The Source on the Source: Famous Quotes on Interior Design

Getty Interior 4

Johann Zoffany (German, 1733 – 1810)
John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family, about 1766, Oil on canvas
101.9 × 127.3 cm (40 1/8 × 50 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

We focus on historic interiors, furniture, and architecture on this blog, but why take our word for it?  Today, we are looking at several quotes from people more famous than us about design and antiques.  We have shared these quotes alongside a selection of paintings of interiors from the Getty collection.

Getty Interior 3

Attributed to Quiringh Gerritsz. van Brekelenkam (Dutch, after 1622 – about 1669)
Family Group in an Interior, about 1658–1660, Oil on canvas
59.7 × 73.3 cm (23 1/2 × 28 7/8 in.)
Gift of J. Paul Getty

We will start off with a bit of verse by the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, on the virtue of architecture above all arts:

Ah, to build, to build!
That is the noblest art of all the arts.
Painting and sculpture are but images,
Are merely shadows cast by outward things
On stone or canvas, having in themselves
No separate existence. Architecture,
Existing in itself, and not in seeming
A something it is not, surpasses them
As substance shadow.

Getty Interior 1

Jean-Étienne Liotard (Swiss, 1702 – 1789)
Portrait of John, Lord Mountstuart, later 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bute, 1763, Pastel
114.9 × 90.2 cm (45 1/4 × 35 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Hand in hand with architecture is the design of the interior.   The renowned tastemaker and designer known for the ‘English country house look,’ Nancy Lancaster, had a list of seven design rules to follow for any interior.  The final one goes as follows:

A gentle mix of furniture expresses life and continuity, but it must be a delicious mixture that flows and mixes well.  It is a bit like mixing a salad.  I am better at mixing rooms than salads.

Getty Interior 5

Pieter de Hooch (Dutch, 1629 – 1684)
A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy, about 1660–1663, Oil on canvas
68.6 × 53.3 cm (27 × 21 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Another fan of ‘mixing’ was one of the first ladies in America.  After Nancy Reagan visited Andrew Lloyd Webber’s apartment in New York, which had recently been designed by Robert Kime, she proclaimed,

It’s madly clever.  Nothing matches.

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Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (French, 1704 – 1788)
Portrait of Gabriel Bernard de Rieux, 1739–1741, Pastel and gouache
200.7 × 149.9 cm (79 × 59 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

But not everyone agrees all the time.  Take the following two approaches to design that could not be farther apart.  Mies van der Rohe, one of the champions of modernist architecture, famously said,

Less is more.

The American architect Robert Venturi had a different take on the same idea.  He once promoted the concept

Less is a bore.

We will leave it to you to decide which statement is more fitting… or maybe they both are!


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