Design + Decor

That Was Then. This Is Now. (Not just a bunch of pretty pictures. Read it, people! ;)

tablets

Renowned architect Frank Gehry once said, “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”. The same holds true for interior design and decoration. But the evolution of form, function and beauty is quite remarkable, as I witnessed first hand on my recent trip to Greece and Turkey.

As a designer, the past certainly informs the present in my work. The timelessness of classic, even ancient, design infused with a contemporary point of view, creates environments that are rooted in tradition, yet live for today. These environments have soul.

Today, I thought it would be fun to share with you my take on how things have changed in  the world of design and architecture, but how they have kinda remained the same, too. Keep in mind that each of the photos I took were of architecture, furnishings and objects from the 2nd-century BC! And all from the Greek islands of Crete (the Palace of Knossos), Delos (the Manhattan of its time; a trading and commerce mecca), and Ephesus in Turkey (another huge 2nd century trading center).

So you ready? Here we go then, from the 2nd-century BC to circa 2018. Hope you enjoy traveling back in time as much as I did!

ARCHITECTURE

THEN

These photos are of the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete. The palace had five levels; two below ground and three above. The columns are replicas of the originals made of wood. They took large cypress tree trunks and turned them upside down. This accomplished two things – the wood being narrower at the bottom created more walking space, and an upside down tree trunk will not re-root and start to grow again.

PALACE OF KNOSSOS
Palace of Knossos on Crete

 

palace of knossos columns
Palace of Knossos on Crete

NOW

Wood, stone, steel – so many options and unique styles. Light and airy has replaced thick and heavy.

church architecture
ArchDaily

A stunning church in China.

architecture
Dezeen

Proposed mosque design for Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Center.

Tote lounge
Serie Architects

The Tote: bar and lounge in Mumbai

golf club
Shiger Uban Architects

The main atrium of a golf club in Korea.

GEOMETRIC FLOORS

THEN

The first photo is a geometric pattern that was done in mosaics, but still has a 3D effect.

NOW

The next photo is a geometric floor at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in Heathrow Airport where we had a layover on our way home. The 3D effect made it hard to look at while walking on it.

The island of Delos

MOSAIC FLOORS

THEN

Imagine laying individual mosaics, by hand, some less than ¼” thick, over an entire floor or street! Then imagine that they’ve survived for 2000 years – mind-boggling but true!

GREEK MOSAIC FLOOR
Ephesus in Turkey

 

closeup greek mosaic floor
Ephesus in Turkey

 

NOW

Today, mosaic flooring is created by machine, and the mosaics are attached to a mesh backing for ease of installation. That expensive floor you just put in your bathroom doesn’t seem nearly so expensive when you consider what it would have cost if each piece was laid by hand.

GAMES

THEN

Shopkeepers would play a “board” game when business was slow. Rather than having to carry a large stone tablet around they created their “board” in the sidewalk outside the shop.

NOW

Today, your “board” is much more likely to be your TV screen with a game console, or even your phone, rather than pieces of stone or marble.

stone game board in greece
Ephesus in Turkey

 

OUTDOOR LIGHTING

THEN

A niche in the front wall of each building housed a candle to light the pathway on the island of Delos.

NOW

LED is certainly a game changer! Light the sidewalk or the entire wall! Create drama with light! The choices are endless.

niche for candle
Island of Delos

 

TOILETS

THEN

On the island of Delos, the Manhattan of its day, there were public toilets (men only, no data remaining on what women and children used). This is literally where men congregated to “take care of business”. They would discuss whatever men needed to discuss while on their “thrones”. If you were wealthy enough, your initials were engraved in the stone to reserve your private seat.

NOW

Today, in the privacy of your own home, your commode can take care of everything, including a light to make sure your aim is true in the middle of the night, a heated seat to keep your bottom warm, water to clean with and air to dry with, and even a self-cleaning feature. And thank God the Scots invented golf for a more civilized way of taking care of business.

ANCIENT LATRINE
Island of Delos

 

toto toilet
Toto

 

BATHTUBS

THEN

Originally this clay vessel was used as a sarcophagus for your burial. Some brilliant person decided it would be handy for taking a bath in the privacy of their home and invented the bathtub!

NOW

Thankfully our tubs no longer do double duty as coffins (just as grottos for the Virgin Mary in front yards). Tubs come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and materials, are insulated to stay hot, have air jets to soothe your aches, and my favorite is this gem that ergonomically fits your body for the most relaxing soak imaginable.

ancient bathtub
From the Palace of Knossos on Crete

 

SHOWERS

THEN

See the square pits at the bottom of this photo? This is a public shower for use when you got hot during a long day of shopping or taking care of business. Probably the men only got to use these just like the public toilets, not sure. You stood in the pit and a slave carried large vats of water from a nearby cistern and poured it over your head (cold or warm, depending on the time of year). I can see why daily showers weren’t a thing.

NOW

Today, not only do our shower rooms look infinitely better than that hole in the ground, but we have choices of a rain shower head or lots of pressure, body sprays, steam shower, music while you shower, aroma therapy while you shower, light therapy while you shower – everything imaginable, minus the slave.

Outdoor shower Ancient Greece
Island of Delos

 

REFRIGERATION

THEN

See the hole in the ground in what was a shop? See the huge container? Sink that container in the ground where only the open top is visible, cover the top with leather and it keeps the olives or wine or whatever cool. No electricity required, minimal cost involved.

refrigeration 1
Island of Delos

 

pot

NOW

Today, for a tidy sum, you can have a fridge/freezer combination with separate cooling systems (because a freezer needs dry air and a fridge needs moist air), different temperatures for red and white wine, drawers to keep things crisp and fresh, mood lighting, instant ice, even filtered water. And best of all, you can leave the door open as long as you need to decide what to eat because it is so energy efficient that an open door doesn’t matter anymore.

Subzero

 

PRESSING OLIVES

THEN

Minimalist look, nothing but stone, never broke down, lasted 2000 years.

NOW

Not much to look at but gets the job done. I’m sure it will break down and maybe last 20 years. (That being said, we are in no way discrediting the amazing piece of modern technology pictured here! Yikes!)

OLIVE PRESS
Island of Delos

 

PRAYER OR MEDITATION

THEN

Although the runes are just now beginning to be understood, this engraved stone circle is believed to be a way to remember a prayer or meditation. The characters between each solid line are believed to be a word. Kind of heavy to carry around with you.

NOW

At least a rosary fits in your pocket to constantly be available. Or you can have a meditation (or 2 or 3) saved on your iPhone

PRAYER DISC
From the Palace of Knossos on Crete

 

guy meditating
Etsy

 

JEWELRY

THEN

This brooch depicting two bees is the most expensive piece of jewelry of its time.

bee brooch
From the Palace of Knossos on Crete

 

NOW

I’m sure we can top that.

bee brooch

FURNITURE

THEN

Even the king had to sit on stone all day.

NOW

No words.

stone throne
From the Palace of Knossos on Crete

 

bunny chair

So there you have it. Highlights from my travels that illustrate just how much things have changed and how much they have stayed the same. Form, function, style, beauty. They all work together to create places to live; places to love. If you need help bringing good design to your home, or better yet, if you’re starting from scratch, give us a call at 314.395.1114 or CLICK HERE to contact us.

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