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Rooms with a (Historical) View

Libi Astaire

Most people know that a mirror on the wall makes a small room look bigger, but who would think it also helps a person look wealthier? Would you think a Formica tabletop exciting? Some of today’s typical interior design elements were once extraordinary innovations that turned a plain room into a showplace — while showing the world a great deal about the owner’s status and values. Enjoy a quick survey of a few interior design “wow” ideas from the past 2,000 years.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

historical houseImagine living in a house without windows. No sunlight streaming in. No views of flowers and trees. It would make most of us climb the walls. But people living in the ancient world, such as the Greeks and Romans, came up with a unique solution. Instead of climbing their dark, dreary walls, they painted them.  

Frescoes — wall paintings that employ a technique in which pigment is painted on wet plaster — added color, interest, and even the illusion of light to the homes of wealthy families. During those days before photography, a fresco might depict the members of the family, preserving their images for posterity. Another popular theme was a landscape with intricate detail — perhaps a garden scene complete with birds flying in the sky and delicate tree branches that seem to bend in harmony with a breeze.

Depicting a faux architectural element, such as painting a few fake marble columns on a back wall, was also popular, since it created an illusion of both wealth and more space. Another optical illusion in fashion in those days was drawing fake paintings on the wall, creating an instant art collection with a few strokes of the brush.

There was a downside to frescoes, though. If the homeowner tired of the scene, the only way to remove it was to tear down the wall. It’s no wonder people began to seek other ways to decorate their rooms.


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