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“Gesamtkunstwerk” — Living Life in a Total Work of Art

Is there a separation between art and craft? For many of the most celebrated artists, architects, philosophers, and designers of the past 200 years, art and craft exist on a continuum, so every space and object deserves to be a masterpiece in its own right.

The term for this is Gesamtkunstwerk–a loanword of German origin that roughly translates to “a total work of art”. A residence, too, can be a total work of art by holistically synthesizing all of its designed components and, in the words of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, becoming “more poetry than a home.” It’s one thing to conceive of a Gesamtkunstwerk in theory, but these four homes show how it comes to life.

True Master Craftsmanship in Lubriano

Giovanna BacioccoItaly Sotheby’s International Realty

Over several hundreds of years, many of Europe’s grand historic estates have evolved into total works of art. Through generations, numerous architects, artisans, and designers have renovated them according to the latest fashions, while still respecting their original character.

This is certainly true of Palazzo Monaldeschi della Cervara. What began as a Benedictine monastery in the Middle Ages was remodeled into a hunting castle in the 1400s, and reimagined as a baroque country palace in 1600. Between its initial construction and the modern moment, each expansion, and every cumulative detail, has honored the past, conversed with the present, and told a story for the future.

Vivacious Visual Appeal in Bucharest

Monica BarbuRomania Sotheby’s International Realty

An art style can be transformed into a lifestyle, as proven by this Pop Art-themed penthouse. Located in the highly desirable Doroban?i-Capitale district of Bucharest, the apartment comprises the entire top floor of the eminent Washington Residence. It boasts easy access to the city’s high-end shopping and dining, despite being in a low-density neighborhood with plenty of green space.

But the real gem is the residence itself. Carefully selected furniture and decor create a feeling of interconnectivity throughout, integrating its vast living and dining spaces, state-of-the-art kitchen, two large bedrooms and bathrooms, and additional amenities–including a steam room–with a cohesive, imaginative, and playful vibe.

Authentic Bauhaus Design in Medfield

Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty

Gesamtkunstwerk was a major inspiration for Walter Gropius when he initiated the Bauhaus movement. He revised the concept of “total art” into “total design”, in which buildings, furniture, and ordinary objects provide practical and aesthetic value. It’s a lofty ideal, and is captured beautifully in the structural layout, geometric precision, and coordinated palette of this unique residence.

The house was constructed in 1937 by Nathaniel Saltonstall, an acclaimed architect and founder of the Institute for Contemporary Art. Considering his profound knowledge of art and design, it’s no surprise he chose the Bauhaus style when building his dream home, as it brings all these fields together in a coherent, interconnected whole.

Indoor-Outdoor Flow in East Hampton

Jenny Landey and Zacheriah DaytonSotheby’s International Realty – Bridgehampton Brokerage

This modernist property is an exceptional example of how a “total work of art” encompasses not only the designed environment, but the home’s natural surroundings. Designed by Hamilton Smith, the home achieves a sense of unity and continuity with the local scenery through the use of tone, texture, and material.

The Springs, located amid the estuarine marshlands and woodlands of Accabonac Harbor, is deeply connected with Abstract Expressionism. In fact, this house is practically neighbors with Pollock-Krasner House, and the blended color fields created by the meadows, beaches, water, and sky leave little doubt as to why.

When a home functions as a total work of art, it becomes a haven of invigoration and inspiration, where every element is intentionally constructed in service of a singular vision. For such properties, no feature feels out of place, and no item or image appears superfluous. It pleases the eye, and soothes the soul.

Artistic inspiration can be found everywhere, including in architectural design. Check out these houses inspired by some of art’s most notable women.

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