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The Art Nouveau Design Style

Art Nouveau was an international art style that flourished from around 1890 until 1914. It is sometimes confused with Art Deco, which is more dynamic. Art Nouveau is more organic. A famous example is the design of the Paris Metro sign. Gaudi, Tiffany, Klimt, Mucha, and Toulouse-Lautrec are some of the most famous practitioners of the Art Nouveau movement. It is a style whose popularity has never really waned. It can be used to create a very elegant, engaging, and comfortable design or remodel. 

Art Nouveau Style Architecture

Just as Art Nouveau is a fusion of art and design, when it comes to remodeling, Art Nouveau can manifest as a fusion of architecture and interior design. Asymmetry is common.

  • Rounding off hard angles is the first step to creating a more Art Nouveau space. 

  • Taken a bit further the whiplash line can undulate, creating cavernous spaces.

  • Soaring Gaudi style tapered stalagmite-like columns can add a feeling of height.

  • Other repeated, rhythmic elements such as waves can add a feeling of movement.

  • Carving curves in exposed beams can create a curvilinear ceiling canopy. 

Art Nouveau Materials

When it comes to materials, Art Nouveau did still draw inspiration from nature, but was also experimental. It embraced the optimism and innovations of the turning of the last century before the Great War. 

  • Art Glass: Tiffany style glass can be incorporated not just into windows but into door panels, glass-fronted cabinetry, and mirror frames.

  • Wrought iron: It can be used in naturalistic designs in shower rods, bar/wine racks, bannisters, window bars, honeycomb peep holes, etc.

  • Woodwork: Similar detail can be carved into layered wooden elements, such as doors, window frames, exposed beams, and cabinets.

  • Tiles: These decorative elements can be used in floors, shower walls, kitchen islands where each individual tile bears the design.

  • Mosaic: Common Art Nouveau motifs include insects, birds, animals, flowers, fruits, trees, leaves, and vines.

Art Nouveau Colors and Finishes

The color schemes favored by Art Nouveau painters reflect the hues of the natural world.  The same is therefore reflected in Art Nouveau as an interior design style.

  • Bright, but natural colors: Tiffany glass derives its brilliance from impurities in the glass itself, making it a natural blue.

  • Natural metal patinas

  • Ocean Blue, Emerald, and Forest Green

  • Red Clay and Earthen Brown
  • Flecked Gold: Painters actually used real gold leaf on their canvas.  Today's flecked gold may be artificial, but representative of natural gold hues making their way organically into the design.

Art Nouveau Furniture and Decor

Art Nouveau furnishings are often categorized under other names of related national art movements, such as De Stijl, Stile Liberty, Style Nancy, Jugendstil, Glasgow Style, Modernisme Catalan, and Viennese Secession. Five Art Nouveau architects also designed furniture to mesh into their architectural spaces. 

  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh: perhaps best known for his willow chairs and other high back chairs, often designed in collaboration with his wife

  • Antoni Gaudi: mainly known for detail elements such as butterfly knobs, also designed furniture such as the Calvert mirror and benches

  • Victor Horta: created some fantastical pieces such as a clock floating in metal tendrils 

  • Hector Guimard: most famous for the "smoking bench" as featured in the Musee d'Orsay

  • Henry Van de Velde: designed furniture like bending double bed headboards and chairs with radiating ribbed backs 

Art Nouveau Lighting

If one can afford but one splurge on an Art Nouveau design or remodel, let it be lighting. Art Nouveau goes way beyond Tiffany lamps. Here are some other popular marks:

  • Look for lighting with an iridescent sheen 

  • Bold combinations of shapes

  • Colored glass or tiffany glass, earthen colors

  • Matte, natural finishes yet contrasting brilliant bulb placement

At Urban Ambiance, we are here to help you. Whether you want something Art Nouveau, or you'd like to replicate the vintage style of your grandparents, we have many light options to help. Contact us to learn more about this and other styles.