Islamic Art and Architecture in Ancient Britain


In the nineteenth century, the British widely embraced the Islamic art that played a role in defining the architectural design that was used subsequently employed in the construction of houses (Bleher & Ramadan 2015, p. 506). Islamic Art encompassed the use of visual arts that were produced since seventh century onwards by the inhabitants of Britain also included a significant number of Muslims. Islamic art was not merely adopted by Muslims since people got inspired by the arts and paints leading to its adoption in the architectural designs. It was named after the pioneers who happen to be the Muslims. Moreover, the Islamic arts constituted great decorations that were mostly ornamental together with hunting scenes and other inspirational artistic picture that, were desired even by the Christians.

The trade relations between the Islam and the Europe also enhanced the adoption of Islamic arts in their daily life. In this case, the Muslims sold decorated clothes and splendid pottery utensils that formed part of the life of the European countries including Britain. In Britain, there were architectural styles that were embraced in the nineteenth century that were referred to as Victorian architecture. The architectural designs was significantly adopted between the year 1837 to 1907, during the period of Queen Victoria, and became famous during her reign and hence the name Victoria architecture (Bleher & Ramadan 2015, p. 507). The paper shall demonstrate how the Islamic Art influenced architecture in Britain during the 19th century by elaborating the Victorian Design. The paper shall also describe the adoption of Islamic arts into British with examples the work of two designers, and their interpretation of the Victorian design.

Victorian Design

The adoption of the Victorian architectural design was in various components of the buildings. In concern to this, the design determined the interior design, the internal walls, and the design of living room, the Victorian paints, the floor décor, and lightening.

The Victorian interior design

The interior design adopted by the British was simplified but with splendour finish on the house interior. The ceiling had mould details and a fireplace was also splendid with an extremely decorative look closely similar to a French interior design. The high ceiling is part of the Victorian interior design that was adopted by from Muslims. The high ceiling design was meant to help to exhibit the beautiful arts in the ceiling. The images on the wall were portrayed to have high Islamic arts that were hand drawn but with a superb finish. The drawings were also included the embossed wallpapers on the walls. An interior design of a Victorian design can be demonstrated:

Source: Pevsner

The Victorian Arts also exhibit a mix of styles in the form of arts and crafts that lead to a dramatic and a luxurious with a superb finish. The Victorian interior design can also be enhanced by the introduction of exquisite furniture. The Victorian design also exhibits a detailed pattern of décor within a small space in a room showing fuss and grandeur. An ideally decorated room that exhibits furniture with great décor is as shown below:

Source: Pevsner

The British people adopted this style of furniture design from the artistic nature of the Islamic décor that was in most commodities that were traded by the Muslims. Other decorating objects in a Victorian designed house such as artefacts were also based on the Muslim valuation of artistic objects that added life to a premises.

Victorian Paint

The Victorian designed premises should ideally have dark colours like a ruby emerald green forest or tone it with gold like colour. Due to the colours that were desirable by the Islamic artists, the companies in the UK are now producing perfect heritage colours that are specifically tailor made for the adoption of Victorian designs. Moreover, purple and pale blue colours are not ideal for a Victorian Architectural design. The fact that the colours were not available in the early 19th century during the development of the Victorian architectural design makes the colours still not suitable even in the present state. It is, therefore, evident that in the modern UK, most buildings are not painted with purple or pale blue colours.

Victorian Walls

In the year 1840 there were mass productions of wallpapers that were set to be embossed on the walls (Lapidus 2014, p.123). In most cases, the wallpapers are set to be installed on the dado rail or at the picture’s rail height. The positioning of the wallpapers is for the proper visibility of the wallpapers to enhance further the appearance of the premises. Notable wallpapers that were attributed to the Victorian regime included those designed by William Morris. The Damask wallpaper, Large floral, and animals on water bodies artistically drawn on silk papers were some of the perfect wallpapers. On the same note, plain painted walls also appear meticulous when drawn on charismatic rooms and are also embraced on the modern UK buildings. Victorian wallpapers are also based on the Islamic artists that were still desired in the Victorian regime (Lapidus 2014, p.123).

Source: Pevsner

Victorian Floor

The artistic colours that were adopted in the Victorian age encompassed mildly toned floors or parquet flooring that can be enhanced by the large rugs that were also significantly enhanced by Islamic artistic. The design of the arts to be embossed on the rugs was based on the beautiful Islamic arts that still forms the major part of the most decorated rugs that are used in many countries let alone Britain. Also, the rugs were strategically positioned to leave a space that would provide a display on the appearance of the floor boards that matches with the colour of the rugs. In some cases, the peripherals of the rugs are not artistically drawn so as not to provide contrast with the good appearance of the rugs. An ideal floor in a Victorian design also rhymes with the colour of the walls. In a room that there is a floor rug, it is important to use a large room so that the appearance of the floor and the rugs can be explicitly displayed. To demonstrate the harmonisation between the floor and the walls, an image below is an ideal example of the Victorian design that gets its roots from Islamic arts.

Source: Pevsner

Victorian Decor

To enhance the appearance of the houses in the 19th century, British resident added decor to the houses, which included the addition of furniture to building that, were developed with splendid designs (Pevsner 2011, p. 208. In this case, most sitting and dining room needs furniture that depict a Victorian style of an ideal home. The decor of furniture makes room to have a magical touch that exhibits that a home is unique. In relation to the Victorian design, the decor on the furniture also carries a significant level of Islamic arts. The finish on the seats is significantly borrowed from the arts and appearance of the Islamic arts. It is important to state most furniture designs in the UK are based on the Islamic arts and they are still prevalent even up to now. The room with great decor exhibits a fussy room and the architect can enhance the building by customising the content in a room. Conversely, woodwork also borrowed significantly from the Islamic arts as demonstrated in a woodwork items below.

