Moderne Interiors: French and American Historical Design

Both Moderne: Fashioning the French Interior and Interiors: The Home Since 1700 offer insightful looks into the development of modern interior design. Yet both are quite different. Interiors focuses on the North American and Western European design of middle class homes, while Moderne is purely French, filled with full-page plates that began a decorating era of the 1920’s. Both function as interior design schools in book form.

Moderne: Fashioning the French Interior
Moderne: Fashioning the French Interior

Title: Moderne – Fashioning the French Interior
Author: Sarah Schleuning
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press, 269 pages, $65
ISBN: 978-1-56898-724-8
Interiors: The Home Since 1700
From 1700 and beyond, interiors changed dramatically. Interiors documents the tastes and design preferences relevant during this period without regard to class differences. Interior trends of both the wealthy and middle class alike are featured in this historical reference.

Written by Sarah Schleuning, this 269-page book is coffee-table worthy. Its pages are simple and clean, living up to its title. And yet, it is a very real accurate historical portrayal of new design in its developmental stages. It is more pictures than text, but the pictures speak for themselves.

Fashioning the French Interior

Pochoir Drawings

Pochoir is a traditional process that was used to create drawings before color photography was yet developed. The beginning of the 1920’s modern French interior was inspired by portfolios of unbound drawings made in this fashion, and they are reprinted in Moderne in full color. The effect is striking; both simple and compelling.

Inspirational Design

Moderne is a fitting title, even today. The pages are surprisingly inspirational, and the old French design appears modern all over again. A bed pushed against a huge mirror creates instant glamour. A comfortable upholstered chair used as a dining seat in a colorful room is both practical and stylish. This is an art book that also represents art, and reminds us that rooms can and should be more than simply functional. It is both informative and beautiful.

Moderne Interiors - Fashioning the French Interior
Moderne Interiors – Fashioning the French Interior

Full Color Illustrations

Interiors contains more text than pictures, but it is punctuated by beautiful full-color illustrations taken from catalogs and books, as well as paintings and photography. There are close-up examples of fabric trends and color choices popular in Western Europe and North America. Some show working-class families, while others highlight the life of aristocracy.

History of Commonplace Design Elements

Cast iron tubs, cane rocking chairs and floral wallpaper are all commonplace in today’s interiors, which is a testament to the staying power of good design. Sconces and seating areas in bedrooms are now commonplace, yet flipping through Interiors reminds the home decorator that these design elements connect us to another time in history.

Moderne Interiors - Fashioning the French Interior
Moderne Interiors – Fashioning the French Interior

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