I often find, when creating an interior design, that our work reflects the influence of hundreds of years of European style and fashion. One of the styles I’ve been delving into recently is the Empire style, named for Napoleon’s First Empire in the early 1800s. Grand and elaborate, this style came about at a time when Napoleon was searching for ways to glorify his name and underpin his position of power. It combined the martial symbols of Rome with ancient Egyptian motifs and elements of Greek architecture, the idea being to relate Napoleon to the power and success of those regimes.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of Empire style today is the much-photographed Red Room at the White House, with its bold color palette, elaborate gilt chandelier and medallion embossed silk sofa.
(Source: East Wing Rules)
It’s definitely not a style for the faint-hearted! The colors and motifs of Empire-style décor were inspired by Egyptian tombs – deep red, cool azure, rich green and acid yellow, with sphinxes, lions, lotus blossoms, eagles, rosettes and animal-paw feet. Draperies were always heavy and luxurious, wood was typically expensive (rosewood, mahogany and ebony) and gilt and brass ornamentation was everywhere. I found some great examples of this kind of décor in these pictures of Vizcaya, the former estate of businessman James Deering in Miami. Don’t miss the highly decorated walls, the use of gold, and the fabulous tented ceiling in the bathroom – such luxury!
(Source: Architect Design)
I love the opulence of old-style Empire décor, but it doesn’t always sit well with my preference for calming, cool interiors. I prefer rooms that combine the grandeur of this style with a softer color palette for a look that is elegant but not overpowering. But if you really want to make a statement deep, rich saturated colors with Empire style pieces will definitely make a bold design statement!
I love to incorporate these highly stylized elements of a particular style or era into a space like a foyer, where they can stand independently and still make an impact. I’m really liking the effect of this Empire-style marble-topped console against a rich gold patterned wallpaper. With the pale wood floors and classic chairs, upholstered in an elegant gold and ivory stripe, the overall look is reminiscent of the Empire style but perfect for a contemporary home.
(Source: Elle Decor)
What do you think? Is the Empire style something you could incorporate into your own home, or is a style like this better left to the palaces and stately homes where it originated?