When you mention the German design direction, the first thing that comes to mind is neat, toy-resembling houses, the whitewashed facades of which are divided into separate sections by dark, narrow slats. A similar design of the exterior is called a half-timbered house (fachwerk) – one of the architectural branches of the above style. Among professional designers, there is an opinion that the classic German interior design style is nothing more than one of the Empire style variations. For the most part, this is true but we will consider the chronology of events in the history of its appearance and development a little below. German, like any other ethnic style, has absorbed the features of the nation that created it. It is strict, restrained, laconic, and even raw in some nuances. At the same time, its atmosphere is not devoid of gloss and cold slickness. Let’s talk about the characteristic features of the German style in the interior and, using specific examples, consider the options for furnishing each of the rooms.
- Textiles & Decor
The “great-grandfather” of the German style was the Biedermeier, which has many other names: neo-Renaissance, ancient Germanic, Altdeutsch. Eclectic in nature, it was created by German and Austrian designers as a replacement for the Empire style, which in those days (mid-19th century) was living out it’s last days. Since the luxury of a dying trend no longer fit into small spaces that were actively replacing mansions, a number of tweaks had to be made. Biedermeier retained some of the Empire styles but added troubadour elements and Gothic details.
The interiors used massive furniture, an abundance of stucco moldings, and a large amount of impractical decor. In cramped rooms, the Biedermeier looked caricatured, for which the people even gave him the offensive nickname “bug renaissance”. As they say, this could not last long, so by the end of the 30s of the last century, a new German style emerged. It appeared not spontaneously, but systematically. The work of the architect Walter Gropius and the students of his school called “Bauhaus” came up with the concept of a modern, laconic and practical direction, which was alien to the eclecticism and abundance of meaningless decorations. True, the German style is not devoid of its grace, since Gropius, first of all, was an architect. Since an architectural component was added to the interiors. The direction represents the quintessence of modernity, minimalism, and constructivism with a few national characteristics. The German design style is characterized by large free spaces, a combination of a dark floor with light wall decoration, rounded lines, podiums, and functional furniture. Although the direction is ubiquitous throughout Europe, it is rarely found in its pure form outside the homeland. The German style is considered a “connoisseur” option. Its modern variation most of all resembles an intermediate version between pure ethnicity and minimalism, into which it did not transform completely.
The German style is characterized by the following features:
- An ideal, well-balanced equilibrium between functionality and comfort, which has become a kind of business card of the direction.
- Competent arrangement of furniture.
- All objects are placed in such a way that it is convenient for a person to move between them.
- First of all, designers care about convenience and only then about beauty.
- The color scheme is calm, which vaguely resembles the palette of classic interiors since it is based on white and shades of brown.
- The moderate use of decorative elements.
- The angularity of the furniture is combined with soft curves.
- The presence of a podium and a ledge of a similar design on the ceiling. The latter is used in a modern variation of the German style.
- Floral motifs and contrasting stripes in the texture of upholstery and textiles is the characteristic feature.
In modern German interiors, suspended furniture structures (beds, cabinets) are an often guest. This solution replaces the traditional podiums, while at the same time giving “airiness” to the atmosphere.
For finishing the ceiling use a simple, non-textured plaster. In modern versions, you can resort to a matte stretch fabric. In classic German interiors, we can meet sophisticated structures with decorative wooden beams, which adorned the ceilings in Bavarian houses (like in chalets or country). The walls are painted, wallpapered, or plaster covered. The surface of the latter is chosen either monochromatic in muted shades, or with a discreet vegetal pattern. In some cases, a strip or a cage helps in decorating the accent wall. The floor is traditionally in hardwood. If earlier boards were used for these purposes, now they use modern laminate, parquet, or tiles (in the kitchen and bathroom).
White and brown tones form the basis of the color palette, which is not surprising since a large number of wooden surfaces complement the decor. The interior is usually in shades of dark chocolate, nut, terracotta, sepia, vanilla, bronze, coffee shades. Also, we can often see the combination of black and gray. Yellow, blue, Prussian blue, royal purple, charoite, and in rare cases red, cherry, wine can act as accents.
When choosing furniture, they put the emphasis on functionality. Aesthetics fades into the background. Keep the interior in classic proportions: comfortable armchairs and soft sofas, small dressers, bedside tables, shelves, beds, and coffee tables with thin legs. Furniture facades usually have a smooth surface without excessive decorations with simple handles. As for the configuration, the general angularity of large objects is smoothed out by the softness of the lines of small elements. For example, in the kitchen, use a rectangular mahogany table, which can make up a great company with chairs having semicircular seats and carved backs.
In small or cramped combined rooms, the folding furniture is allowed, since comfort in German interiors is of paramount meaning.
The main source of natural light is rectangular windows. They usually covered only with curtains, without using tulle, that is, in the daytime, they are completely open. A very laconic ceiling chandelier constitutes the central lighting. Additionally, sources of “working” light placed along the perimeter: lamps and sconces with simple shades made of ordinary or frosted glass. If the room has a podium or hanging furniture, then emphasize it with decorative light.
German interiors impersonate a large number of small lighting fixtures, each of which is decorated with a simple “frame”. However, they appear only in those places where additional lighting is really needed: in the reading corner, near the table, next to the mirror.
The decor in the German interior style is laconic and simple, like the rest of the furnishings. Flowers and everything connected with them is recommended to use: vases, pots, sometimes even bottles. The bedroom has a bouquet of live roses or chrysanthemums on the dressing table. In the living room, one can find a couple of pots or elongated vases with dry branches. Miniature pots with indoor plants are placed in the kitchen. German decor is fond of the placement of groups of vases, which differ in shape, size, and glass color. The wall decoration consists of a couple of paintings with neutral themes, sconces, and a clock. Natural fabrics prevail in textiles. Furniture upholstery is predominantly of dense materials. For a luxurious touch, you can purchase chairs with velvet or velour seats. The windows are covered with solid plain curtains from the floor to the ceiling. Also, you can place a picturesque composition of two-tone pillows on the sofa in the living room or on the bed in the bedroom.
