Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Eclecticism

Traditional or Modern? Why not have both?!

This question often popped up in the nineteenth. People were sure you MUST make a choice on whether to implement techniques of the past or completely turn away from them. Eclecticism changed the way people thought about design. Literally “selecting what appears to be the best in various doctrines, methods or styles”, eclecticism allows design to take the best of what was from all “period styles” and implementing them in the best combination. With the rise of eclectic architecture, it is said also came the first emergence of the Interior Decorator. Someone needed to make the choice of what interior style would best suit the architecture of a specific building. Supply and demand. A demand for decoration of space surfaced, so therefore people with such talent began to carve a niche for the Interior Decorator. Trained in all period styles, decorators had to know how to create a space for any style architecture. They also held expertise in antiques and artworks that would complement specific designs. Decorators of this period also assumed the role of salesperson, buying and selling items such as furniture, rugs, and accessories. Personality played key in the success of these decorators, they needed to be able to schmooze their clients, as well as easily adapt designs to their liking.

While Interior Designers today encompass many more skills, it seems that the characteristics of the first decorators still prove essential. Knowledge, business sense, and tact.

Did “eclecticism” define the role of interior designers? Why or Why Not?

12 comments:

Kasey said...

I have to say no. I would instead say that interior designers defined the role of eclecticism within particular buildings.
Interior decorating and design was not something new with this era, it has been around as long as there has been architecture. I think this is just a point in time where some architects separated the role of interior designer and decorator from their profession and passed it off to someone else. Also, people were still very much striving to be recognized in society and display wealth, thus they employed decorators to to redo existing interiors to exemplify this expression. Thus, interior decorating emerged as a separate profession in this era.
I feel that it was successful largely due to the attitudes of the emerging wealthy classes of America. They needed a person who worked as a kind of knowledge bank of trends and styles and who had done what in their house and blah blah blah. And rather than bother themselves with that, they hired someone else to do it for them, which is something they were becoming quite accustomed to in their newly found wealth.
Also, women in general were creating a new place for themselves in society that strived to set them as equals to men. This new liberal attitude allowed for women to leave the house and join the workforce. In Pile's summary of key decorators of the era, they are all women. I believe that this was very influential in the success of residential interior decorating and, in turn commercial. This is because the clients were probably predominantly women and thus felt more comfortable working with other women. Not to mention, they were probably from the same social circles as well.
Circling back to eclecticism, I will say that it was important in showing the integrity of a woman as a designer and a professional. This is because it required them to be educated. They had to understand what went with which styles, how those styles were acheived, and how to implement them successfully. Furthermore, eclecticism consisted of nothing new , but instead came strictly from historical references. Thus, a decorator's work could easily be compared and measured against its predecessors, providing an avenue for evaluation which displayed their knowledge of the subject, flaunting their status as an educated professional.

NBUSHdesign said...

Did “eclecticism” define the role of interior designers? Why or Why Not?

No, eclecticism has not defined the role of interior designers. That statement is a broad generalization that the interior designer stemmed from the interior decorator emerging at the turn of the century into the 1900s.

I agree with Kasey, that the interior decorator has existed before this time, even though the first "professional" interior decorator Elsie emerged at this time.

The fact is, the 'mega-architects' of the time were creating architecture in a grand scheme of totality. Especially after the emergence of the 'complete design' of the previous style that just died off in respect, art nouveau. The whole design of door knobs, to railing, to steps, to doors, all of it was completely designed by the DESIGNER. However I will say that I feel that very few architects that have the full designer in them that gives the vision to create a space just like they do their architecture. There is a difference between how something looks and how something feels. Architects are concerned with how a building looks. Interior Designers are concerned with how a space feels.

I carry a belief that the Interior Designer of today is a specification of an architect. We are the people who design to make people feel a certain way by manipulating a space. We incorporate architecture to do this in any ways. We are the indoor architect. Where as the interior decorator of the time was also concerned about how the space looked and the wealthy status it portrayed, much like an architect is concerned with how the building looks.

I am an INTERIOR ARCHITECT.

estee said...

I do not feel that Eclecticism defined the role of the interior designer. I feel that the job was becoming more defined from the time of the industrial revolution when people were actually able to buy "things" for their homes. I also feel that this brings us back to the ongoing tension between architects and interior designers. The idea of interior design has been around for such a long time, but usually been recognized by the architect's idea for the building as a whole. As we have learned through the past few era's, especially during Art Noveau, many designers held the job as the architect, interior designer, furniture designer, and so on. So I feel that the role of an interior designer has always been present, maybe just not usually as a woman. But still, i don't think eclecticism had a role in this, i just feel it was many forces together such as the Indutrial revolution and women simply becoming present within the work force.

jessica said...

I don't think Eclecticism defined the role of interior designers. Like many have already said the title interior designer had been established for a while. But I do think the interior designer helped create this new era of eclecticism. With all these new revival styles out people couldn't help but combine many different styles and especially with the help of an interior designer. This was a point in time when many different things were going on at once unlike the past there weren't different options.

