Islamic Interior & House Design

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

Most Muslims consider their home an important place of worship and design it accordingly. In this lesson, learn about the main features of Islamic house design and explore some of the most important decorative elements that are used.

The House in Islam

Elaborate ornamentation, Persian rugs, and wooden lattice windows are all elements of Islamic decoration that have prevailed over time, not only because of their beauty but for their cultural and religious significance. They're conceived in a way to show respect for Allah (God) and the values of Islam.

While the mosque is probably the most important venue in Islam, the house is more than just a place to live. It's regarded as an intimate place of worship, and many aspects of the design and decoration of Islamic houses are done with religious precepts in mind. The Islamic design is not merely a style for decoration; it involves respect for a deeply spiritual way of life. Therefore, there's a difference between Islamic interiors and Islamic-inspired decoration.

The Royal Mansour in Marrakech, Morocco
The Royal Mansour

House Design Features

The Quran provides an outline of how a Muslim home should be. Similarly, the prophets have set the example of many different features that should be respected and included in every home.

Houses should be as ample and comfortable as possible, and effective ventilation and lighting are very important. Incorporating nature is also appreciated, so gardens and fountains have been part of the Islamic tradition for centuries. Gardens are often seen as representations of paradise, with abundant water and vegetation. Unlike Western gardens, they are for contemplation rather than recreation.

The inner courtyard is a common feature in large houses, and it provides natural ventilation, lighting, and also the perfect location for a private intimate garden.

Generalife Courtyard, near the Alhambra Palace, in Granada, Spain
The Acequia Courtyard

An entry hall is often found as a transition from the outside. Shoes are rarely used inside, so they're left there. If there's enough space, there's a separate room for entertaining visitors and a private living room for the family.

Houses usually have separate bedrooms for the parents, one for female children, and one for male children. Inside each one, the bed is commonly oriented so that the person faces the direction of Mecca when sleeping on the right side or, at least, in a way that the head points towards it.

When using the toilet, Muslims shouldn't face Mecca nor turn their back to it, and running water is important for cleansing. This led to the development of large bathhouses in ancient times. In modern days, hand showers are often installed next to the toilet.

Inside every Muslim house, there's a space for praying. It can be an entire room or just a little corner but is always away from the busy areas and ideally pointed towards Mecca. A place for studying the Quran is also common and is generally close to the praying area.

A Prayer Rug
A Prayer Rug

The Islamic home traditionally has an introverted character. The exteriors are rather sober, and most decoration is reserved for the interior. This has a lot to do with the importance Muslims place on privacy, especially for the women so that they're not seen from the outside.

Common Elements of Islamic Decoration

The Islamic interior decoration is often elaborate. Regardless of a room being luxurious or very humble, ornamentation is important. Having an ornamented setting is seen by many as a way of expressing gratitude and showing hospitality to guests.

The Islamic non-figurative forms of decoration have been traditionally preferred. The three types are geometric patterns, calligraphic texts, and arabesques (stylized floral motifs). They're often combined to produce even more elaborate designs. Human or animal figures are very rare in residential interiors.

Antique Ceiling Lamp with Non-figurative Ornamentation
Antique Ceiling Lamp

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