In many ways the contemporary Western world started across the 1400s in Florence, Italy, when medieval methods of thinking were pushed aside for major changes in art, architecture and interior design. Mainly affecting the strong and wealthy (such as the church clergy), the Renaissance took inspiration from the ancient Romans and Greeks. But instead than replicate them, artists and architects in this time utilized those historical styles to make new ideas in design.
What goes around comes around, and you can see from these examples how the Renaissance still affects design today.
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High ceilings. The city palazzos (palaces) of Renaissance Italy were normally three or more stories, together with the ground floor devoted to entrance, services, stables and storage. The first floor, the piano nobile, housed the main public rooms and bedrooms if space allowed — all with high ceilings. The ceilings have reduced the farther up the house you improved, together with the servants at the very top.
The tendency for large ceilings has continued for centuries. Today high ceilings still give the impression of prestige and grandeur.
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Ceiling details. Renaissance ceilings were usually beamed or coffered and painted in rich colours. While the early Greeks and Romans used stone, wood coffers seen in the expansive Renaissance palazzos continue to be utilized in design today. They really add impact however are well installed on large ceilings and rooms using a grander scale.
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Ornate floors. Renaissance floors were brick, tile or marble and were patterned in checkerboard or more complicated geometric layouts, predominantly in earthy tones. With the introduction of underfloor heating (incidentally, a Roman invention), tiled floors have become a choice even in colder climates. Durable, easy to keep clean and currently available in a variety of colors and layouts, tile floors are enjoying a renaissance now.
Patterned walls. Walls were normally smooth and neutral in colour. However, they were painted with patterns, which would now be translated to background. However, these paint techniques also have been used over the ages, affecting the introduction of stenciling.
Mural fresco painting. Mural fresco painting adorned the walls of the more palatial Renaissance houses. Again, this highly decorative painting has influenced several elaborate wallpapers, while hand painting is earmarked for the experts.
Four-poster beds. The Renaissance saw the invention of the elaborate bed as we understand it. Hand-carved four-posters on elevated platforms needed a canopy for rich-colored curtains to keep out the cold. While mattress designs have evolved, a lot of us still can’t resist a four-poster, so the simple design was adapted for contemporary homes and shifting tastes.
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Silk. Silk was the favorite textile of the Renaissance, utilized in vivid colours for curtains and loose cushions for seats and chair seats. Furnishings were quite minimal at this time, but seats started to increase in variety as an alternate to stools and seats. Thank goodness the early designs have evolved in favor of relaxation!