Renaissance design for the 21st century

Renaissance architecture means massive spaces. Look at paintings of interiors from this time and you’ll huge halls and furniture on a grand scale. Most houses today don’t come with that sort of space, but it doesn’t mean you can’t add a touch of Renaissance glamour to your home.

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This 24-lamp chandelier ‘inspired by nature and harmony of spaces’ is dubbed ‘Leaf’. It has a light metallic tiered structure with glass shades, it is clearly contemporary but would fit into historical spaces too. It was offered by Pro Auctions on

Perhaps the simplest way to do this is through pictures. Taste in art was very important to those with money during the Renaissance. Today you’ll probably struggle to bag an original van Eyck, but look out for prints, smaller paintings, or even works by lesser-known or unattributed artists.

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A recent star on was this oil on oak panel portrait of a man in a mountain landscape which sold for £19,000 over an estimate of £2000-3000 at Swan Fine Art.

Many works from the era (roughly 1400-1600) might be religious so look for genre scenes and portraiture from northern Europe, which may have a broader appeal.

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“Jeroen Bosch” by Slovakian artist Vladimír Gazovic features a head inspired by portraits of the famed early Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. The fantastical composition is a take-off of earlier works by the artist including melded life forms. The lithograph dates to 1985. It is featured Auktionshaus Karrenbauer’s sale of June 25 with an opening price of €60. View the catalogue entry here.

Artists today continue to be inspired by works of this era. It’s possible to find works drawing on familiar elements of historic works and putting entirely new twists on them.

What about furniture? If you’re lucky enough to have a large space in your home, it’s worth looking out for a big statement piece.

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Best of both worlds – a ‘new’ old piece of furniture. This Renaissance revival cabinet in oak and elm is decorated with penwork of architectural form to the doors to the front cupboard painted in black with putti. It is from the circle of Godfrey Sykes (1824-66) and James Gamble (1875-before 1910). It goes under the hammer at Lyon & Turnbull on June 28 where it expected to take between £3000-5000.

They might not be Scandi-chic or minimalist by any stretch, but furniture from this period (and later imitations) are usually solid and intricately carved. Plus they’ve survived this long, they are unlikely to fall apart in a hurry.

Otherwise, opt for contemporary pieces with some old-style charm. Chandeliers were a big feature of Renaissance interiors, as were round mirrors, four poster beds, chests, sideboards and dressers. You don’t have to go far to find a contemporary – but still interesting – version of these items.

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Be prepared to think outside the box when going for a specific historical look. For example, smaller pieces can make excellent touches to interiors, as in the case of this chitarrino, a type of Renaissance guitar designed in modern times by Zachary Taylor off manuscript illustrations from 1550 by Adrian Leroy. Don’t worry – you can still strum away, but when not in use, it is still attractive. The piece is offered at Gardiner Houlgate on June 17.

And why not make it a bit more interesting by adding some one-off decorative elements. These don’t even have to be for inside the home. There are plenty of ways to get historic elements in the garden, whether through statuary or more abstract or decorative features.

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Bag three of these Gothic arched garden mirrors at Criterion Auctioneers sale of Bath Jaggards House auction on June 13. It has an estimate of £250-350.

But it is definitely possible to get decorative elements in the home too without having to widen your door. A sheet of illuminated manuscript, a musical instrument or a sconce would all do the trick.

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