The Enduring Legacy of Greek Key

Ancient Greece Pottery, circa 1100 BC

Ancient Greece Pottery, circa 1100 BC

One of the most famous and popular decorative motifs in all design, the Greek Key, has been popular for over 3,000 years! Isn’t it kind of crazy that we have used and loved the same design for that long and it still looks fresh and modern today? As an example, see the Greek pottery, circa 1100 BC, above and a Jonathan Adler Rug, circa 2019 AD, below!

Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler

We call the design Greek Key because the Ancient Greeks not only incorporated it in their temple friezes, but pretty much put it on every piece of pottery they made. The Romans copied it from the Greeks, and used it on their architecture with abandon. Then when the French and English were establishing their empires in the 18th century, the design came back into popularity again, and basically never left!

Greek Key frieze on the apron of an 18th century console, Sotheby’s.

Greek Key frieze on the apron of an 18th century console, Sotheby’s.

Roman Temple Frieze, circa 400BC

Roman Temple Frieze, circa 400BC

One of the wilder aspects of this enduring design motif is that it appeared in ancient cultures all over the world - Greece, India, China, even the Mayans had a version. Was it ancient astronauts who started the worldwide Greek Key mania? Or is the pattern just so appealing to the human eye, it’s hardwired into our brains? I tend to believe the latter, though ancient extraterrestrial interior designers is a fun idea.

Antique Chinese Wooden Foo Dogs, via The Road To Parnassus.

Antique Chinese Wooden Foo Dogs, via The Road To Parnassus.

Today, I’m still loving the motif, particularly as a trim for upholstered furniture and curtains. Can you spot the Greek Key in this Ken Fulk extravaganza?

Ken Fulk

Ken Fulk

A little more understated, but this enterprising DIY-er took Greek Key trim and ironed it on to Ikea curtains…

Casa Street

Casa Street

Another favorite is a classic black and white Greek Key trim on a tile floor. In this case, designer Nick Olsen painted the effect for a dramatic entry. So chic for a 3,000-year-old classic!

Nick Olsen

Nick Olsen

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s design history excursion!

Warmly,

Beth