Timeline Article

  • 10,000 BC

    Near the end of the Stone Age, the rise of farming prompts early Europeans to build permanent homes that feature ladder entries, crude furniture and artwork—walls painted in mod zigzag patterns. The first “man caves” won’t emerge for 12,000 years.

  • Near the end of the Stone Age, the rise of farming prompts early Europeans to build permanent homes that feature ladder entries, crude furniture and artwork—walls painted in mod zigzag patterns. The first “man caves” won’t emerge for 12,000 years.

  • 4000 B.C.

    Ancient settlers in China’s Yellow River Valley use astronomy to determine where to build, essentially creating feng shui. Thousands of years pass before the Chinese invent the magnetic compass—not for navigation, but to ensure geometric and energetic harmony in their homes.

  • 3100 B.C.

    For once, it’s not your mother’s fault. We have wealthy Egyptians to blame for the pressure to organize, organize, organize. They loaded up on cabinets, chests, baskets and boxes, many embellished with paintings or carvings.

  • 500 B.C.

    Classic stone columns embellish Greek buildings like the Parthenon, and give the gyro joints of the future a design to hang their hats on. Homes are minimalist and whitewashed (a decorator’s dream!) and feature central courtyards surrounded by separate entertaining, sleeping and bathing quarters.

  • 200 B.C.

    The Romans popularize some of the most important features in all of design: the arch, the vault, the dome—and the indoor pool. Interior spaces would be considered a little “much” by today’s standards, with elaborate furniture, mosaic floors, and walls with wainscoting and trompe l’oeil murals.

  • 1250

    After the invention of the flying buttress, the pointed arch and the ribbed vault, some of history’s grandest structures are created in the Medieval era. Great cathedrals, abbeys and universities rise across Europe.

  • 1500

    With the Italian Renaissance in full effect, nobles hire armies of artisans to decorate their villas with hand-carved molding and masterful frescoes. While commoners eat their daily bread balanced on a stool, anyone who can afford it crosses his nether hose in an actual chair.

  • 1765

    The flamboyant Baroque and Rococo periods follow the Renaissance (multicolored marble! curlicue plasterwork! naked putti!), but by the mid-18th century, the world is pretty sick of the drama. Neoclassic style, referencing the clean lines of Greek and Roman structures, makes it all the way to America (ever been to Monticello?).

  • 1837

    Queen Victoria takes the British throne, and while any house constructed during her rule is called “Victorian,” the most beloved are the rainbow-hued gingerbread stunners built late in her reign. Later, Danny Tanner and the rest of the Full House gang immortalize San Francisco’s favorite Victorians, the row houses known as the Painted Ladies.

  • 1888

    Frank Lloyd Wright and other young American architects begin stripping away the Victorian fuss and fretwork with the streamlined Prairie School style of architecture. A decade later, Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement hits American soil. Spotlighting stone and wood handiwork, a muted color palette and exposed beams and columns, it’s still prized today.

  • 1919

    The Bauhaus design school opens in Germany, though it shutters in 1933 as the Nazis rise to power. The sleek (some say sterile) austerity translates into magnificent, futuristic glass-and-metal spaces.

  • 1920

    The Art Deco movement makes its way from France to America. The ornate, symmetry-driven style celebrates geometric shapes, rich colors and metallics—evocative of the era’s move toward mechanization.

  • 1950

    Curvy, clean and—for the first time in history—purposefully casual, midcentury modern interiors are open and bright, with plenty of storage to corral the modern family’s collection of transistor radios and Slip ‘n’ Slides.

  • 1980

    Somewhere, a designer places a chintz sofa, multilayered drapes, a tasseled ottoman and a vase of dried flowers against a faux-finished peach wall; the rest of America follows suit. The open kitchen is the only design concept to survive the decade.

  • 1993

    The U.S. Green Building Council is established to advocate for sustainable architecture, design and construction. Ecofriendly materials like reclaimed wood, nontoxic paint and recycled-material countertops hit the mainstream.

  • 2013

    Farmhouse sinks, bleached floors, midcentury bar carts, trendy-trad wing chairs, mirrored vanities and Moroccan footstools—Americans eagerly embrace an eclectic design aesthetic. Just as long as there’s a place to plug in their phones.