What Are the Characteristics of Renaissance Decor?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Renaissance decor is inspired by the period of social and cultural development that began in the 15th century in Western Europe. There interpretation of Renaissance decor depends both on geographic location and time period, as 15th century Italian Renaissance styles differed significantly from 17th century English Renaissance trends. Despite these differences, some of the most common characteristics of Renaissance decor include wooden furniture with extensive carving, period artwork, soft furnishings that use rich, vibrant fabrics, and design influenced by Ancient Rome.

A replica of Michelangelo's David would fit into any Renaissance decor.
A replica of Michelangelo's David would fit into any Renaissance decor.

One of the driving factors behind the exquisite furnishings of the Renaissance was the development of a highly skilled artisan class. Furniture carvers often spent more than a decade as apprentices and journeymen, before being considered skilled enough to become masters of their trade. As a result, much of the woodwork of the late Renaissance is heavily carved in floral motifs, often using oak, willow, or walnut as a base. One popular example of wooden Renaissance decor is the marriage chest: a detailed, heavily carved trunk that a bride would use to carry her dowry of linens and housewares in 15th century Italy.

Artwork from the Renaissance is revered throughout the world for its detail and magnificence. Themes and settings often present in Renaissance artwork include Greek and Roman mythology, biblical stories, and portraits. Paintings framed in carved wood, marble sculptures, and detailed pastel frescoes are all popular examples of Renaissance decor that can be incorporated into modern interpretations. One of the characteristics of Renaissance artwork is a clear focus on realism; abstract or surrealist forms are almost completely non-existent in classical Renaissance decor.

Advances in the textile industry during the Renaissance also led to the development of lush, vibrant fabrics for clothing and soft furnishings. Drapes, cushions, and upholstery fabrics often display a bold color palette and use rich materials in traditional Renaissance decor. Gold, royal purple, crimson, and peacock blue are frequently used in modern Renaissance revival, but were reserved for nobility and royalty during the period of the Renaissance.

Though Renaissance designers drew inspiration from many different historical periods, the influence of Ancient Rome is often cited as a catalyst in Italian Renaissance design. Palladio, an Italian architect, is credited with popularizing Roman-style villas in Italian architecture, thus creating a taste for Roman-inspired furnishings as well. The use of plainly carved marble benches and tables, and statuary depicting idealized forms may be in contrast to the more complex Renaissance decor of the later centuries, but is nonetheless an authentic representation of the period.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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