The modern German style is laconic and in many ways similar to minimalism. If it is difficult to maintain in it the interiors of all rooms in an apartment or a country house, then the direction is easily combined with modern style, art deco, loft. In each room, the German style can be opened from a “new” side, choosing different colors and accent decor. Let’s look at examples of how rooms can look if they embody this direction in the design.
A German-style kitchen usually combines a cooking area and a dining group. If the room is large enough, then the dining table is right next to the furniture set so that, if necessary, it can be used as an additional work surface. A structure of bulbs and hooks hangs above the countertop, onto which the owner can hook small kitchen utensils. To add more storage space, opt for a comfortable sideboard dining table with closed shelves. Slightly protruding edges of the tabletop will allow you to comfortably dine behind it, and the drawers below will not interfere with those who are sitting. The set is chosen from light wood for small kitchens and dark chocolate for large ones. A white furniture set will look beautiful with its part of the drawers replaced with wicker baskets with neat handles. In such a container, it will be convenient to store products that do not need cold. The kitchen floor is in large ceramic tiles. Choose a material in white or with a surface imitating marble, wood. The wall finishing is great with plain vinyl wallpaper or with moisture-resistant plaster, which is designed specifically for “wet” rooms. Decoration with plates on stands, a composition of fruits in a glass bowl, and a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase will also emphasize the style of the room.
The living room in German style meets all the rules of minimalism. The sofa is better to be wide with soft brown leather upholstery. Supply it with a coffee table nearby, the tabletop of which, if necessary, can be increased by folding “wings” on the sides. Under it put a carpet with a short pile of chocolate shade with rare white splashes on the floor. A narrow hanging cabinet near the wall opposite the sofa is a great choice. It plays the role of a TV stand and storage space. To prevent this area from looking “naked”, a couple of open wooden shelves are hung next to them, on which books are placed. Two-tone curtains are a classy treatment for the windows. If the dimensions of the room allow, then a fireplace near one of the walls is a great addition. In modern interiors, the use of portable bio-models and electric fireplaces is allowed. If the fireplace is “full-fledged”, then it is cool to decorate it with an artificial brick of light shades (from a gray-brown palette). Designers often use only a wall clock, one or two paintings, pots with indoor plants, and a round crystal chandelier as the decor in the room. Be sure to add a pair of lamps to each zone.
The bedroom ceiling is better to be decorated with gray wood beams that contrast with the white plaster. Choose the bed either from wood or from metal with a rare wrought-iron decor. From above, the cover bed with a checkered or striped bedspread. Add a pair of pillows with an identical pattern, but in different colors, to the composition. The windows are better covered with thick, heavy curtains in pastel shades. The walls are finished with plaster or pasted over with light wallpaper. The accent area at the head of the bed is decorated with boards laid by the deck method. Additional decorations on such a wall are not needed, its texture more than compensates for their lack. Ebony bedside tables on high, thin legs are placed on both sides of the bed. The surface of each is decorated with a lamp with a simple fabric shade. The mirror, contrary to generally accepted standards, is not hung on the wall, but is a mobile model with a “leg”. The texture of the accent wall is emphasized by paired sconces. The floor is covered with a soft shade of baked milk with a short pile. A floor vase with dry twigs or a large pot with a houseplant will complement the interior composition.
For the hallway in the German style, a furniture set that includes a wardrobe, a hanger and a bench for changing shoes would be the best solution. Among materials, preference is given to wood (light shades for cramped rooms). The floor is covered with a short-pile rug, which is convenient for vacuuming and periodical washing. One of the walls is decorated with a rectangular mirror in a simple wooden frame or without framing at all, on the sides of which sconces are hung. If the hallway is wide enough, then a cabinet with drawers for storing small things is placed under it. Furniture facades are simple, smooth, without additional decor. A group of vases of different sizes and shapes, cardboard boxes with hinged lids are used as decorations.
For finishing the bathroom they choose the traditional option – large ceramic tiles. However, instead of the usual pastel shades, you can purchase a material which surface imitates the texture of wood. It trims the floor, the bottom of the walls, and the side screen for the bath. To prevent the surfaces from merging, you can choose two shades with a slight gradation within the same color. The upper part of the wall is finished with simple, white tiles. Furniture, represented by a narrow cabinet and a cabinet under the sink, is selected in white or gray. This design solution will visually expand the space. A square rimless mirror is hung over the sink and decorated with sconces in glass shades. The meager decor of this room is represented only by an elongated vase with a composition of fresh flowers, which is placed on a curbstone. The floor is covered with a simple white or gray rug. By the way, toilet bowls in combined bathrooms are recommended to be suspended. A mobile frosted glass partition without a pattern separates them from the rest of the room.
In the German style, ordinary people are attracted by naturalness and simplicity, which sometimes borders on primitiveness. Designers are happy to take on the design of such interiors, as they are versatile and easily adapt to both spacious rooms and tight spaces. The German interior design style is not for everyone. If a person is used to surround him- or herself with many “necessary” (and not so) things, then this direction should be immediately discarded. A German-style design is quite expensive. Although minimal furniture is used, the emphasis will be on quality and natural materials. It is also worth considering that you will have to learn the basics of floristry and floriculture, since live plants are considered an important detail of the interior of every room, without exception.