Art Nouveau was an artistic movement that flourished between 1890 and 1910. It was characterized by flowing, organic lines and motifs inspired by nature. Art Nouveau touched all aspects of design, from architecture and furniture to jewelry and graphic arts.
If you love the sensuous curves and natural forms of Art Nouveau, there are many ways you can incorporate this style into your home and wardrobe today. Here are 8 tips for bringing more Art Nouveau style into your life:
1. Use Pattern and Texture
Pattern and texture were integral to Art Nouveau. Look for textiles and wallpapers featuring:
- Flowing, curving lines
- Whiplash motifs
- Abstract, geometric patterns
- Stylized flowers and plants
- Aquatic life like insects, fish and seaweed
Layer different patterns in similar colors for a coordinated, eclectic look. Mix mattes and shines, smooth and rough textures. Choose velvets, silks, wools and linens in rich, jewel-toned hues.
2. Select Curvy Furniture
The furniture of Art Nouveau designers like Hector Guimard and Louis Majorelle featured graceful curves and asymmetries. When choosing furniture, look for:
- Flowing lines
- Curved legs and arms
- Cabriole legs
- Circular and oval motifs
- Asymmetrical shapes
- Organic forms
Go for rounded dining tables, curvy chairs, serpentine sofas and oval mirrors. Select pieces in warm, natural woods like mahogany, walnut and teak for an earthy appeal.
3. Use Whiplash Lines
The whiplash line was the defining motif of Art Nouveau. This dynamic, twisting curve suggests movement, energy and grace. Incorporate whiplash elements through:
- Curving moldings and trim
- Door frames and cabinetry with curving corners
- Arched windows and entries
- Furniture with curved legs and aprons
- Decorative tiles on walls, floors and backsplashes
Repeat whiplash curves throughout a room for visual harmony. Use them sparingly as accents against a neutral backdrop.
4. Add Tiffany-Style and Stained Glass
Stained glass reached new heights in the Art Nouveau period, led by Tiffany Studios in New York. Try using Tiffany-style and stained glass elements such as:
- Hanging pendants
- Cabinet doors and inserts
- Vases and bowls
- Window panels
Look for leaded glass pieces with pastel hues and nature-inspired designs like flowering plants and dragonflies. Position them to catch and diffuse rays of light.
5. Select an Art Nouveau Poster Reproduction
Art Nouveau graphic artists created iconic advertising posters full of style. Find reproductions of vintage posters like:
- Mucha’s Sarah Bernhardt posters like Gismonda
- Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge and Aristide Bruant
- Steinlen’s Tournée du Chat Noir
- Cheret’s Palais de Glace
Frame your reproduction with a curvy, Art Nouveau-style frame. Group several smaller framed prints together over a sofa, sideboard or bed for impact.
6. Craft Jewelry and Accessories
Art Nouveau jewelry makers used new technologies to create lavish pieces with curving lines. Get the look with:
- Long beaded necklaces and lariats
- Pins and brooches with insect motifs
- Hair combs and headpieces with organic shapes
- Cuff bracelets and armbands with floral designs
Look for nature-inspired jewelry rendered in materials like enamel, glass, horn and semi-precious stones. Style your hair in a Gibson Girl updo to complete the look.
7. Add Floral Motifs
Floral forms were common in Art Nouveau. Look for stylized blooms and botanicals printed and embroidered on:
- Pillows and cushions
- Table linens like runners and napkins
- Curtains and drapes
- Area rugs and carpets
- Wallpaper and murals
- Lampshades and light fixtures
Iris, poppy, rose and lily motifs were popular. Use blooms in profusion for an opulent, organic look.
8. Incorporate Aquatic Life
Along with flora, the ocean world held sway in Art Nouveau. Add fish, insects, shells and sea plants by:
- Hanging framed prints and mirrors with aquatic scenes
- Choosing furnishings with subtle water motifs like legs ending in seahorses
- Selecting glassware etched with dragonflies, fish and waves
- Displaying real or faux corals and starfish on shelves
Emphasize these motifs in bathrooms, bedrooms and living spaces for a relaxing, meditative feel.
Frequently Asked Questions About Expressing Art Nouveau Style
What are the key characteristics of Art Nouveau style?
Some of the main characteristics of Art Nouveau style include:
- Flowing, organic lines
- Whiplash curves
- Stylized floral and botanical motifs
- Aquatic life like insects, fish and seaweed
- Asymmetrical shapes
- Rich colors like jewel tones
- Luxe textures like velvet, glass and metal
- Pastel stained glass
- Curvaceous furniture shapes
What colors capture the essence of Art Nouveau?
Art Nouveau utilized a rich, luxurious color palette. Some quintessential Art Nouveau colors include:
- Deep jewel tones like emerald, ruby and sapphire
- Ethereal pastels like seafoam, buttercream and blush
- Natural earth tones like moss, mustard and rust
- Metallic sheens of gold, silver and copper
What rooms in the home suit an Art Nouveau aesthetic?
Art Nouveau style can be adapted to many spaces in the home:
- Living room: Curved furniture, patterned rugs, stained glass lamps
- Dining room: Oval table, curvy chairs, floral china
- Bedroom: Canopy bed, tapestry pillows, botanical prints
- Bathroom: Subway tile, wave motifs, aquatic accessories
- Entryway: Patterned floor, arched doorways, poster prints
- Kitchen: Organic tile backsplash, hanging stained glass
What artists and designers represent the height of Art Nouveau style?
Some of the most influential artists and designers include:
- Alphonse Mucha: Czech Art Nouveau painter and lithographer
- Louis Comfort Tiffany: American stained glass designer
- Antoni Gaudí: Spanish architect
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: French Poster artist
- Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Scottish architect and designer
- Hector Guimard: French architect
- Victor Horta: Belgian architect
What fashion and beauty trends align with Art Nouveau style?
Some key Art Nouveau fashion and beauty looks include:
- The Gibson Girl: Ultra feminine updos, soft curls, pompadours
- Jewelry: Beaded chokers, cameos, cuff bracelets, armbands
- Headpieces: Tiaras, hair combs, feathered hats
- Corsets and bustles to create an S-curve silhouette
- Lacy blouses, ankle-length gathered skirts, high necks
- Rich fabrics like velvet, lace, silk and damask
How can I incorporate Art Nouveau motifs in a subtle way?
For a touch of Art Nouveau, try:
- A floral lamp base or stained glass shade
- Whiplash molding on shelves or picture frames
- Cabinet hardware with curved handles
- A bench or side chair with cabriole legs
- Curvilinear metalwork on railing, gates or lamps
- Wallpaper border with subtle whiplash lines
What are good resources for finding quality Art Nouveau reproductions?
Some reputable resources include:
- Vintage poster sites like Zazzle and AllPosters
- Museum shops like MoMA and Guggenheim
- Specialty stores like Restoration Hardware
- Etsy for handcrafted stained glass and jewelry
- Vintage shops and flea markets for unique finds
- Reproduction furniture companies
With its sweeping curves, nature motifs and lush colors, Art Nouveau provides a distinctly romantic and glamorous flair. Incorporate sinuous lines, floral prints, pastel glass and luxe textures in your home and wardrobe to capture the artistry and elegance of this historic style. Express your passion for Art Nouveau’s organic beauty by taking inspiration from its defining motifs and most famous designs. Let the graceful forms of this artistic movement sweep through your personal spaces, inviting beauty and tranquility into your everyday life.