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After WW1 architecture and design in Europe sought to eliminate the seeming blind alley of the Art Nouveau. Artists and designers found interest in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and became eager to expand his influence into broader acceptance. So closely the did international designers, particularly architects, agreed on the fundamental principles of this new style, the practice would come to be known as the International Style.

The foundations of this style can be traced to the Bauhaus, an architectural school founded by Walter Gropius in 1918. The style arose from the need to create decent housing for the post-WWI German worker, and to address the needs of a growing technological and mechanized world.  Breaking from the Arts and Crafts movement, Bauhaus embraced technology, new materials and the mass production of furnishings and fixtures.

In the form of the International Style, the Bauhaus' influence eventually extended around the world. The followers of the new style created classical forms without extraneous ornament. Access to new building technologies like reinforced concrete, and steel framework for buildings designers sought a whole new approach to what is known as the plan, or the layout of the interiors of buildings. The enormous strength of these new materials opens new worlds for designers that were unheard of in building before.

Le Corbusier, a Swiss architect (1887-1965), became a leader in this style, establishing new interiors with what became known as the ‘open plan’, where load bearing walls became virtually extinct, allowing interior spaces to be arranged and rearranged with moveable partitions or opened wide for a completely ‘open plan’. Glass wall often were used creating ambiguous interior spaces. “In” and “out” became relative. And the early examples of International Style show a close relationship to Cubist Art, just as in the cubist ideals of “front” and “back” become ambiguous. 

Naturally, these open floor plans and use of industrial materials lay the foundations to what became known as the Modern Style.

Elements of International Style:

Today, the ultra-modern look still adheres to the original Bauhaus ideal of functionalism, but its austere building blocks can be leavened with earthy or colorful accents.  Forms are simple and modular, ornament minimal but not prohibited.  As with the original Bauhaus style, furnishings should be attractive, industrially produced, and high-quality.  

Colors: Walls are treated as background incorporating sparse tones of black, white, brown, gray, beige, and chrome. Bursts of color are used as accent and accessories, primary colors often adding the splash of red, yellow or blue that livens the austere modern interior.

Walls: Walls are simple, with out moldings or embellishment; painted white or neutral tones. The use of glass as walls becomes an important innovation in Modern Style, largely due to the advent of new material use, like steel, in construction. Glass bricks are installed, often in combination with raw concrete - for that Le Corbusier touch. Contemporary art, such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop art add life and organic interest to the clean angularity of modern design.

Floors: Natural elements become the mainstay. Wood, stone, brick, and  cork compliment the open, airiness of modern interiors, adding just the right amount of natural organics to compliment the concrete and glass structure. Abstract patterned rugs, such as kilim rugs, help soften the linearity and add character to the modern interior.

Windows: Plain white curtains or Venetian blinds allow light to enter the interior without detracting from the open, uncluttered spaces. Or for a daringly modern look, no window coverings at all!

Accents: This is the place for color and organic forms and textures. Modern art, particularly in Mondrian-style primary colors, and geometric, black and white.  Throw pillows can be exiting influences, covered in primary colors or interesting fabric patterns. Curved glass ashtrays, translucent or colored art glass, and mobiles continue the contemporary feel by implying light and airiness. Natural objects and materials like twig arrangements, bamboo, sisal or coir balance industrial design.  Period style can also be used for accessories:  Art Deco style for the thirties; kitsch for the fifties; Pop Art for the sixties.


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