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For as long as people have lived in homes, they’ve been striving to make their living spaces more beautiful, comfortable and functional. In this new series from Curious Minds favourite Barbara Isherwood (The Great Photographers, The Art of Picasso), we’ll trace the history of interior design from the ancient world to the present, assessing the fascinating, often dazzling, designs that have flourished along the way. As we journey from fabulous mansions and castles to sleek modern interiors and humble houses next door, this dynamic new series—perfect for fans of our past courses on art and architecture—will offer a unique perspective on some of history’s most fascinating people, places and homes.

Led by art historian, Barbara Isherwood, a frequent lecturer at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto.

Registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)


Lecture 1: Home is Where the Hearth Is
We'll look at how the first farmers sought to make their homes attractive and organized (and you thought "built-ins" were a new concept!) For the elite of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, luxuriously decorated interiors and finely crafted furniture were symbols of power and wealth that still impress. Medieval Europe is the age of the Great Hall. We'll explore castle interiors and Tudor houses in the emerging Medieval towns.

Lecture 2: Comfort and Luxury
In the Renaissance Palazzo and Elizabethan mansion, rooms become more specialized, and technical innovations such as fireplaces and window glass make homes more comfortable. In France, Louis XIV establishes Versailles as a cultural mecca, while in Britain the Restoration brings Baroque splendour to the English court.

Lecture 3: Craftsmanship and Cohesion
The 18th century sees some of the earliest efforts to create cohesive interior designs. Colonialism and international trade introduce new design influences and materials, and both aristocrats and prosperous merchants fill their residences with furniture and ornaments of unparalleled craftsmanship.

Lecture 4: Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and the new Middle Classes
In the 19th century, designers associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau promoted hand-crafted alternatives to mass-produced goods and cluttered Victorian interiors. Meanwhile technological innovation was making interior design an affordable option for the emerging middle-class.

Lecture 5: Clean Lines, Sleek Surfaces
Designers of early 20th century eschewed ornament in favour of clean lines and austere surfaces. We'll explore ground-breaking spaces by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Richard Neutra that still look modern today, and Art Deco interiors in which streamlined form, sleek materials and geometric pattern epitomize Jazz Age glamour.

Lecture 6: Beauty, Functionality, Sustainability
Post-World War II, plastics, modular systems and the invention of TV transform the home, while Scandinavian designers bring the warmth of wood back into modern interiors. In the 1980s, Postmodernism re-introduces the colour and ornament jettisoned by modernism. Today's top designers blend natural and man-made materials, global design traditions and functionality to create spaces that balance comfort and beauty with sustainability.

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