The Incredibly Interesting History of Interior Design

June 22, 2020

How did decorating spaces become a thing? What spurred certain design styles? Who influenced the industry? Find out in this history of interior design.



The term 'interior designer' wasn't used by contemporary society until the early 1900s. However, the art of creating and enlivening indoor spaces dates back to the earliest human societies.


The history of interior design is a long and rich one, dating across many centuries and all kinds of different cultures. Design styles may have come and gone, but the desire to create a special kind of interior environment? It has never faded from human consciousness.


Ready to drive into a brief history of the world of interior design? Read on below and we'll walk you through some of the major highlights.


Interior Design in Ancient Times


Even if we slide far, far back into the earliest human civilizations, we'll find evidence of the importance of interior design. Some of the most interesting designs from early human civilizations belong to the Egyptians, the Romans, and the Greeks.


Egyptian Interior Design


The Ancient Egyptians put a huge focus on interior design. Many artifacts of this obsession live on to this day and can be visited in museums around the world.


Egyptian families were often known to enhance indoor living areas by adding various pieces of furniture. These furniture pieces were covered in animal skins or textiles. They were also huge fans of painted pottery, vases, and wall murals as added touches to a space.


Over time, the Egyptians also became quite big fans of sculpture. It would not be uncommon for Egyptian interior space to have several sculpted items located throughout.


Greek and Roman Design


The Greeks and Romans both looked to the Egyptians as a main source of inspiration for their own sense of décor. The focus on paintings, mosaics, and intricate vases were carried into Greek and Roman culture.


The Romans tended to focus their interior design on the areas of beauty and comfort. The goal of interior design for many Romans was to show wealth, status, and class. If you had reached a certain level of organized society, you were to demonstrate it through your interior decoration.


The Greeks had slightly less emphasis on class and focused on the design of intricate and beautiful furniture. Interior design continued to expand and grow as a focus under these two massive civilizations.


Rebirth and Renaissance of Interior Design


Roman and Greek architecture continued to evolve over the hundreds of years that passed into what is commonly referred to as gothic architecture. This architecture was popular throughout Europe over the course of the Middle Ages.


Interior design trends moved alongside this evolution, which had a focus on grand spaces and a spiritual, even minimalistic bent. The focus was not on wealth on Earth but on servitude to a higher power and a life after death.


This remained mostly consistent until the Renaissance period swept across Europe and much of the world. This period was known as a 'rebirth' for much of the art and cultural world, and interior design trends followed suit.


A certain gentle expressionistic air replaced the hard-edged gothic preferences. A focus on wealth, lushness, and abundance was returned to, as it had been during the earlier civilizations.


This is partly because all focus on interior design during this time was still decided by the rich and wealthy. That included kings and influential politicians, who often would bring in artists and talented designers to help improve interior spaces.


Contemporary Changes in Interior Design


European trends in architecture and interior design continued to evolve across the centuries that followed. Social and technological advances helped to increase the quality of life and individuality of many around the world.


This helped to democratize the practice of interior design, moving it out of the realm of exclusively the rich and wealthy. Interior design, in a way, started to become an important aspect of individual expression as opposed to a signifier of status.


Various design trends came and went following this explosion of change and access. The most notable was the Art Deco boom of the post-WWI era. Art Deco was one of the first flushes of what we would consider modernity in interior design trends.


It was around this time that the idea of an interior decorator began to emerge as an actual position and career. An interior designer of this time (and today as well) would be incredibly well-versed in the many styles of design from years previous.


They would be able to come to look at a space and apply the appropriate style to bring it to life. They could do this to help bring a client's vision to life or to guide a less-than-informed individual on how best to design their home.


This could be in a task simple as choosing a color scheme or as complicated as how best to apply Gothic design trends to a modern aesthetic.


Today there are hundreds of thousands of skilled interior decorators working to bring interior spaces to life across the country. Trends to continue to develop, expand, and change. Though it can be hard to imagine it, today is just another step along the way in the long and storied history of interior design.


Exploring the History of Interior Design


As long as civilizations have existed, interior decoration has been a uniquely human obsession. The above primer on the history of interior design can give you some background on how the practice has led up to what we know today.


Need more information about home design? Keep scrolling our blog for more.


Tatjana Faplo
I am a professional writer and editor with a rich history of writing experiences. In the past, I've worked for glossy magazines, branding agencies, creative institutions, architectural and design firms, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and health foundations.

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