1. Regal Kitchen, Faoma.
  2. Kitchen, Elledue.
  3. Showcase, Pregno.
  4. Bed, Silvano Grifoni (Tango Group).
  5. Olivier Chest of Drawers, Atelier Моba
  6. Furniture from the Ambiente Giorno Collection, Savio Firmino.
  7. Living room interior, Rampoldi Creations.

Fashionable Déjà vu

The art critic and architecture historian Ekaterina Lipa on historicism in interior design.
The belief is that a furniture piece in so-called classical style is suitable for any house and never goes out of fashion. But what is it that we define as classic? And why is it that in the Ukraine (not to mention the entire former Soviet Union area), this type of furniture has surpassed all previous records of popularity? These are far from useless questions. Indeed an understanding of preferences regarding interiors enables us to create an interior which effectively panders to our soul, body and eyes.

A general love of styles from the past is by no means a new phenomenon. A century and a half ago, in the midst of the industrial Revolution, during which time art history was developed as a science, everyone who had managed to put aside a little money dreamed of an abode and furnishings reminiscent of antiquity. Initially such tastes were synonymous with erudition, culture and paradoxically, interest in all that was new in the scientific field.
Soon after passion for historical styles developed into a fashion. In response to demand, architects and cabinet makers emerged, specialised in neo-gothic, neo-renaissance, neo-baroque and other historic styles interpreted in accordance with tastes and ideas of 19th century comfort.
Later all this was defined as historicist style.
The most creative authors were capable of converging elements of different styles within a single object, said style was defined as eclecticism. Extraordinary results were achieved in the presence of aesthetic sense and measure, however their absence generated bad taste. Unfortunately just like in the 19th century, art historians of the 20th century indiscriminately labelled the style of the nouveau rich and merchants as bad taste; the words “historicism” and “eclecticism” resonated like an insult. In around 1980 interiors and abodes of the previous century came to examined in a more impartial light, revealing historicism as nothing but a cultural era, no better or worse than any other. In earnest historicism rose to fashion in furniture, definitively establishing itself as a trend between two millenniums, and since then it has continued to flourish up to current times.
The idea of classic furnishing has broadened considerably for people of the new millennium. In addition to what was pleasing in the 19th century we now have a love of modernity. History has played a clever trick on us, in the sense that it transformed historicism into a style which was born as a protest against early historicism. Today art déco is extremely popular, but not with isolated furnishing elements, as is the case with neo-baroque.
Thus our contemporaries have appropriated this style, as a global phenomenon, requesting interior projects that are wholesale imitations of art déco, from furniture to rugs, screens and wallpaper. The most curious aspect is: how should we define this phenomenon? historic historicism? In executing modern version of say a renaissance interior, the designer studies the original and successfully completes the project. His colleague is commissioned a Victorian interior and refers to original historicism, interpreting it in a new light. But there’s Victorian style, elegant and elegant which is now head to head in terms of popularity with art déco, and there’s a part which is detached from historicism, a British part. And that what from a political history point of view is defined as the reign of Queen Victoria, is called historicism of art history. It is important to note that contemporary designers have a much more courageous and impartial approach to original antiquity compared to their 19th century predecessors. Postmodernism, a cultural trend which manifested itself a decade or so ago, taught designers to collect classical allusions, nuances of the commissioned period, hidden in the form of furnishings and decorations.
Perhaps this is why today the most successful examples of eclecticism are those which are executed entirely through allusions to different eras, a mixture of cheerful and elegant elements. “Indicators” of specific eras have become, as in the past, fine woods, gilding, hand engravings, marquetry and inlay. A distinctive characteristic of modern historicism is the antique finish of objects, which does not render them similar to antiques, and which requires considerable skills of designers and manufacturers. Antique-look gilded finishing, cracked woods, woodworm signs, slightly faded colours of tapestry, slightly unaligned wardrobe doors which close perfectly, all finishing touches which confer a greater degree of warmth and charm upon interiors.
At the same time, common “faded” upholstery fabrics imitate historic structures and designs, executed in limited series and characterised by superior quality which antique tapestries could only dream of. Easy to clean, resistant to humidity and sometimes even resistant to cat scratches.
“I grew up in Lviv during the Soviet era, among old and run down stone buildings, embellished with splendid stucco statues, doorways characterised by marble panels and Florentine mosaics, floors clad in glazed tiles and carved balustrades. In the museum of furniture there were beautiful arm chairs, sofas, tables and coffee tables which everyone would dream of having in their house. There was such a stark contrast between all this and the miserable Soviet way of life with its identical sofa beds and wall wardrobes! This is why I furnished my apartment in classical style, I made a dream come true”, a well to do lady once told me. It is likely that many of those who grew up in large cities during the Soviet period had similar experiences of beloved and historic doorways clinging on to their former magnificence, beautiful tables and vases in museums. Rare objects from that period executed in “old style”, were incredibly beautiful and welcoming, they stood out from the greyness of the late “Soviet” era. For many a return to the past became a synonym of beauty. This is why in Ukraine classical furniture is so much more than just a fleeting trend.
Classical furnishing is the symbol of a previously forbidden bourgeoisie and its affirmation, reminiscent of a period preceding Bolshevik destruction as experienced by their parents, the fulfilment of a childhood dream. Overall this means a tangible interior which exudes comfort, especially for the soul.
There is also another point of view regarding our love of historicism. Many believe that the greatest influence on national taste continues to be the sumptuous era of Ukrainian Baroque. Expressive stuccoes on church walls, lavish engravings of iconostasis, engravings and triumph of colours in icons, luxurious and multi coloured fabrics worn by historic figures in baroque portraits; we admired all this in the images of school text books, books, museums and even simply along the roads in cities, towns and villages where monuments from this luxurious era had survived.
It is possible that this is the very reason behind the unwavering popularity of baroque-inspired furnishing style, with its curved feet, engravings, gilding and upholstery in extraordinary colours. There is also another reason to love classical furnishing at an international level: many of these objects, as was the case in past, are hand made. The sensation of uniqueness of hand made furniture, coupled with contemporary ergonomics, is the main reason behind the popularity of classical furnishing in today’s modern and technological world.

EKATERINA LIPA