De Stijl Interiors

A group of architects and artists founded the style “De Stijl” in Netherlands in 1917. The main point of the movement was to express ideas in straight lines and rectangular forms with clear primary colors and non-colors. This style is also known as neo-plasticism because it is based on the fundamental geometrical principles of the square and rectangular shapes as well as horizontal and vertical straight lines, combined asymmetrically with the prevailing use of the pure yellow, red, and blue colors with non-colors black, white, and gray.
The philosophical and aesthetic views of De Stijl influenced the architecture of the twentieth century. The style was inspired by cubism, which can be observed in proposed abstraction and simplicity, avoided symmetry, promoted aesthetic balance, and plastic of the clean geometrical flats. Therefore, the found interiors reflect this earlier style in shapes and forms. The neo-plasticism brought a huge contribution to practical design, in particular a new type of interior architecture and its modular appliances. The colorful geometrical modules in the interiors and the furniture inserted into architectural space combine in harmony in the interior.
The paper will present an analysis of four interiors, highlighting the parameters according to which they can be considered to represent De Stijl. The question of the relation between the chosen examples and the historical style they reference is topical because individual designers’ styles always reflects particular methods. The presented interiors relate to the neo-plasticism by means of form, color, spatial orientation, and geometry.

Interior #1

The first presented interior is developed by Daniel Almeida, Daniel Almeida Arquitetura, Brazil

It is the interior of a kitchen in Acaiaca Apartments. The interior utilizes an idea of a tiny, functional, good-looking space with a reference to De Stijl. The straight black lines, pure colors of blue, yellow, and red, white flats, rectangular surfaces all prove that the designer drew inspiration from the discussed style. The main emphasis in the interior is the furniture painted in colors of “De Stijl.” If one takes away the furniture or paints it in a different color, one would lose all the magic of the style. This interior could be an interpretation of neo-plasticism, though it is quite common and typical. It serves as a background – the walls, ceiling, and floor – for a greater expression of bright colors of the furniture. The simple partitioning of the furniture and the lack of other details is how the designer followed the style of Mondrian.

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Interior #2

Cabinets by Lisa Steers, Vineyard Home Center, USA

In this interior, one sees no background. The emphasis is solely on the space of the kitchen and its cabinets. The white flat surfaces are the background for the stylistic solution. An interesting question to ask is whether it is worth it to use a triangle form and step away from an original style, but to have a better inclusion in a building design. The surrounding interior does not support this particular design. The architect presented lovely cabinets in “De Stijl,” but they are quite controversial in the existing style of the house.

Interior #3

Mondrian Loft by Susan Diana Harris from California, USA

This interior has a strong reference to the Mondrian style. The furniture, the construction of elements, the partitioning of walls, the sectioning of the ceiling, the balcony, the steps of stairs, and vertical supporting beams all have a direct relationship with De Stijl. The open concrete material of gray is also an element of the style. The furniture is an excellent addition to the style. The elements of the TV stand and gray shelf – the opening cutouts – are very similar to the straight black lines of the style. The furniture is a background and includes a black sofa and a gray TV stand. The main emphasis is on a red spot on the wall and the coffee table. If one took away the furniture, they would still have a stylish design. The coffee table is a good solution and it echoes the red rectangular spot on the wall. The appliances and the black TV set support the style. The interior seems to be incomplete and has a space to create or add new elements.

Interior #4

The laconic decorations of the ceiling, the walls, and the floor are a background for the furniture and its supporting elements

The architect chose the floor of a very appropriate tone of dark brown, which is close to black. The floor visually has no conflict with the bright colors of the furniture with black straight lines. These black lines combine everything into a single composition. The furniture seems to grow out of the floor and is a logical continuation of the floor. An addition to the style of the room is the blue rectangular shape of the curtain on a snow-white wall. It puts an emphasis on the composition. The design has a direct reference to neo-plasticism. It is made with taste and is an excellent example of a successful design.
When one analyzes these presented interiors, they can tell they are from different architects and parts of the world. Additionally, the interiors of rooms have different functional purposes. Despite all this, one can define the interiors as being of the neo-plasticism style. It is a universal design for different types of rooms. One can recognize it in the 1920s building as well as in modern structures.


