What Is Bauhaus Style Decor?

Bauhaus style design

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Bauhaus-style design and décor is a term describing the furniture, objects, graphic art, and interiors that were created as a result of the influential early 20th century design and architecture movement named after the German school founded by architect Walter Gropius.

What Is Bauhaus Style Decor?

Bauhaus design refers to the furniture, objects, interiors, and architecture that emerged from the influential early 20th century German school founded by architect Walter Gropius.

Bauhaus was a rational, functional design aesthetic that took a form follows function, less is more approach that still resonates today. With a focus on blurring the lines between disciplines and using arts and crafts techniques in an increasingly mass-produced, industrialized world, Bauhaus design included furniture, household objects, typography, graphic art, and buildings

Bauhaus school

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History of Bauhaus Style Decor

Established six months after the end of the war, in 1919, Bauhaus sought to create a radical new form of design and architecture to help rebuild post-World War I society. Gropius wrote in the Bauhaus school’s founding manifesto that “the ultimate, if distant, aim of the Bauhaus is the unified work of art.” He aspired to the German concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, or the “total work of art” that synthesizes many art forms into one. 

The school was shut down by the Nazis in 1933 under its final director, the celebrated architect and designer Mies van der Rohe. But the Nazi assault did not defeat the Bauhaus spirit. Gropius and other prominent Bauhaus designers left Germany and spread the ideas of the Bauhaus from Western Europe to the U.S. and Canada to Israel, turning it into an international movement and cementing its legacy as arguably the most influential arts and design school in the history of the world.

Cesca chair
Cesca chair designed by Marcel Breuer in 1928

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Bauhaus developed into the International Style when Gropius, van der Rohe and other prominent members of the Bauhaus emigrated to the U.S. in the 1930s and influenced the development of modernism in the 1950s and 60s. 

While the Bauhaus movement itself lasted only 14 years, Bauhaus architecture and design has had an enduring impact on generations of designers. One notable example is Steve Jobs, who often credited the influence of Bauhaus simplicity on the look of Apple products. 

Bauhaus style design

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Key Characteristics of Bauhaus Style Decor

  • Bauhaus style design is rational, simple, and functional
  • Key tenets of Bauhaus design include form follows function and less is more
  • The style is characterized by a lack of ornament and a focus on clean lines that reduce forms to their essential elements
  • Bauhaus design, art, and architecture often features simple geometric forms such as circles, squares, and triangles
Bauhaus design

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  • Use of bold but sparing pops of primary colors (red, yellow, and blue)
  • One of the bedrock principles of Bauhaus design is the notion of “Truth to materials,” where materials are used in their most natural and unvarnished state
  • Bauhaus designs used what were in the early 20th-century modern materials such as glass, steel, plastic, and plywood
  • Simple designs and materials allowed Bauhaus designs to be easily mass produced and accessible to large numbers of people
Bauhaus interior design
Barcelona chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929

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Bauhaus Style Decorating Tips

Bauhaus style furniture has a streamlined appearance and a timeless elegance that is easy to incorporate into today's interiors. Bauhaus furniture and objects work beautifully in minimalist interiors where their striking simplicity does a lot of the design work in a room. Bauhaus designs are also streamlined enough to work in more eclectic interiors and mix well with vintage, antique, or contemporary interiors to create a timeless look.

Many Bauhaus style designs have become iconic pieces of furniture that are still reproduced (and widely imitated) today. Some notable Bauhaus classics include the Barcelona Chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich in 1929; the metal iconic Cesca chair designed by architect and furniture designer Marcel Breuer (1928), or his Wassily Chair that was inspired by the tubular metal frame of a bicycle and looks as fresh as it did in 1925 when he first designed it. 

Another way to incorporate a little Bauhaus style into your interior is to incorporate color accents such as painting a door or a wall in a primary red, yellow, or blue. Framed vintage or reproduction Bauhaus posters are a popular way to incorporate some vintage style and showcase the enduringly appealing geometric graphics that defined the era.