Exploring the Ancient Roots: The Oldest Styles of Interior Design


Interior design is an art form that has evolved throughout history, reflecting the culture, technology, and aesthetics of its time. Over millennia, various interior design styles have emerged, each with its unique characteristics and influences. In this blog, we’ll delve into the oldest styles of interior design that have paved the way for modern interior designers. From the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia to the classical Greek and Roman eras, we will journey through time to uncover the origins and elements of these remarkable interior design styles.

1. Ancient Egyptian Interior Design (c. 3100 – 30 BCE)

The ancient Egyptians are credited with pioneering one of the earliest forms of interior design. The core principles of their interior design revolved around functionality, symbolism, and aesthetics. Egyptian interiors featured furniture, such as wooden chairs and low tables, adorned with intricate carvings and inlays. Walls were decorated with murals and hieroglyphs, reflecting their beliefs and reverence for the afterlife. Ancient Egyptian interior design, a testament to the remarkable craftsmanship of its time, reflects the fusion of practicality and spirituality. Interior designers of ancient Egypt integrated intricate carvings, hieroglyphics, and ornate furniture into their spaces. Utilizing materials like limestone and alabaster, they balanced functionality with a touch of opulence, creating interiors that echoed their reverence for the afterlife. The legacy of Egyptian interior design still resonates with contemporary interior designers, who draw inspiration from its timeless blend of form and function, as well as its profound connection to symbolism and cultural identity.One of the most iconic elements of ancient Egyptian interior design is the use of materials like limestone, alabaster, and precious metals. These materials not only served practical purposes but also added a touch of luxury and opulence to their living spaces.

2. Mesopotamian Interior Design (c. 3500 – 539 BCE)

The Mesopotamian civilization, particularly the Sumerians and Babylonians, also played a significant role in the development of early interior design. Their architectural achievements, including ziggurats and palaces, showcased their advanced understanding of space and aesthetics. Mesopotamian interior design, an integral part of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, reflects the ingenuity and artistic flair of its time. Notable for its advanced architecture, the Mesopotamians excelled in crafting intricate patterns, stylized motifs, and ornate clay bricks that adorned their interiors. These early interior designers embraced the use of richly glazed tiles and carvings to create stunning spaces. With a keen eye for detail, they incorporated symbolism and practicality into their designs, creating rooms that resonated with their cultural beliefs and daily needs. Studying the Mesopotamian interior design provides modern interior designers with insights into the fusion of functionality and aesthetics that underpins timeless design principles.Mesopotamian interiors were characterized by the use of clay bricks and intricate, stylized patterns. Ziggurats, for example, featured grand staircases, columns, and chambers that demonstrated their architectural ingenuity. The Mesopotamians understood the importance of ornamentation, and their designs often included intricate carvings and glazed tiles.

3. Ancient Greek Interior Design (c. 9th – 4th century BCE)

The ancient Greeks, known for their contributions to art and architecture, also made significant strides in interior design. Greek interiors emphasized harmony, proportion, and the use of natural light. Their design principles laid the foundation for classical aesthetics, influencing the Western world for centuries to come.Greek interior spaces often featured columned structures, with iconic orders like Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian becoming central design elements. Frescoes and murals adorned the walls, depicting scenes from mythology and daily life. Furniture was modest, focusing on functionality and simplicity, with wooden chairs and couches gaining popularity. Ancient Greek interior design, dating from the 9th to the 4th century BCE, served as a cornerstone for interior designers throughout history. It epitomized a harmonious blend of proportion and natural light, setting the stage for classical aesthetics. Greek interiors featured iconic columned structures, showcasing Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, which continue to influence architectural and interior design today. Frescoes and murals graced the walls, narrating stories from mythology and daily life. Furniture, defined by wooden chairs and couches, emphasized simplicity and functionality. The enduring legacy of Ancient Greek interior design can be seen in contemporary interiors, where interior designers often draw inspiration from its timeless principles of balance and elegance.

4. Ancient Roman Interior Design (c. 753 BCE – 476 CE)

The Romans, heirs to Greek culture, further expanded and refined interior design. Roman interiors were grand and opulent, reflecting their penchant for luxury and extravagance. They introduced advanced heating systems like hypocausts, allowing for the creation of underfloor heating.Mosaics and frescoes were prevalent in Roman interiors, with intricate geometric patterns and mythological scenes gracing the walls. Furniture was crafted with an emphasis on comfort and was often adorned with ornate carvings. Roman villas showcased the art of blending indoor and outdoor spaces, with colonnaded courtyards and gardens. Ancient Roman interior design, a testament to the sophistication and opulence of the time, provides valuable inspiration for modern interior designers. The Romans mastered the art of blending functionality with aesthetics, creating grand living spaces with intricate mosaics, frescoes, and underfloor heating systems called hypocausts. They showcased a love for luxurious materials like marble, ornate furniture, and the concept of merging indoor and outdoor spaces. The fusion of elegance, comfort, and architectural ingenuity in Roman interiors remains a timeless reference point for interior designers looking to infuse their projects with a touch of classical grandeur and innovative design solutions.

