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Monday, November 14, 2011

History of Interior Decoration and Design (Part 3)

Good morning sweet friends!!! I kind of got behind on my blog posts last week as we had quite a busy week here and then were blessed to have three of our granddaughters over on Thursday night with two of them remaining with us through the week-end. Our son, Caleb went to his brother's house to visit and the girls and I had fun doing all kinds of crafts and writing some poetry, too. I did not get any pictures as we were having so much fun just living in the moment that the camera just never came out. It was wonderful just spending time with them!!! I want to get back on track this week and so I am posting the third installment of my History of Design series for you. Hope you have a beautiful week!!!
Roman Civilization 753 BC – AD 550

The Roman culture was intrigued with constant change and finding new ways to express their creativity and political views. They would often adapt the architectural influences of cultures that they had conquered into their design of buildings and furnishings. This is exhibited greatly in the Greek influences seen in the culture. The Roman styles of architecture, furnishings and fine art pieces were manifest adaptations of previous Etruscan and Greek designs combined with innovative new materials and philosophies of the Roman world.

Builders of the Roman Empire used columns and entablatures found in the three previous Greek orders of the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Corinthian order ornamented with the profuse leaf pattern of the acanthus plant became a favorite among the builders in Rome and were later adapted and combined with features of the Ionic order to create a new Roman order called Composite. Another order of architectural structure created by the Romans was the Tuscan order. The columns and entablatures of this new order were artfully simple in line and ornamentation. The most identifying features were the lack of fluting on the shaft of columns and the smooth plane of the frieze. Buildings used for commerce known as basilicas, appeared to be inside-out versions of Greek temples with columns and ornamental frieze areas. Because Greek structure had many variations from builder to builder, the Romans explored methods that would unify and better define the orders. An official set of codified standards created in the first century AD and referred to as the Vitruvian Principals; which were the primary source used by Roman architects.

The use of arches in Roman buildings brought many innovations to architecture in this brave new world. The Roman arch was a masterpiece of mathematical balance and allowed architects to place weight over a broader expanse of space than any earlier culture. Arches were used for bridge construction as well as in buildings and were later adapted into the form of vaults. Vaulted ceilings used the concept of the arch over extended areas and created curves overhead. A single vault created a tunnel effect known and the barrel vault and where four vaults joined at right angles a groin vault was formed. The discovery of concrete by mixing together lime, pebbles, sand and water gave the architects of Rome a new and inexpensive material and new levels of creativity that had never been experienced in previous cultures. Columns, arches and vaults could be formed by concrete in molds for later use in less time than it would take to carve the structure from stone. Veneers of marble, alabaster, brick and stucco were added to further enhance the exteriors of concrete construction.

Interiors of Roman temples, buildings of commerce, and individual domiciles were far more elaborate than those seen in earlier Greek culture. While the citizens of Greece preferred plain white walls, the majority of Roman buildings boasted a number of ornate treatments for walls and floors. A new interest in art was expressed in the use of paintings on plaster walls called frescos. Divided into panels, the earliest forms of frescos resembled painted marble. The panels developed over time and later included a form of portraiture within the panels. Mosaic tile work on floors in Greece was brought to a new level in Roman times and further developed onto walls. Small pieces called tesserae made from shells, terra cotta, mother of pearl and other materials were used in wavy patterns to create emblemata of human likenesses and vistas. Patterns used for flooring became more complex and combined geometric shapes with curved patterns. Decorative carved motifs most often used on the interiors as well as the exteriors of Roman buildings included wreaths and garlands of laurel leaves, the popular acanthus leaf in varying patterns, and small cupid like angels called putti as well as griffins, humans and oxen.

Like the homes of Greece, Roman houses were also built around central opened areas. While the main function of a home in Greek culture was private and focused on family use and only used on occasion for entertaining male dinner guests, the Roman’s saw their homes as a place to conduct business, welcome political contacts and impress visitors with the family’s affluence. The Roman house was called a domus and contained a series of separate areas placed around an atrium area that led into a more formal outdoor garden area adorned with statuary called the peristyle. The atrium had a partial roof with a compluvian that was used to direct rain water into a basin, or impluvian, below. Doorways beginning at the entrance and continuing into the peristyle were aligned with each other and referred to as enfilades. Along the outer fa├žade of the home were areas reserved for shops where the family conducted business in the community. The dining room, or triclinium, was an important space situated just off of the peristyle and used for entertaining guests. The room was furnished with small tables and three sofas that were larger variations of the earlier Greek klini called a lectus. The lectus used in the dining area was called a klinium but it was also used in bedroom, cubiculum, areas of the homes and was sometimes doubled or tripled in size and had a headboard, or fulcrum, and a footboard. Another important room in the Roman house was the tablinium located off of the atrium and leading to the peristyle that was used as a welcoming area for guests. Family records or awards and images of ancestors were placed in this area as a symbol of status. Accessories used throughout the home included small tables and candelabras with pedestal bases and tables that were the forerunners to the modern sideboard.

Through the course of time Roman architecture and furnishings would continue to change and include the influence of the tastes of their political leaders as well as other cultures that became part of the Empire. While Greek philosophies leaned toward an attitude of “Less is More”, the motto of the Roman Empire seemed to be “Bigger Is Better” in almost every area of their society. The evidence is seen in the innovative and exaggerated methods that they used to adapt and expand the styles of previous cultures to fit their ever changing needs.
You can see a sample floorplan of a Roman Domus by visiting this link!

Stay Cozy,
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