This month, our Form Follows Fashion journey takes a dive into the darkness and drama of design noir. Smoky rooms filled with intrigue and mystery, accompanied by private investigators and murder suspects. As interior designers, we do much the same thing as detectives: sleuthing to discover the wants and needs of a client while preventing our own fingerprints from covering the space.
This classic old-time thriller vibe is the inspiration behind the aesthetic. The well-crafted complexities of an expertly unnerving whodunnit brings a beautiful and mysterious tension to the space. It captures your attention by playing on value and contrast—different textures, irregular patterns, and light versus dark.
A single odd thing catches the eye and captures your attention. Whether it be the small clue for a private investigator, or the subtle touch of whimsy found in an interior. For example, the surprising bronze end to the stair railing. Or the hand drawn face on a smooth, gold cabinet. A detective finds the signature in a crime, tying it to an individual, no matter how small. An interior designer works in reverse: starting with the individual, they create a signature. Unexpected shifts in the design can communicate the tastes and preferences of an individual, adding nostalgia or a sense of calm.
Likewise, patterns in crimes or crime scenes will tip off a skilled detective. Humans are designed to notice and look for patterns, our brains striving to create order and organization in any form of repeating information. Like footprints, these patterns aren’t quite uniform. They differ in size, space, location—freeform patterns that repeat in style, but without rigid precision. The organic nature of the pattern makes the room feel alive, vibrating with undeniable energy. However, the recognition of any pattern manages to soothe the soul and calm the mind.
Smoke + Mirrors
Additionally, the repeating frames and smoky veins in the floors and walls below demonstrate slightly irregular patterns. The repetition of shapes, lines, and textural characters are closer to a traditional pattern featuring rectangular forms and nearly straight lines. Yet, like the inimitable appearance of snowflakes in the sky or waves on the sand, these interiors don’t quite reach the convention of exact patterns. The slight disparities give the sense of an almost solved mystery, one that holds excitement, promise, and satisfaction.
Noir has a clear and classic ambiance in film, radio, and design. Thriving in the darkness, these interiors feature matte finishes, minimal texture, and muted patterns to create a bleary-eyed visual that simply adds to the mystery. The subdued backdrops provide an elegant beginning for playing with light and polished touches. When precisely proportioned and attentively arranged, dark noir spaces carry an unrivaled drama that brings dynamic vitality to the interior.
Though darkness is predominant in design noir, a noir interior needn’t be a black interior! These white interiors revel in contradiction. The theatrical and stark contrast of dark patterns against a bright background hold the same qualities that make up a noir interior. The ever-present drama creates a beating heart of excitement and cool mystery with every unique touch. Each design is different, no two interiors are the same, and every space reflects the one-of-a-kind personality of the inhabitant.
Often, in filmmaking, the gaffer throws a cutout “cookie” in front of the light source, forming a careful and precise shadow for the exact ambiance the scene needs. In like manner, window blinds can cast striking shadows with the proper design. Though the equidistant parallel stripes may be predictable, they are an intriguing and non-traditional source of pattern that contributes to the interior as a whole. Meticulous filmmakers design and plan every aspect for the perfect masterpiece. Interior designers are just as meticulous in designing your living space; interior design isn’t just filling the space with furniture. It’s considering light and shadow, scents and sounds, to enhance not only your space, but your life.
Just as shadows and light sources play a part in a design noir creation, so do the reflections of said light. The way light bounces off certain surfaces can change how big the room seems or where the focal point is found. Imagine, if you will, the wet pavement of a midnight street reflecting the light of street lamps. The high contrast prompts our minds to think of something valuable, like gold or platinum. As such, the interiors below emphasize the contrast between the monochrome design and touches of gold in artwork or light fixtures.
Taking this a step further, the noir plot thickens with sparkling gold chains and gilded treasures. The presence of golden metallics in a black and white space adds signs of glamour without being obnoxious or gaudy. The gold table and cabinet below stand out amidst a moody, neutral backdrop, instantly transforming the interior into a high value space.
Of course, a noir suspense wouldn’t be complete without a killer red crime scene. This is where the plot truly gets started, where your heart starts pounding and your blood starts pumping. Bold splashes of crimson can create the same visceral response in your own home. Maybe not of terror, but feelings more akin to wonder, awe, and jaw-dropping excitement. Properly placed reds indicate something important has happened, engaging the mind and the aesthetic eye to pay attention to details.