The other day, after the post about blue paint colors, Val wrote this comment concerning interior architecture:
Of course, there are some informative ones on the blog already. But, there are more posts about wall colors than interior architecture blog posts. People still notice color commonly than architecture. Yes, you said this many times Laurel, but I beg you to write more about interior architecture! Please; pretty please!?!
Well, Val isn’t the only one who’s asked me about interior architecture. And, she’s right. It’s a very important topic. And, it’s one that I’ve said over and over is actually far more important than paint colors.
It’s also the most difficult one to change. Well, most of the time.
In fact, I feel that if I had to put in order the elements of a room in order of importance, it would be:
- Furnishings, including all of the wonderful details that make the space
It’s true. If you have a room with exquisite interior architecture, a lot can be forgiven if the other three are lacking.
Lighting, I have put in second place because if the lighting sucks, it doesn’t matter how beautiful everything else is. Poor lighting in a room is like a model with a really bad hair day. Sure, she’s still gorgeous, but not nearly as much as when her hair is looking great too.
Color, as you can see, is last on the list. And yet, it’s the one element that folks frequently consider first. And, it’s not that color is not essential. They are all critical. But, I have found that when everything else is in place, the wall color matters far less.
But, any one of these elements gone horribly awry can muck up a space.
The other day, a very nice reader sent me a photo of her home. However, I am not going to post it. The outside looked okay for the most part. But, the inside, IMO, was largely an architectural misstep.
- Bad proportions
- Overscale entry
- strange pitched ceilings
Oh, I’m trying to be nice. It isn’t easy.
I feel strongly that there’s no excuse for this. It’s like a restaurant that serves lousy food. THAT is ALL they do. Shouldn’t it be good food?
She wanted to know what to do about the paint colors. As y’all know, I can’t give specific advice about stuff like that. The only thing I said was to paint all the walls, ceiling, angles – ONE COLOR.
Just paint it out. Don’t call attention to what’s wrong. And then focus later on the furnishings that will make the spaces beautiful.
But, this highlights a widespread problem.
If one has a home and the interior architecture is not so great. And, money is tight. What do you do?
Well, many times, some big improvements can be making some small interior architecture changes like adding mouldings. There are lots of posts about interior architectural mouldings. I am going to link all of them here throughout the post.
But first, I want to talk about the elements of interior architecture. And, when I say that, I am referring specifically to classical interior architecture.
You’ll also hear me bantering that word around a lot.
Classical. Specifically classical architecture.
To give better context, let’s do a short history of Classical Architecture.
And then, I think this will give better context on how we arrived at where we are today. We’ll also look at the work of some modern-day architectural classicists, who are thankfully keeping this oft-forgotten art alive.
Despite all of the commotion of modernism and that hideous post-modernism of the 19th century. Fortunately, there have been those that have quietly been working in the classical idiom.
So many exquisite examples of classical architecture were destroyed in the post-war period. But thankfully, enough people came to their senses in the last two decades of the 20th century and cried out.
Hey, just hang on a red-hot minute. These buildings are gorgeous! Why are we not just fixing them up instead of tearing them down?
Like this one of Grand Central Station taken by me last December.
And then, thankfully, the madness largely stopped.
Classical architecture, most of us know, had its beginnings in the advanced culture of Ancient Greece. This began around 900 BC.
Limestone, plentiful in the region, was used as the building material of choice for the important buildings of the day, such as temples and theatres.
Remember, this is the quick version. :]
At some point, the Romans got involved.
Between the two cultures, they created five classical orders.
What is an order? An order in classical architecture are the elements of the exterior building structure that are subject to a set of uniform established proportions. An order is basically the components of an elaborate post and lintel system.
What is a post and lintel?
Well, in its most basic form, seen here at Stonehenge. It’s a post and beam.
A BIG beam.
The Greeks refined this basic form of architecture, and the Romans further refined it into the five fundamental orders.
The five orders are as follows:
Vitruvius was the Roman architect in the last 100 BC years who wrote about the five orders of architecture.
However, about 40 years later, around 1562, the artist Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola penned his version of the five classical orders of architecture.
As a matter of fact, this one below dates back to 1590 and is available on First Dibs for only $7,900.00!!!
Iacomo Barozzio Da Vignola
I would definitely stay on his good side while he’s holding his compass!
“Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture” by Iacomo Barozzio Da Vignola For Sale at 1stdibs
As you can see, each order consists of a base, column, capital, and an entablature.
Or, maybe you can’t see that. haha. It’s actually phenomenally complex.
