You don’t need to be an artist’s muse to live like Alma Mahler. Vienna is bustling with design pieces that can turn your flat into a stylish Gesamtkunstwerk
Your tranquil urban island has seen better days? What you need are just the right Viennese design elements to transform your living space. But where to find them? Like the turn of the century artists from the Wiener Werkstätte, let’s explore how to consciously curate the objects in our home to fit our own style by navigating the Vienna design scene.
The Viennese Workshops were part of a design movement headed by Josef Hoffmann and other Secession artists who played a key role in the 20th century development of modernism. From 1903-1932 they combined traditional manufacturing practices with avant-garde aesthetics to create their famed designs in their workshop on Neustiftgasse. Their goal was a Gesamtkunswerk (“total work of art”) an environment where every detail surrenders itself to a shared aesthetic, from the architecture to the glassware, carefully designed by the artist. Now, the emergence of new design trends signals a return to the artisanal, a reaction to a throw-away society and the rapid expansion of our virtual lives.
Today’s trends in design signal a growing longing for the tangible. DIY is passé. Enter the age of the artisan, where craftsmanship takes center stage. Escaping the polished surfaces too reminiscent of our screens, we long for “natural” textures like faux fur and leather, mohair, and velvet. Raw whites are a big trend, showing us the beauty of imperfection in natural, organic hues, while navy blue eclipses as the new black. Our obsessions with hyper simplicity seem to have finally faded, replaced by softer Victorian influences. Mixing textile patterns, stained glass and ornate accessories, we are refilling the knickknack void left by mid-century modernists.
To create your “total work of art,” begin by purging your apartment of the unnecessary, outdated or worn items you may be holding on to. You may want to look into the acclaimed Japanese organization expert Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). Once you have only the things you love, write down some descriptors of your style, your color scheme, and dive into the world of Viennese design.
For the heart that cries out for “contemporary” and “sleek”, we present a few examples from famed Austrian designers; the sultry velvet couch made by JOKA roots you in its smart gem pink, spreading luxurious texture through your living room. The ethereal wooden bathtub named Shell from designer Nina Mair celebrates the bathing ritual in a return to nature in impossibly thin but expertly crafted walnut. Edgar, a minimalist wardrobe/mirror combination by designer Christian Spiess, celebrates the essential in a masterful way, the perfect addition to any front room. The refined Wings Bed is an arid play on intimacy from designer Jaime Hayon for Wittmann. With its soft textures of velvet and powder black, it cradles the sleeper in a smooth and dazzling cocoon.
From the golden age of Viennese design, you may find vintage Jugendstil and art deco originals and reproductions at Galerie Holzer. However, vintage design in Vienna has expanded beyond the Jugendstil and the antique, opening up many avenues for a time traveling interior designer. Lichterloh can produce once-in-a-lifetime finds from 1920 to 1970, as well as some tasteful reproductions of particularly coveted examples. Glasfabrik is an ode to the industrial, or “shabby chic,” corner of the vintage sphere where on-trend furnishings (*wink at the Victorian trend here) can be spotted in their 3,000 m2 Ottakringer warehouse. At Bananas you’ll find a passionately curated assortment ranging from 1930-70. For exquisite handprinted textiles, visit designqvist, a hub of ’50s and ’60s design.
Peruse & Spruce
Good design doesn’t need to cost you your limbs. Begin by researching the styles you love, regardless of the cost. Then find similar pieces on Willhaben, a public marketplace where value for money is unbeatable and incredible finds are hanging from the algorithm trees. Flea markets are also great for sourcing all kinds of furniture, art, decoration and extras; Just be prepared to spruce up your finds a bit, also part of the fun. Volta is a superb concept store with home decor from Austrian and international artists and designers, and reasonably priced to boot. Art is an integral part of a living home, and you can often find your masterpiece at the Kunstsupermarkt (Art Supermarket) event on Mariahilfer Strasse, starting again in mid-October. You can browse through 6,000 original works while supporting emerging artists.
Of course our homes are always evolving, nor should we be forever scrambling through city showrooms on a hunt for ultimate and elusive perfection. By consciously selecting each piece, though, we can create a harmonious atmosphere. Through the acquisition of a few carefully chosen pieces of Austrian design, we can celebrate the vibrancy of the artistic Mecca we are lucky to call home. Great Viennese design has always stood for quality in craftsmanship, attention to detail, and dedication. You’re in Vienna: So venture forth in search of your own unique “total work of art.”
VIENNESE DESIGN LABELS
With an emphasis on solid wood furniture updated for the modern home, these pieces are built to last.
WIENER SILBER MANUFACTUR
Get proper with these razzledazzle artefacts of pomp and finery, built to last a lifetime. Don’t forget the polish!
Silberboutique 1., Spiegelgasse 14
These stunning carpets are works of art for your floor. Designed in Austria and produced responsibly in Tibet, these pieces are handcrafted with inspiration drawn from the worlds of fine art, street art and traditional color symbolism.
Transform your rooms into sunny courtyards and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of real sunlight in the home with Instadaylite.
Instantdaylite Division 19., Sieveringer Strasse 207/II
A world-renowned lighting, chrystal and glass specialist. A water purification system created by FormaFantasma for Lobmeyr turns the humblest of drinks into an exquisite daily ritual.
J. & L. LOBMEYR GmbH 1., Kärntner Strasse 26
One piece of furniture for play, independence, fun and learning with an emphasis on sustainability, intuitive design and longevity.
Blütenstrasse 23/121 4040 Linz
Design Shops & Resources
GALERIE HOLZER 7., Siebensterngasse 32 galerieholzer.at
LICHTERLOH 6., Gumpendorferstrasse 15 – 17 lichterloh.com
GLASFABRIK 16., Lorenz-Mandl-Gasse 25 glasfabrik.at
BANANAS 5., Kettenbrückengasse 15 bananas.at
DESIGNQVIST 7., Westbahnstrasse 21 designqvist.at
VOLTA 7., Siebensterngasse 28 thevoltashop.com