Q: I'm about to redecorate part of my home, and a friend suggested that I ought to create a neoclassical design. I was too embarrassed to ask her what exactly that term means, but I hope you will be able to describe it for me.
A: No need to be embarrassed. Plenty of people who consider themselves fairly well-versed in the arts probably wouldn't be able to describe neoclassical style with much precision.
Basically, neoclassicism is characterized by the adaptation of ancient Greek and Roman architectural elements, such as columns, pediments and pilasters.
As applied to interior design, the term also refers to the simplicity and symmetry of geometric forms that distinguished the furniture of those civilizations.
Classical styles have inspired designers throughout Western history. In the 20th century, the art deco and postmodern looks both exhibit the influence of classicism.
In the photo, we see a contemporary interpretation of classical design. Let's first consider the floor, which was designed by Raymond Waites. He combined the latest sheet vinyl and tiles from Armstrong to produce a well-proportioned geometric pattern that enhances this overall setting in much the same way that an elegantly simple frame adds definition to a painting.
Speaking of frames, take a look at the engraving of a horse that rests against the wall. Its frame might at first appear contemporary in styling, but the contrast of bright and dark and its strong geometric lines show that this presentation is in fact rooted in classicism. The theme continues with the urns used as lamps and with the columns and pilasters featured as decorative motifs in the applied molding and paneling.
That gold-washed clock with figures and garlands of olive leaves is clearly empire in its styling. But it too is consistent with the room's decorative direction, since empire is, in fact, a romantic reworking of classical design.
A certain discipline and a sure sense of proportion are required of anyone who wishes to create a neoclassical setting.