What Are the Characteristics of Renaissance Decor?

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

The rise of a highly skilled artisan class was one of the driving forces behind the Renaissance’s exquisite furnishings. Before being considered skilled enough to become masters of their trade, furniture carvers often spent more than a decade as apprentices and journeymen. As a result, much of the late Renaissance woodwork is heavily carved in floral motifs, with oak, willow, or walnut serving as a base. 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, is a popular example of wooden Renaissance decor.

The detail and magnificence of Renaissance artwork is admired all over the world. Greek and Roman mythology, biblical stories, and portraits are all common themes and settings in Renaissance art. Renaissance decor includes carved wood paintings, marble sculptures, and detailed pastel frescoes, all of which can be incorporated into modern interpretations. A clear focus on realism is one of the characteristics of Renaissance artwork; abstract or surrealist forms are almost non-existent in classical Renaissance decor.

During the Renaissance, advances in the textile industry led to the creation of lush, vibrant fabrics for clothing and soft furnishings. Traditional Renaissance decor features a bold color palette and rich materials in drapes, cushions, and upholstery fabrics. Colors like gold, royal purple, crimson, and peacock blue are popular in modern Renaissance revivals, but they were once reserved for nobility and royalty.

Though Renaissance designers were influenced a variety of historical periods, Ancient Rome is frequently cited as a catalyst in Italian Renaissance design. Palladio is credited with popularizing Roman-style villas in Italian architecture, as well as a taste for Roman-inspired furnishings. Although the use of plainly carved marble benches and tables, as well as statuary depicting idealized forms, contrasts with the more complex Renaissance decor of later centuries, it is still an accurate representation of the period.