The Spaniards never lacked the richness to afford the same splendid furnishings and even sumptuous interiors, like the other nations of their time. The inclination, however, was towards a paucity of movables.
It was a matter of spirited attitude not to narrow their rooms with articles they did not definitely need. This is the spiritual cause for the characteristic severity and restraint of the classic Spanish Interiors.
In our Spanish interior design we distinguish between the classic Spanish interior design and the Spanish finca-style.
In considering this subject, one must bear in mind the peculiarly conservative character of Spanish people, their almost religious attachment to time-honored usage and precedent and their fixed aversion from change, especially when the change has no stronger sanction than the mere compliance with a newly-set fashion.
For generations, people had been sitting upon cushions on the floor. This was a Moorish custom, to be sure, but Moorish customs had permeated Christian Spain and Christians held to the custom with the same tenacity as the Moors themselves, among whom the usage had more or less religious obligation. Therefore chairs and seating furniture in general were not so commonly used as in other places.
In studying Spanish exterior architecture of the early Renaissance, one cannot fail to be deeply impressed by the wonderfully rich effect of the intricate, lace-like carving of a doorway set in a severely plain wall without a trace of other decoration to break its expanse.
Much the same phenomenon of sharp contrast was repeated inside the houses where the marvelous cabinets, for which Spain was deservedly famous, had their sumptuous splendor accented by the complete absence of all elements that could in any way detract from their preeminence.
Another factor contributory to interest and enrichment was the frequent use of expanses of gorgeously polychrome tiling, at times almost barbaric in its bewildering splendor of colour and pattern.
These elements are also a heritage of Moorish civilization.
Spaniards had not the frescoed or marble-encrusted walls of the Italians of the same period, nor the wood-panelled walls of the French and English, and had instead plain plaster walls, or walls relieved for a portion of their height by multi-coloured tiling or by dados of painted canvas or cloth, their rooms, nevertheless, were by no means lacking in mural interest.
Love of strong colour and of vivid contrast and trenchant design is deeply implanted in the Spanish disposition and this chromatic taste was amply satisfied by the variety of hangings with which they adorned the walls of their apartments in lieu of embellishment incorporated in the actual wall structure.
No nation, perhaps, was ever more addicted to the profuse display of wall hangings.
There are, to begin with, tapestries, for tapestries were the common possession of all civilized countries and were esteemed alike in all. There are “fine Italian hangings,” which meant brocades, damasks and velvet. There are painted canvas hangings which presented both vivid colour and emphatic design. There are painted and scalloped canvas friezes or scalloped velvet frieze hangings rich with gold braid and fringe. Add to these, “India fabrics” as delicate summer hangings, or Toledo towels in red and yellow.
The beams of the ceilings and the panels of doors are especially favorite objects of decorative enrichment and are often intricately carved or inlaid. The carving on doors and on ceiling beams was not seldom enhanced by the application of colour and gilding as well.
Furniture and Decoration
The two most significant and characteristic items of classical Spanish furniture are the chest and the famous vargueno cabinets.
There are chests of all varieties and shapes and contrived for all purposes.
In addition to the chests, which usually manifested conspicuous marks of national taste, there are the vargueno cabinets and the papeleras, both of which are set on stands.
The vargueno cabinet has a drop front, hinged at the bottom, which could be used to write upon, and the inside contained tiers of small drawers. It was, in a word, the direct ancestor of the later drop front secretary.
Besides these, there are hanging cabinets or cup-boards, massive walnut tables of many varieties, settles, benches, stools and chairs.
Large pictures occupy a prominent place in decorative schemes.
Porcelains came in through Portuguese trade with the Orient and were highly prized.
Majolica pottery of admirable colour, design and shape, is made in considerable quantity in Spain.
Finally, the Spanish smiths were unsurpassed in their manipulation of brass and iron, from which they fashioned candlesticks, candelabra, sconces, chandeliers, braziers.
Classic Spanish Interior Design Style and the Spanish finca Style
The key element of the classic Spanish interior design is the conscious limit on the number of used furniture and the consequent advantage of the wide open spaces.
Solitary standing furniture find themselves in a decorative balance, in which nothing distracts.
The furniture’s of the Spanish fincas are on one hand influenced by the spiritualized atmosphere of the Spanish aristocracy and on the other dominated by the nature-loving, mediterranean joy of life and the practical necessities of rural life.