Here's Everything You Need to Know About Art Nouveau Design

If you love an eclectic aesthetic, this is for you.

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Maurice Rougemont, Getty

Interior design styles run the gamut from coastal to mid-century modern, but there's one aesthetic that's just as worthy of attention: Art Nouveau. A design style that gained popularity in both the United States and Europe from 1890 to 1910, Art Nouveau showcased floral patterns, curves, linear designs, and elegant silhouettes, among other characteristics. The elaborate aesthetic was prevalent across a range of disciplines, including furniture, architecture, fine art, pottery, and glassware. It can even be spotted on the set of the 1964 movie, My Fair Lady.

Paris-born designer Robert Couturier knows the style all too well, as he was raised in an Art Nouveau-style residence built by famed architect Hector Guimard. "Art Nouveau was inspired by all the fluid forms of nature," Couturier says. "It was a very new thing at the time, because most houses were in a heavy Victorian fashion. It also came in a derivative century, where you did not have any style that was really, really new. It was very unexpected and innovative."

Unlike more straightforward decor styles, like industrial or bohemian, Art Nouveau elements can be quite hard to incorporate it into an interior without the guidance of a design professional. "You almost have to be dressed to fit the part," admits Couturier. That said, below are a few pointers Couturier suggests if you're up for the challenge.

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The Hotel Tassel, 1893, Brussels, Belgium.
Getty/Heritage Images

Tips to Consider

It's worth exploring the work of designers who defined the Art Nouveau movement. "The best designer of the time was Louis Majorelle," he says. "Emile Gallé did beautiful light fixtures, and the architect of the time was Hector Guimard, who did our house in Paris."

Avoid crafting an entire room in this design style. "It can be difficult to recreate, because it involves architecture, interior decor, and even wall treatments," Couturier says. "It is a very all-encompassing style, and it can look really phony if you try to recreate this kind of interior."

It's not ideal for contemporary spaces.
"It is so specific and can be hard to use in a very contemporary apartment, but if you have a fairly eclectic interior, incorporating this style may be quite easy to do," Couturier says.

Experiment with doses of accessories. "I have used Art Nouveau light fixtures and accent chairs in a variety of apartments, because some of my clients have resonated with the style," says Couturier.

Recognize beauty when you see it. "When an Art Nouveau piece is beautiful, you must use it," Couturier says. "There are pieces that, intrinsically, are beautiful, and can be used with other elements of design. They can be very fanciful, lyrical, and incredibly feminine in many ways."

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