Interior Design in 1657

We moderns enjoy thousands of years of art and decor history. Sometimes when you are out of ideas, the best place to turn is to the taste-setters of the past. You know you have a rich source if work endures down through the ages.

In that pursuit, I have searched many, many museum catalogs online looking for interiors that might shed some inspiration on today's design. It was disappointing. Painters of old thought a lot like today's fashion photographers. Most of the old work was portrait work. Artists focused on the subjects and rarely brought in the surrounding environment. Modern fashion photographers do the same thing when they "fuzz out" the background by manipulating the depth of field.


Photo by Jayme Thornton via self portrait

Photo by Jayme Thornton Rembrandt self portrait

One amazing exception is the Dutch painter Johanes Vermeer. He not only incorporated interiors into his paintings, he also used home decor to further the story of the painting. He used light, color and composition to bring life to his subjects and to his paintings. He was a brilliant designer.

The foreground is defined by a Persian rug. At the time of the painting the Dutch valued these imports so highly that they rarely put them on the floor. This one is being used as a table cover.

The red in the rug and the red in the curtain form sort of an aperture around the window. Daylight streams in and spotlights the girl reading the letter. Behind the girl and in the background soft neutrals do their job of "being seen, but not heard."

Is this not a great decorative way to bring focus to the picture's star attraction, the girl reading the letter?

These neutrals are hinted at in the pattern of the rug on the table.

I love the way the fruit bowl spills out onto the table. Makes me think that the girl hastily put it aside to read the letter.

Decoratively the yellow gold fruit makes for an appealing neutral accent.

And of course I love the way the rug is the foundation of the room, just like rugs are the foundation of many great rooms today.

Take a few moments and be with the picture. It is easy to imagine being in the room and others being in the room, in a home where humans live their most heartfelt moments.

Many thanks and hats off to the fabulous Essential Vermeer website.

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