On my way back from Paris recently, I scanned through various European interiors magazines I had picked up. In amongst all that is hip and happening, quirky, contemporary, the latest thing, I came across this article in Marie Claire Maison (the Belgian edition) on recently renovated Louis Vuitton house in Asnières (a Paris suburb) which jumped right off the page. It is now a private museum and still where most of the bespoke LV goods are manufactured. What a perfect and lovely art nouveau gem.
Personally, art deco is more my thing, but I cannot help but marvel at the artistry and creativity of the art nouveau style everytime I see it. It is timeless. No wonder it is one of the most popular ranges of stencils we do.
To skate over history quickly, art nouveau is a highly stylised, flowing and curvilinear style often incorporating floral and plant inspired motifs and colours. It was particularly popular in Europe and you tend to see the most spectacular examples in Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Prague, although I am sure there are splendid examples throughout the continent. It encompassed architecture, furniture, décor, art and accessories. There is no room for the straight line here, everything about it curves. You only have to look at the decorative plasterwork in the LV house to see this. I love the rounded edge to the ceiling. Its heyday was at the turn of the last century from about 1880-1905. The colours were very natural including all shades of greens, sludgy yellows, teals, creams, warm and soft.
The most famous art nouveau designer in the UK was Charles Rennie Mackintosh. However he had his own interpretation with many more geometric elements.
image from glasgowmackintosh.com
To me he is the bridge between art nouveau and the reaction to it, wholly geometric and modern art deco.
Painted decoration was a popular part of art nouveau which is why we do so many art nouveau stencils and why they work so beautifully in many styles of décor. Because they are so obviously stylised, they look good in any colours even when you move away from typical art nouveau colours.
I think our stencil DE202 would be great for recreating the deep border in the LV house. It has a similar look with its stylised flowers and larger size. Even if you don't have a curved ceiling, the rounded shapes in this border will certainly create the feel.
I love the detail on the quite splendid bow window. The leading is wonderful enough but look closely at the morning glory growing up the sides and across the tops.
We do some wonderful tall slim motifs that look good running up the side of the window or fireplace. I think the iris motif like this DE257 stencil translates particularly well into the art nouveau look. We do quite a few tall thin motif stencils. They are so versatile and can run up the side of fireplaces, panels, art, doors, windows and more. You can use both sides of the stencil, with care, to create a mirror effect too. Motifs are great when you want a bit of added detail, but maybe not much more.
It is not often that people think of using vertical borders. I like the slim bit of detail painted between the panels.
We are not all so lucky to have actual plaster panels in our house but panels can be simply created with paint. Whilst I do not claim that painted panels are going to look quite like plaster ones, you can have the effect by masking off a panel to your chosen size with tape and painting it a slightly different colour from the wall. It is a great way to break up a surface and add interest. I love the idea of one of our vertical borders such as this wonderful fuchsia design DE176 running vertically between floor to ceiling painted panels. The panels themselves being plain or areas to hang art. Put a 6 inch gap between them and stencil this border which is only 4.75 inches wide. As it is a slightly different format, it is something that is bound to get comments and yet couldn’t be easier to achieve.
The most impressive art nouveau interiors include bespoke decorative details that would require an artisan and no doubt be pricey. Have a look at this amazing stairwell in the Victor Horta House in Brussels.
But strip away those details, you are left with quite a few, usually painted, decorative details that can be achieved with stencils. I would say that Art Nouveau is possibly one of the easiest historical styles to channel on a budget. It doesn’t take much to get the look. Even non-art nouveau furniture compliments it well so you don’t need to find specific antiques. Some of the furniture in the LV house is simple, classic velvet covered shapes.
Finally, no brief visit to Art Nouveau would be complete without a door picture and every time I come across this frontage in Brussels by Delune, I sigh. It is just the most beautiful thing from any era, which just so happens to be art nouveau.
Yes, indeed. It is a beautiful decorative style and it is so nice to see beautifully preserved examples. If ever you find yourself in Paris or Brussels, it is worth taking an art nouveau tour. You won’t be disappointed.
Louis Vuitton house photos Vincent Thibert
Horta Staircase photo from VisitBrussels site
Delune door photo unknown.