Source: Pevsner

The illustration on the left object is based on textile designs of Islamic clothes, which were found to be attractive by the British men in the Victorian age that was later adopted in the British architectural design (Pevsner 2011, p. 208). Moreover, Sofas and other chairs should rhyme with the general appearance of the room. Precisely, the colour of the sofa sets should rhyme with the colour of the walls and to some extent with that of the floor and the floor rugs.

Victorian Lighting

The lighting system determines the appearance of the objects in the house. In addition, lighting also contributes to the beauty and appearance of a room. In light of this, different architects apply varying lighting systems that are in line with the desired impression. There are many decorative lamps that enhance the appearance of the premises with many decorations on the lamp holders taking the shape of Islamic arts (Pevsner 2011, p. 205). In the diagram above, the lamp holder is customised to incorporate the decorative design that borrows the design from an Islamic textile. In this case, the lamp holder not only shields the occupant from direct exposure to the unfiltered light but also enhances the appearance. By enhancing the decor in the house, the architect attains his objective of producing highly classified premises that are attractive, which is the wish of every architect. The decorative nature of lighting lamps and lamp holders is widely embraced in many countries let alone The UK.

British designers who used Islamic Arts

There were many British designers that used the Islamic arts but notable designers include Bethan Gray and Mitchell Karim who applied the Islamic arts on the design of furniture and a collection of tableware in their company named Rugby Tree. The two designers set up the company to offer support from handcrafts, tableware, and furniture that was in their debut together with other collections (Pevsner 2011, p. 134). A notable product from the designers includes stripe collection, various designs of petal collections, and marble tableware that were designed by the two gentlemen. Bethany and Abdul made a stripe collection after being inspired by the Islamic arts, by combining seven pieces of materials that included coasters and candle holders. The product is precisely made through advancement on a radiating stripe that was used in the ancient medieval times of Islamism by using a black marble and amazonite. The stripe collection is ideally used to cover furniture to exhibit bright coloured upholstery. The image below demonstrates a stripe collection product as developed by Bethany, as based on the Islamic arts.

Source: Losty

Similarly, petal collections consist of eighteen pieces of tableware, which also includes a table, serving bowls, pastry planner that are designed to assume a radiating petal pattern. Petal collections date back to the 17th century as they were used in the Lotfallah Mosque in Iran (Losty, & Roy 2012, p.187). However, great advancements are exhibited on the products with more varieties being brought on board. Notable improvements from the ancient petal collection include the inclusion of marble layers that has minerals like ruby and quartz. Bethany is said to have been inspired to make products that reflect beauty and parity by utilising one of the most adorable minerals. The minerals used in the design of petal collections are highly used in the Islamic arts since time in memorial and their blue illuminating colour makes them more attractive. Bethany also stated that he added value to the work of Karim, who can be considered as a master craftsmen (Losty, & Roy 2012, p.187). Principally, Karim like other Muslims have a tendency of upholding the traditions and they devise ways of passing such traditions to the next generation. In this case, it is evident that Bethany borrowed the design on petal collections from Karim who is a Muslim.

It is important to note that the petal collections are carved with no use of aided machines and Bethany’s entity is striving to ensure that they offer significant support to the Islamic craftsmen who are specialising in the showcases like this one. In his words, Karim is quoted saying that he wishes to revive the abandoned traditional arts and crafts by finding markets for the traditionally designed and crafted products so that such noble traditions are passed on to the future generations. Cognisant of the fact that Islamic arts play an outstanding role in the adoption of craftsmen techniques, Gray states that Islamic remains a point of reference in design and architect (Pevsner 2011, p. 134). There are numerous products that can be produced using the Islamic arts concepts and produce beautiful geometric patterns that can be marketed with ease. The two gentlemen remains hopeful that the precious commodities that they produce and will continue to gain acceptance among the society. An example of a petal collection product designed from the Islamic art design is as below:

Source: Losty


In conclusion, through migration and interactions among the various communities, it is evident that people can exchange ideas, cultural, and economic ideas either collectively or at individual capacity. In light of this, the Muslims who interacted with the ancient residents of Britain in the early 19th century impacted artistic skills to the Britons, which have been used to play a noble role in design and architect (Metcalf 2014, p.324). Muslims are known for great involvement in arts, as exhibited in the decorations on their bodies especially women, and splendid designs on their textiles. In their interactions with the Britain in the 19th century, the Britons embraced the arts of the Muslims. In this case, both Muslims and non-Muslims enjoyed the artefacts designed by the Muslims. Conversely, the art concepts got its way into the architects of houses and design of products that gained penetration into the market with ease. The design of the houses was enhanced as advancements were made on the contents of the houses such as sofa sets, rugs designs, wall decorations, ceiling decorations, and the general house arrangements. On the same note, other beautiful products have been designed using the ancient Islamic artistic concepts (Metcalf 2014, p.324). Conclusively, Islamic arts have contributed in architect and product design and more advancements are underway to enhance the uptake of such products.


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  • Pevsner, N. (2011). High Victorian Design: A study of the exhibits of 1851. Mason. Faber & Faber.