Monday, November 1, 2010

Scottish Savoir Faire in White

Way before Syrie Maughan (God Bless her) was shocking the established rules of decorating in the 1920’s and 30’s with her all white colour schemes there was Charles Rennie Mackintosh! Major exponent of the arts and crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he is more so remembered for his designs and less so than for his colour palette. Whereas we generally associated the Arts And Crafts movement with dark woods and liberty style prints, Mackintosh threw all this out the window when designing overall schemes.

The primary use of white in Mackintosh’s schemes was a radical departure for the day. He created light and airy spaces that counteracted the gloom of the Britain that was lurking outside his stained glass windows. A prime example of this predominately white colour scheme is still in evidence in the Willow Tree Tearooms in Glasgow Scotland. We see the typical hallmarks of Mackintosh in the high backed chairs and small solid blocks of colour used as decoration, adding to the starkness and the linear approach to design.

He was then able to use the smaller blocks of colour, such as in the cut-out of lampshades etc for a visual grounding. These were repeated to give rooms and schemes a sense of continuity. Any sort of focal point of a room wasn’t emphasised by colour, but by sculptural forms in white, illustrated in the designs below for a music room. Everyday things like fireplaces and pianos were given this sculptural treatment.

If white was not the main colour of decoration and wood was used, white or off white was usually included in the floor covering to give the sense that the furniture was floating in space

For the time and period Mackintosh’s work was groundbreaking. The Victorian era was characterised with heavy dark sombre carved furniture and equally gloomy interiors stuffed full of all manner of objects. Mackintosh’s schemes and decorations were a radical departure from this doom and gloom, to light airy spaces that influenced designers for now more than a century.

The great thing is that you can still see Mackintosh’s work in Glasgow today at the Willow Tree Tearooms or at the Hunterian Art Gallery, where some of these interiors have been preserved.


  1. Absolutely beautiful!
    The design still looks so contemporary!

  2. Thanks for posting on Charles Rennie MacIntosh (and dueling Mondays, too)! I am a great fan of MacIntosh and his vision, so I was delighted to find a typeface that duplicates his very distinctive lettering. It's called ... MacIntosh.

  3. David, you will never stop surprise me with wonderful new introductions!I have never heard of Charles MacIntosh before...I shoul probably admit that I love white on white pallet and one day will, probably, have a room done all in white. But for now I am too much of a color lover, besides, did I mention I have three dogs, 5 cats(adopted, previously abused poor animals) and one very loud parrot who simply will turn white into something gray very fast :-)))).
    P.S. David, I will be sending my responce to you by Saturday. Please, do not htink I forgot about you. :-)))

  4. absolutely fab post david. i can always count on the fact that when I drop by here you will teach me more about something i've only ever scratched the surface of before. and i love that!

    hope the week is treating you well x

  5. MacIntosh was a genius. What a dramatic shift away from ugly, overdone Victorian. I like that it is unlike anything else, looks modern and yet has distinct style and isn't repetitively minimalist.

    He was a true original with his own beautiful vision. Great selection of images.

  6. Thanks All. Mackintosh is up there in the top ten people whose work I admire. He was truly a genius and way ahead of his time!


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