If we were to reevaluate the art works (paintings, sculptures, prints, etc.) that are presently housed in our museums, we would realize that most of those objects were intended for private consumption; those objects were intended to decorate someone’s living room wall, be placed over their fireplace mantle, or serve as a dining table centerpiece. It is only through the accidents of history that what was once privately owned has become publically enjoyed.



 Above are reproduced domestic interiors, all privately commissioned and enjoyed. Yet, the attention to the elements of design has rendered these spaces worthy of publication. The Howell Living Room, Washington, Zashiki parlor of a merchant’s house, Kyoto, and the Venetian Bedroom, each attest to their designers’ use of color (white/gray scale, natural browns, and rich red with gold), use of line (verticals, horizontals, and organic curves), repetition of shapes (square, rectangles, and organics), and variety of textures (cold and metallic, warm and wooden, and soft and golden). These three environments individually constitute such perfect harmonies due to the thoughtfulness in the use of these elements, their applicability to function, and consistency in their application.


Are these rooms livable? Or, has the design overridden domestic concerns? Would you feel comfortable lounging, dining, or sleeping in these rooms? Clearly, the first is quite antiseptic, and most of us would be paranoid about messing it up or spilling something on the couch. Our presence might disturb the perfect symmetry and balance. The design of the Japanese room is specific to Asian living patterns. The Japanese sit on mats on the floor and prefer movable “stations” rather than heavy function-specific pieces of furniture. We may perceive the bedroom as romantic with the cupids hovering above the bed. The rich fabrics may suggest luxury and wealth. It may put the occupant in a sleepy or sensual mood. Who knows? However, it is clear that the chosen design elements do impact our perception of these spaces and our willingness to enter and enjoy them.