa Batllo in Barcelona is one of the architectural landmarks of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Antoni Gaudi expressed his exuberant take on the Art Nouveau style through this structure. Located on Passeig de Gracia, the exteriors of the building feature broken ceramic pieces in many colours. Casa Batllo has a poetic design with an undulating roof allegory that features Saint George as he kills a dragon. The building was originally built by Emilio Sala Cortes in 1877 but later commissioned to Gaudi who completely transformed the structure between 1904 and 1906.

Castel Béranger

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Castel Beranger was designed by a prominent French architect and designer, Hector Guimard. Located at 14 rue de la Fontaine in Paris, it was the first apartment building made in the Art Nouveau style in the city. Guimard was influenced by the work of Victor Pierre Horta who is considered one of the founders of the style. When he saw the Hotel Tassel designed by Horta, he convinced his client to let him build the apartment building in a similar way. Guimard was involved in every aspect of the project from designing the furniture to picking out doorknobs. There was abundant ornamentation in the building without it being overwhelming. It was inspired by natural structures and forms like the curving stems of flowers and plants. The building features polychrome stained glass, molten copper, glazed bricks, Pierre de taille and wood. Many features of the building are also associated with the Gothic style like the corners with overhanging turrets. The devil and mask designs in the balconies caused the building to get the name “house of devils.”

The Paris Metro Entrance (Edicule Porte Dauphine)

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The Art Nouveau metro entrances in Paris are a part of its distinctive architecture. The avant-garde entryways were designed by Hector Guimard and are a symbol of the Golden Age of Art of the city. As the Metro was being built around the early 1900s, the Paris Metropolitan Railway Company wanted to make the new underground system aesthetically pleasing for the public. This is why they commissioned Guimard for designing the entryways as elegantly as possible. Guimard then decided to craft these entryways in cast iron set in concrete and had them painted in a green shade similar to oxidized brass. Using cast iron, he could create the curved forms characteristic of the Art Nouveau style. The concrete element allowed him to add sculpted details to each design. The edicule or kiosk metro entrance he built has a fan-like awning that is made of glass. This design is inspired by one of the major motifs of Art Nouveau; dragonflies. There are only two original edicule entrances that still exist in the city now. Another entryway designed by him is called entourage or enclosure. It has two lamp posts in a serpentine design which are joined with a sinuous arch. The glowing red orbs at the top of each post are similar to flower buds or the eyes of an insect. There are 86 remaining Art Nouveau entrances designed by Guimard all around Paris.

Hotel Tassel

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Hotel Tassel or The Tassel House is often touted as the first building in the Art nouveau style. This townhouse was designed and built by Victor Horta in 1893. Located in Brussels. It incorporates Neo-Rococo elements with Neo-Gothic style. The octagonal hall with the central staircase that led to different levels is one of its most important features. The curved lines of the Art Nouveau style are present all over starting from the staircase to the facade. The dull green columns anchoring the space were a feature through which Horta emphasized structure. His style was inspired by nature and this is evident in the swirling and linear designs. The rooms were shaped irregularly and they opened onto each other freely at different levels. Victor Horta was one of the major influencers in European, French and Belgian design. Hotel Tassel is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is a prime example of Art Nouveau style.
The Art Nouveau movement was relatively short-lived but left its mark on the world. It bridged the gap between Neoclassicism and the modernist style. The iconic imprints of this style are quite popular in interior designs these days. However, Art Nouveau is not as straightforward as other decor styles like Bohemian or industrial styles. This is why it can be a little difficult for the layman to incorporate Art Nouveau elements into an interior without some professional help. Please contact Bareo for our experienced professionals to help you achieve this classy and aristocratic design style in your home or office.
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