5. Asian Interior Design (Various Eras)

While Western civilizations were making strides in interior design, Asia also developed its unique styles. Chinese interior design, for instance, emphasized the use of natural materials such as wood and stone. Furniture was often elegantly crafted with intricate joinery techniques.In Japan, the concept of Wabi-Sabi celebrated imperfection, simplicity, and the beauty of natural aging. Traditional Japanese interiors featured tatami mats, shoji screens, and low, minimalist furniture. Asian interior design is a captivating tapestry of cultural diversity and timeless elegance. Encompassing a wide array of styles from the Zen-inspired minimalism of Japan to the ornate opulence of India, Asian interior design offers a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation. Interior designers often draw inspiration from Asian aesthetics, incorporating elements like intricate wooden carvings, delicate silk fabrics, and the philosophy of Feng Shui to create serene and balanced living spaces. The use of natural materials, subdued color palettes, and a deep respect for cultural symbols and traditions define Asian interior design, making it a source of endless inspiration for interior designers seeking to infuse their creations with a touch of Eastern allure.

6. Medieval European Interior Design (c. 5th – 15th century)

Medieval Europe witnessed a fusion of architectural styles, from Romanesque to Gothic. Interiors of castles and cathedrals featured grand vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and elaborate stone carvings. Furniture was often heavy and functional, reflecting the feudal society’s hierarchical structure.Tapestries and wall hangings played a vital role in medieval interior design, adding color and warmth to otherwise austere stone walls. The use of intricate wooden paneling and detailed ironwork became prominent during this era. Medieval European interior design is a captivating tapestry of history and craftsmanship. During this era, interior designers of noble castles and grand cathedrals embraced the architectural styles of Romanesque and Gothic. The interiors featured imposing vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows that filtered colorful light, and intricate stone carvings that told stories of faith and chivalry. Furniture in these spaces was robust and functional, reflecting the hierarchical structure of feudal society. Tapestries and wall hangings added warmth and artistry to the often austere stone walls, while wooden paneling and detailed ironwork lent a sense of grandeur. Medieval European interior design evokes a sense of timelessness, offering inspiration to contemporary interior designers looking to infuse their projects with a touch of historic charm.

7. Renaissance and Baroque Interior Design (c. 14th – 18th century)

The Renaissance period ushered in a revival of classical Greek and Roman design principles. Interiors featured symmetry, proportion, and a return to the ideals of beauty and harmony. Frescoes, paintings, and sculptures adorned the walls, while furniture became more refined and ornate.

Baroque design, which followed the Renaissance, was characterized by grandeur and opulence. Excessive ornamentation, dramatic use of light and shadow, and rich materials like marble and gold leaf defined Baroque interiors. Elaborate chandeliers and mirrors became popular elements of this style. Renaissance and Baroque interior design represent two distinct but equally influential periods in the history of interior design. The Renaissance era, characterized by its revival of classical Greek and Roman design principles, emphasized symmetry, proportion, and a return to ideals of beauty and harmony. This period saw the introduction of elaborate frescoes, paintings, and sculptures to adorn interior spaces, while furniture became more refined and ornate.

On the other hand, the Baroque period, which followed the Renaissance, celebrated grandeur and opulence. Baroque interiors were known for their excessive ornamentation, dramatic use of light and shadow, and the use of rich materials such as marble and gold leaf. Interior designers during the Baroque era incorporated elaborate chandeliers, mirrors, and intricate detailing into their work.

These historical design movements have left an enduring legacy, influencing the work of contemporary interior designers who draw inspiration from the opulence of the Baroque and the elegance of the Renaissance to create spaces that blend classic elements with modern sensibilities.

8. Victorian Interior Design (c. 19th century)

The Victorian era brought a resurgence of interest in interior design, emphasizing intricacy, ornamentation, and eclectic styles. Interiors featured heavy drapery, ornate wallpaper, and a wide range of furniture styles, from Gothic Revival to Rococo.

During the Victorian era, interior design evolved to cater to various functions within the home, leading to the creation of distinct spaces for dining, reading, and socializing. This marked the beginning of a more personalized approach to interior design.

9. Modern Interior Design (20th century – present)

The 20th century saw a significant departure from historical styles, giving rise to modern interior design. Pioneered by designers like Le Corbusier and Bauhaus, modern design focused on simplicity, functionality, and minimalism.

The mid-20th century brought the rise of various design movements, such as Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian, and Postmodern. These styles emphasized clean lines, open spaces, and the use of innovative materials.


Interior design has come a long way from its ancient roots, evolving with each civilization and era. From the simplicity of Egyptian design to the grandeur of Roman interiors, and the elegance of the Renaissance to the eclecticism of the Victorian era, the history of interior design is a rich tapestry of human creativity.

Today, interior designers draw inspiration from these historical styles while infusing their unique creativity and contemporary sensibilities. Understanding the roots of interior design styles helps us appreciate the art and science of creating functional, aesthetically pleasing, and culturally resonant spaces in the modern world.

In a profession that continually evolves, interior designers pay homage to their historical predecessors while pushing the boundaries of innovation, making history themselves as they shape the interiors of the future.

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