Audrey said...

The role of the interior designer is diverse. As designers we are different things to different people. To some we are regarded as mere consultants while other clients regard us as the artists of a space. Throughout history we have had many roles. It is perhaps during the eclectic movement that designers became most characterizable. In other words our jobs became more concrete. This was a good thing because it legitimized the role of the designer but it was also detrimental because it did deem us (in some ways) merely decorators and businessmen. I believe that the past has a profound influence on what we have become. We can never escape the beginning of interior design as a profession. One can only hope that we have exceeded what we once were. Designers of today have the resources and abilities to transcend mere business sense and knowledge. However many designers are successfully working under these terms alone. It is a difficult question. Some designers have turned away from our traditional purposes while others have not. It all depends upon the philosophy of the designer. As long as the designer is passionate and successful I see no reason for disgust. I think the major cause for objection in this argument is the way in which it is worded. For many of us, the idea of ‘schmoozing’ clients is a bitter pill to swallow. Perhaps; INFLUENCING, COMPELLING, INSPIRING and COLLABORATING are verbs that would more accuratly describe what we do.

J Kan said...

Elsie de Wolfe labeled herself as the first interior decorator just like Napoleon crowned himself the King of France. What was she before then? Elsie de Wolfe Professional Interior Decorator is just a label. Interior design has been around since the first building was constructed. If architects design the building and how to support the structure, then anything in the interior that was non-structural would be interior design. So the first architects were also the interior designers of their space. Interior design branched from that into its own specialty. Eclecticism was one of the steps to making that happen but I do no think that Eclecticism defined the role of the interior designer. I don’t think it’s possible that a specific time period can be said to define the role of interior designers.

J Kan said...

Elsie de Wolfe labeled herself as the first interior decorator just like Napoleon crowned himself the King of France. What was she before then? Elsie de Wolfe Professional Interior Decorator is just a label. Interior design has been around since the first building was constructed. If architects design the building and how to support the structure, then anything in the interior that was non-structural would be interior design. So the first architects were also the interior designers of their space. Interior design branched from that into its own specialty. Eclecticism was one of the steps to making that happen but I do no think that Eclecticism defined the role of the interior designer. I don’t think it’s possible that a specific time period can be said to define the role of interior designers.

Lauren Fleming said...

In a way, as much as I hate to say it, I feel that eclecticism did play an important role in shaping the profession of interior designers. It gave them a starting point. Later on they realized that as interior decorators so much more could be done in the world of design and architecture. Not only could the style of the space be defined by the materials used to decorate the space, but it could be carried through to the shape and physical features in the structure of the room. Though, decorating helped shape the final role of being a designer, interior designers have taken the bull by the horns and gained the respect of both the architecture and decorating worlds.

Megan Funk said...

As designers we are asked to design a space, to create it. To do this it is important that we know certain things like previous styles, as well as have skills such as selling a look or schmoozing a client, but these aren’t new concepts. If you look back in time architects and designers have always recreated old styles. In fact, there are many styles that never went away. As far as I am concerned the designer has always been around and is in no way the product of eclecticism. I believe that the conditions that allowed Elsie de Wolfe to declare herself a professional interior decorator may have revolved around the developing style but were more related to people being able to afford designers as well as new materials and such. In conclusion, interior designers would be around with or without eclecticism, and are rather a product of time, bound to happen sooner or later.

Melanie Ormerod said...

Opposite of what most have said, I do believe that eclecticism defined the role of interior designer.
Yes, the role of the interior designer may have been around before this, but it was not "defined." Interior designers were not a separate profession; instead architects were the ones that would not only design the building but everything inside. This was the ROLE of the architect. Also, when style's kept changing, some would redo their home to reflect the new style and others would just hire an architect to redo it for them. What changed this was the growth of a middle class, a semi wealthy middle class. More people now had money to change the interior of their home more often. This need for designers is what separated role of interior designer from the architect. This is also what helped define their role, with the help of Elise de Wolfe.

Jenna said...

I don't think electicism defined Interior Decorators. They did have the knowledge to understand styles and find ways to best display or mix these styles for an overall cohesive look. But without history... they probably would not have anything to base their designs on. They did in a way create a new look and jumping off point for other designers due to their knowledge of this subject, however.

laurelchristensen said...

Did eclecticism define the role of interior designers?
Yet again I have a conflicted answer. Interior design was around long before eclecticism came on the scene, so in no way did this field begin with eclecticism. However, because eclecticism drew from so many past periods and styles, there had to be some sort of boundary or point at which it became distasteful. People could just pick a bunch of different furniture pieces, wall coverings, artworks, and throw them up in their house, but they needed an interior designer to tell them what looked good and what didn't. So yes, I do think that it defined the role of the interior designer.
However, at this point, I don't think that interior designers designed to create a certain feel to a space - at least not most of them. I think they were more concerned with how the space looked, what expensive items they could put in it, and how many 'oooh's and 'aaahhh's they would get from visitors.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.