Everything Elevated

Inspiration BoardThe aesthetically appointed home.

by Theresa Rolen Long   


“Have nothing in your house that has not given pleasure to the man who made it and is not a pleasure to those who use it. Have nothing in your house that is not useful or beautiful.” –Oscar Wilde, “The House Beautiful,” 1882

What exactly did Faustian book author Oscar Wilde know about interior design? And what is the relevance of Wilde’s super-hot, corrupted aristocrat character, who enjoyed exquisite perma-youth while his portrait, depicting an increasingly gnarled soul, aged horrifically in the attic? The Picture of Dorian Gray was deemed scandalous upon publication. So, Wilde edited the book, attaching a preface explaining his desire for the work to stand on its themes of the value of beauty, the purpose of art, and the role of artists in society. He spent a decade championing aestheticism as an anti-thesis to the Victorian way of forging didactic political and social statements via literature, music, fine arts, and dress. He toured North America, expounding Walter Pater’s philosophies and lecturing on interior decorating. Wilde’s message was simple: Art is not limited to the fine arts, and beauty lies in all things, including artistic handicrafts for the home, such as wallpaper, furnishings, and carvings.

The Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century reinterpreted the intent of decorative arts—home items should be purposeful and functional, yet must also look good and be sensual. Defined by far eastern influences, angular and ebonized furniture, blue and white china, and themes of nature, the movement emphasized simplistic beauty over the excessive ornamentation of the Victorian age. The peacock feather and Japanese fan became ubiquitous middle class home décor, and artistically designed domestic goods produced by craftsmen in shops became popular. As the movement evolved, every sense was employed to create the perfect home environment. Interiors were further relaxed, honed, and “Japonaised” in periods to follow, such as Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Bauhaus.

Today, elements of aestheticism are gaining relevance. We want beautiful, practical things and special, ordinary things. We want handcrafted everything, touched with an element of humanism. We want to know the elegant chair’s designer, and the brewer of the good beer we are drinking. Increasingly, words like bespoke, custom, and artisanal are everywhere, from furnishing and clothing stores to grocery markets. Makers are elevating their game. Designers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and artists creatively collaborate in communal spaces. Decorators and printmakers release seasonal collections of textiles and wallpaper. And fine arts and trade college degrees are on the rise.

Inspiration Board 3Top hotels and restaurants engage aestheticism, ensuring viability and relevance. They attend to all of your senses the moment you walk in the door. The music, lighting, smells, sounds, scenery, and seating are just right. The overall aura is inviting, comforting, and stimulating. And the design schematic always includes a uniquely unforgettable wow factor.

A modern home that pays respect to the Aesthetic Movement mimics these successful commercial spaces. It is simply and beautifully furnished, decluttered, and decorated with items that nod to nature. Within its wallpapered, wood-clad, and mural-painted walls is an atmosphere filled with ambient light, flowers, music, and the aroma of candles and good food. A fur throw awaits on an overstuffed sofa, and the good china is set on a custom-built table, handcrafted with pride, just for you.

Everything in view is useful and beautiful. Relegate the rest to age in the attic, with Dorian.

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