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Ancient Roman Interiors & Decoration

Roman houses were small and quite simple without much in the way of interior decoration until the final century of the Roman Republic. The outside of the house was usually severely plain; the walls were merely covered with stucco. The interior was decorated to suit the tastes and means of the owner; not even the poorer houses lacked charming effects.

Interior Wall Decoration

At first the stucco finished walls were simply marked off into panels of rectangle shape, painted in deep and rich colors with red and yellow predominating. Then in the middle of these panels simple centerpieces were painted, and the whole was surrounded with brilliant arabesques. Then came elaborate pictures, figures, interiors, landscapes, etc., of large size and skillfully done, painted directly upon the wall. A little later the walls began to be covered with panels of thin slabs of marble with a baseboard and cornice. Beautiful effects were produced by the combination of marbles of different tints, since the Romans ransacked the world for striking colors. Later still came raised figures of stucco work, enriched with gold and colors, and mosaic work, chiefly of minute pieces of colored glass, having a jewel like effect.


Mosaic Threshold
Mosaic Door Threshold.

Roman doors and doorways gave opportunities for equally artistic treatment. Doors were elaborately paneled and carved, or were plated with bronze, or made of solid bronze. The threshold was often of mosaic as in the picture above. The postes were sheathed with marble ordinarily carved in elaborate designs, as in the picture below.

Roman Doorway
Carved Roman Doorway.


The floors were covered with marble tiles arranged in geometrical figures with contrasting colors, similar to now in public buildings, or with mosaic pictures only less beautiful than those upon the walls. The most famous of these, "Darius at the Battle of Issus," measures sixteen feet by eight, but despite its size has no less than one hundred and fifty separate pieces to each square inch. Roman ceilings were often barrel vaulted and painted in bright colors, or divided into deeply sunk panels, by heavy intersecting beams of wood or marble, and then decorated in the most elaborate manner with raised stucco work, or gold or ivory, or with bronze plates heavily gilded.

Roman Interior
Roman Interior.

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