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Modern Rooms Inspired By Classic Art

A space just "feels right' when there is a natural energy flow, a good balance of weight and a cohesive color pallet. Designers spend years studying these aspects to ensure a room functions properly and aesthetically fits the vision. But we can achieve that same balance even without a design degree. And today I'll share how you can use classic artwork as a roadmap.

First, what is a classic piece of art? Ok, technically "classic art" refers to pieces created in Greek or Roman areas in the 17th century. But for our discussion, we're broadening that term to mean any piece of art that has achieved critical acclaim and withstood the test of time... and most importantly one that speaks to YOU. There are minute theories that go into why artwork would meet the first two requirements and we'll go into that later but primarily we're looking for a piece that YOU personally connect with. And just like falling in love, you'll know it when you see it!

In "Symphony in white #1", Whistler uses white as the impact color. Often we think of white as a background tone, a boring vanilla, but here it's the star of the show. He's used soft taupes and creams as a background for the white dress to shine. The eye is drawn from the girl's dark hair at the top to the darker blues and brown tones at the bottom for balance and you'll find your eye naturally bounces between the faces of the girl and the bear. Ok... so now what? We can use this as a guide to design a room. In the photo above - courtesy of trendyhomehacks - these same principles are at play! The designer has extended the natural light taupe, cream and beige tones from outside to the walls. Similar to the bear rug in the painting we see a soft texture of beige and brown in the jute rug. The focal points of the room are the couch and that smashing fireplace which are both a crisp white, similar to the dress in the painting which allows your eye to scan from dark area to dark area - the navy plaid pillows, dark iron on the coffee table and that gorgeous chandalier. Your eye is guided along a path of the evenly distributed dark accents resulting in a calm but intentional space. Who doesn't need more intentional calm in their life?!

The same design compass can be found in Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss". While on the surface it is obviously a completely different genre than Symphony In White, it is a timeless piece for the same reasons. It's impeccable balance, attention to color choice and ability to draw the eye to specific focus points. It makes you FEEL the moment it is illustrating. We see deep texture and movement in the background offset by the clean soft tones of the lover's skin. The tapestry of golds and browns is broken up by the vertical line of dark tones in his hair, black rectangles on the blanket. We're also led down the vertical floral path of her dress down to the textured floral mass at the bottom.

So if you are a lover of bold tones, textures and feel at home with patterns, how do you use a painting like "The Kiss" as a roadmap? First, look at focus. What piece is the focus of your room? Is it a bed, couch, fireplace? Ceiling beams, staircase, countertop? Following this artist, make your focus a lighter shade and set it off with a background of texture and patterns. Second, balance. Klimt doesn't just have texture and color tossed everywhere. He uses it very strategically - there is a pattern to the patterns and they are used specifically to drawer the viewer through the path that he wants them to see. Take a look at similar spaces who have used this roadmap :

Switching gears to another classic artwork also called "The Kiss" this time by Francesco Hayez, we see a dramatic scene playing out. Deep rich red and blue tones mingle with browns and blacks alluding to the dark passion and deep feelings of the moment. A soft creamy neutral background helps balance these dark areas and is mirrored in the hilights of her skin and dress. We see a back to front layering here of light / dark / light. He also uses angles as a tool in the tilt of her body and the tilt of the staircase both heading off to the right while still anchored by the darkness of the doorway to the left. We physically feel pulled to the right while anchored on the left, similar to the swoon of the leading lady :)

So how do we add such drama to our spaces without making them feel dark and cramped? Taking a cue from this roadmap, we're going to balance and layer that light and dark. Make sure to have dramatic colors evenly spaced throughout the room. You don't want all of your dark items on one side of a room and all light on the other. So let's pick your focus piece then work backwards from there layering those light and dark elements.

We'll have more examples of classic art roadmaps coming up in the next few weeks. What are some works of art that speak to you?


Disclaimer : I have personally researched, purchased and use the products suggested above. I am also an Amazon Affiliate. Some of the links used are affiliate links. By buying through the links I may receive a commission for the sale from Amazon. This has no effect on the price for you.

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