Domestic Justice

Vitra Design Museum examines a century of seismic shifts in domestic interiors

The fantasy landscape of Visiona 2, realized in 1970 for the chemical giant Bayer by Verner Panton in Cologne, Germany. (Courtesy Verner Panton Design AG, Basel)

In 1920, western society was either embracing social progress and financial prosperity or bracing for political revolution and economic insecurity.

In architecture and design, a polarity would also emerge between the rationalist International Style and the eclectic Art Deco style. While certain practitioners and theorists were still trying to codify the form-follows-function principle—a tenet inspired by the rapid advancement of industrialization in previous decades—others were looking to reintroduce ornamentation and historical reference to soften the blow of this systemic change. An ongoing clash between purist and pastiche styles would come to define much of the following century.

Although architectural historians usually focus on monumental buildings and grand urban masterplans to define styles like postmodernism and deconstructivism, those movements are also formed by domestic interiors. Our homes have always been an expression of the way we live. They mold our everyday routines and fundamentally affect our well-being. These environments reflect the social behaviors, cultural norms, and political beliefs that shape our time.

A new comprehensive exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Southern Germany validates the historical value of interior design and surveys its radical evolution over the past hundred years.

On view until August 23, Home Stories 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors brings together a group of emblematic projects. Spanning from the 1920s to the present day, this timeline of domestic design reveals how interiors have mirrored and, in certain cases, cemented societal shifts and technological innovations.

By looking back at such epochal moments as the introduction of appliances in suburban homes during the ’50s, radical interventions in the ’60s, and the loft living trend in the ’70s, the Vitra show provides context for the serious issues facing society today: the shrinking of urban living spaces, for example.

Read the full trippy retrospective on our interiors and design website,

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