First, one should refer to the chosen examples of the interiors. For example, by looking at #3, a person can see that the blue and yellow colors are of a pale tone. However, this interior is still in style. If one could take a designer’s point of view, one would see the idea to create an aerial perspective when close objects are bright and far objects slightly lose their colors. The room is huge and the idea of a perspective is suitable. However, if the designer would make those elements bright, it would break the perspective. The architect steps away from the original style, but emphasizes the perspective. The visually warm colors of the red spot, the coffee table, and “wooden” floor are close and emphasized, while the visually cold blues and yellows are far. The usage of more reddish or dark brown tones would still keep the style and bring in the visually warm elements to contrast the cold concrete walls. In the same interior, it is not a mistake to use soft elements in the design. The handrail of stairs, the soft black sofa, the round clock, the vase on the coffee table, kitchen chairs and lights, balls on the balcony, and stones on the TV stand are all examples of this. They are the necessary elements for people’s residential rooms that cannot have only straight lines and hard surfaces. That would make residential rooms look like factories or industrial building offices instead of living spaces. In the interior #4, one can see a yellowish blanket that seems to be out of style. Perhaps, it is not in a primary color, but it is done on purpose, because, considering the size of the blanket and the size of the room, the primary color would take all the attention to itself and break the composition. The architect implements a different tone of yellow to solve this and to keep the other parts of the interior in style.
Regarding the question of the relation of De Stijl and the historical style it is based on, one should address the following. The cubism art style, as a predecessor of neo-plasticism, used exaggeratedly geometrical forms. The cubism aimed to shatter real objects into stereometric primitives. Basically, De Stijl is a logical continuation of cubism. The stylization of forms turns into the use of rectangles only. The generalization of the color attains the highest point of primitivism, which is a tendency of the cubism in art, and becomes the expression of the primary colors only. The fractures of forms in cubism signify the renouncement of the symmetry in the interiors of De Stijl. It shows that the interior is always a reflection of its time.
The original idea of the neo-plasticism is simple, beautiful, comfortable, and cheap concepts. It is suitable for modern mankind. For a modern society, this style responds to people’s principal values. It eliminates gender and class issues by creating elementary designs and unifying them. The materials used are cheap and recyclable, which corresponds to the practical values. Moreover, the style originally contained a deep philosophical meaning, which was preserving the reality in the symbolic forms of basics. It is highly valuable today due to the modern shift towards simplification and meaningfulness.
The main traits of De Stijl are simplicity, laconism, geometry of space, asymmetry, and the use of basic colors. The value of these features is in the unification of the stylistic perception and creation of the harmony. The specific design and decorations give an emphasis to the layout of space by letting everything be organized simply and practically with the use of modules.
The original purpose of the style was creating an obtainable interior for any class of people, particularly the people who could not afford it. They were the primary audience. At that time, the question of affordable things arose, making designers struggle to fulfill these needs. Therefore, they responded by making things in a simple way with cheap materials and beautiful modularity.
The interior was a reflection of the exterior of buildings. It could not be a baroque building with neo-plasticism interiors. Instead, the outer appearance demonstrated these modern tendencies and particular stylistic traits. It created harmony between the interior and the exterior.
One can say that such a style shapes space. In one way or another, De Stijl features provide spatial dimensions with a new concept. These changes influence space, as it becomes more comfortable and usability rises. Apart from that, De Stijl forms that modernity of the interior and gives it a different philosophy described above.
The technical and engineering considerations of such a design are quite simple due to the use of basic colors and rectangular forms. One can see that the creators addressed these concerns with the module system of the interior details. It allowed transforming the initial shapes into ones that suited particular buildings.
A characteristic of every historical age is its particular stylistic qualities. They are reflected in the development of architecture and interior design. The twentieth century became an apotheosis of the struggle for social equality, which would be a reference to object environment that could be used by people of different social statuses. The creation of “De Stijl” was an answer to the change of the society. The availability, beauty, and modernity of the style promoted the elimination of the constraints of social groups. People see the details of this style in modern buildings and interiors. They can be seen in laconic sectioning of facades, the geometrical construction of interiors, and the use of cabinet furniture. The only change is in use of color. Modern architects do not use primary colors. They use various tones and geometrical shapes, which leads to the creation of new styles. Indeed, harmony is present in De Stijl. The geometry and colors of the interiors spatially combine in creation of a harmonious place. People can say that De Stijl is the grandfather of modern styles. At the same time, it does not lose its own importance in its pure original form. The style is unique.

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