For anyone interested in evocative modern interiors, the notion of Bauhaus interior design probably comes up a lot. Whether or not you’re fully aware of the history of the style, what grew out of an unusual art school in Germany has influenced so much of the world that surrounds us today. Below, we unpack the history of the Bauhaus school, the most memorable works that came from it, and how to put its principles into practice within your own home.
What is Bauhaus interior design?
Bauhaus interior design comes from the German art school Bauhaus, which, although open for just 14 years, from 1919 to 1933, has left an indelible mark on art and design. Informed by Germany’s dominance as an industrial powerhouse, and as something of a reaction to the Arts and Crafts movement, pieces associated with the Bauhaus aesthetic typically feature tubular steel, all kinds of metal, and a rejection of ornamentation (a signature that Arts and Crafts is inseparable from).
“The Bauhaus was always a myth, even in its own time, that built itself up through publishing and lectures and excellent photography, getting the word out by manufacturing products, building model homes, all that kind of stuff that always made it press-worthy . It’s always been a place that people wanted to know about, including the people who have always wanted to disagree with it or take it down,” explained Ellen Lupton, coeditor of The ABCs of Bauhaus, curator at Cooper Hewitt, and professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). “I feel that every generation has to overthrow the Bauhaus, rediscover it in their own way, myself included. It’s a very enduring myth, and the creators of the school helped keep that myth alive for many decades after the school closed by coming to the US and doing a big show at MoMA and teaching at Harvard and opening a new Bauhaus in Chicago or with the Black Mountain College experience.”
While “mass-produced” isn’t exactly the most attractive thing for decor to be in the 21st century, Bauhaus designs weren’t about cutting corners to make items as cheap as possible, but rather about figuring out how to thoughtfully, beautifully create simple objects with the new tools and materials at hand.
The origins of Bauhaus style
Although it’s hard to pin down exactly when and where certain interior design styles originated, for the Bauhaus the impetus couldn’t be more clear. In 1919, architect Walter Gropius opened a new kind of art school in Weimar, Germany. The structure of the Bauhaus school broke the boundaries between craftspeople and artists, placing all students in the same workshops where they experimented and learned hands-on, something that was completely unheard of at the time for art students.