The entablature is probably the least well-known of these elements. And, this was the most simplistic illustration I could find. The entablature consists of a cornice, frieze, and architrave.
And then a bunch of other elements. But, this is not supposed to be a doctoral thesis on the five orders of classical architecture.
Okay. I know. I know. This is supposed to be about INTERIOR architecture.
Well, it all applies. We have these elements quite often inside, as well. And, of course, many more elements. But, since I haven’t discussed these elements this thoroughly before, except for this post which I very much recommend that you read. It ties in very nicely.
Thus, the classical architecture had a resurgence during the renaissance, especially in Italy.
And then again in the late 18th century into the middle of the 19th century. These are the neo-classical/Federal into Greek Revival styles and are the ones I talk about the most.
But, then there was yet another boon in classicism beginning at the end of the 19th century until about 1920 in the United States called Beaux-Arts.
And then, of course, is the oft-published Bronxville home built in the beaux-arts period, circa 1910, that was privileged to work on a few years ago. The columns are in the ionic order. You can see more images of this architectural gem in my portfolio.
Seriously. I say this all of the time. Sure, you could muck this space up. But, it doesn’t take much to make these rooms show stoppers because they are inherently showstoppers with nothing in them!
However, classicism went by the wayside soon after.
The onset of the great depression and then World War II gave rise to the Bauhaus and Modern movements.
That is, until the latter part of the 20th century, but in the bastardized form of “post-modern classicism.” Not that it’s all bad. But, much of it is filled with poorly constructed, hideously proportioned buildings.
And, now, you’re coming to me asking what color you should paint it.
The problem is, you know it’s wrong. You know instinctively that it’s wrong because it’s like when you were a little girl, and you put on your mother’s clothes. They don’t fit right.
However, my solution for bad architecture is to paint the walls white.
If the architecture isn’t bad but lacking because the builder was too cheap to do it the right way, you can always add applied architectural mouldings.
We did that in our townhouse, and it made such a big difference that a couple of the neighbors went out and did the same thing!
But, Laurel, you haven’t given us much about classical interior architecture.
Well, actually, I don’t mean to contradict you, but I have.
You see, in every post that discusses a room’s architecture, 95% of the rooms feature elements of classical interior architecture.
Also, here is a list of posts that feature many elements that I think you’ll find helpful.
Those are just some of the posts I can think of.
The good news if you’re building now is that we are in the middle of yet another classical architectural period that is called “The New Classical Architecture.”
One of the proponents of keeping the art of classical architecture alive is the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.
There are several branches throughout the US. And one of them is New York City. Last December, I attended a beautiful luncheon where I heard Charlotte Moss speaking and met Maura Endres, who I adore featuring.
In addition, the wonderful trip I took in the fall of 2017 to England was through the ICAA.
This will link to a terrific article with more info and images about classical architectural elements. And, it was precisely to see and study dozens of examples of exquisite classical architecture, both new and old.
Please enjoy the following posts with hi-lights of the incredible gardens and classically-styled architecture I saw in that one week. I was in heaven the entire time.
The last part of this post will feature the new guard of classical architects.
You, classical musicians and enthusiasts, know that Haydn (nicknamed Papa Haydn) was the father of classical music and influenced other classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, Rossini.
Well, the Papa Haydn of Classical Architecture is Quinlan Terry.
I was fortunate to meet Mr. Terry, but we were hosted to a wonderful evening in their exquisite home in England.
A classic vignette from their lovely living room. Photo by me.
And, another shot I took of Mr. Terry and his equally charming wife outside their home, Higham Hall in Suffolk, UK.
Hi, son Frances Terry worked with his father for about 20 years but has gone off on his own in recent years.
Frances Terry, Ben Pentreath, and George Saumarez Smith are discussed in this post as the new guard of classical architects in the UK.
In the US, we have many fabulous classical architects. Here are three of my favorites. And all three have the most exquisitely tasteful websites.
Timothy Bryant is a new name to me in the realm of classical architecture. However, his work, I think, is stunning.
Another beauty by Timothy Bryant.
Well, I hope that between the words on this page and the links to other posts, that this will become a source to go back to when looking for info about interior architecture.
But, also, how it all came to be.
Thankfully, there is a renewed interest in that which is classical. I have always been drawn to the classical forms. I wish you could see my projects from design school from 1988-1991. But, since you can’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
In addition, Serena and Lily has put all of their gorgeous custom upholstery on sale, but only through 7/22 at 11:59 PM PT. There is much more to see on the hot sales pages!