Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

A Survey of Early Periods—II.

DOROTHY G. BELL April 1 1924
Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

A Survey of Early Periods—II.

DOROTHY G. BELL April 1 1924

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

A Survey of Early Periods—II.


THE decorations of the early historic periods have, through the ages, served as inspiration for our modern homes. It is, however, the great decorative styles developed from the fifteenth to the close of the eighteenth century

which represent the work of master architects and craftsmen and it is on these styles that so much of our interior decoration is based to-day.

Often, with modern rooms, interiors have been selected and copied that are frequently taken from houses of importance and wealth. This is done in many cases to emphasize the full expression of the period. It need not, however, prevent the person of moderate income from becoming interested in period decorations. The spirit, the atmosphere, of any of the styles may be easily supplied in the room’s background by an architect. Carefullyselected furniture may be acquired gradually and as resources permit.

It is not always necessary to keep to a strict period character when furnishing a house or a room in these old styles. The absence of strict period character is frequently a strong element in adding charm if care is exercised to see that the different period pieces used together have common characteristics such as color of wood, general outline and type of ornaments. In examining old rooms it may often be noticed that the furniture represents several periods which, in many cases, indicates that the house has been occupied through several generations. _

In order to use the different period styles correctly, even if they are to be used together, it is necessary to know something of their individual style and history.

Tudor and Elizabethan

THE reign of ' Queen Elizabeth was marked by a great revival in England on practically every side—particularly socially, politically and educationally. It was during this period that the influence of the Romanesque reached England. It was the golden age of English literature with Shakespeare as its outstanding figure. It was remarkable, too, not alone for its political and literary glory but for thejdiscoveries of Raleigh and the naval achievements of Drake who swept from the seas the invincible Spanish Armada. It was an age of progress and the furniture of that age naturally reflects the many important changes that were taking place. Then, even as now, sturdiness of construction was a marked feature of English workmanship and the wood, to be in keeping with the workmanship, was chiefly oak.

Tudor or Elizabethan type of furniture is of cold, frank simplicity. The Gothic influence survived in the wood-panelled walls and in the open-timbered ceilings. Windows were still of the casement form, filled with small panes of leaded glass and placed within the recesses formed by the thickness of the walls. Floors were very often of stone or slate and even in the houses of the great they were often strewn with rushes. Floors of wood, however, were coming into use about this time and were favored, being much warmer.

Furniture during the Tudor period was quite as bold and solid as the architecture itself. The chief details of furniture used at this time showed heavy cup-

boards and trestle tables not suitable for modern use. Individual chairs were coming into use at this time but stools or benches were the ordinary seats in most of the homes. Later the simple wall panellings were broken up by pilasters which often were covered with carved ornaments. This change took place during the reign of Elizabeth. The fireplaces were stone, framed with a highly carved stone or wood chimney pieces, the upper portion usually much elaborated with arches and carved figures. It was during the reign of Elizabeth that oaken floors came into vogue.

The present day use of Tudor and Elizabethan styles is confined for the most part to large apartments of various kinds where a bold and striking effect is desired. There seems to be no abrupt line dividing one architectural or decorative period from that which went before.

Jacobean and Stuart

THE Tudor line came to an end and the Stuart dynasty began with the death of Elizabeth and the accession of James I. in 1603 and so decided were the changes which came to the English homes during this era that the Stuart period is divided into two sections, the first including the reigns of James I., Charles I. and the period of the Commonwealth, the second beginning with the Restoration.

During the early period the architectural background as well as the furniture continued to follow the Elizabethan type with some lightening of the heaviness and a considerable elaboration of ornaments. Modeled plaster had come into vogue during the Tudor reign and it was

now used in very elaborate and intricate designs.

A marked ■ characteristic of the early Jacobean period is the geometrical panelling with single ¡pendants between the panels. In many modern adaptions the twisted leg has played an important part —consequently Jacobean in some circles has become connected with this spiral feature. Nevertheless the twist detail was but one of the many developments of the Jacobean style and therefore this feature alone does not entitle a design to the distinction of being entirely Jacobean. Chairs, stools and settees were created with many luxurious curves and seats, and backs were frequently caned, often stuffed in the modern fashion.

Windsor chairs were in vogue and the dresser was popular for displaying pottery and pewter. The Windsor chair is at the present time undergoing a great revival in popularity and tremendous interest is being taken in it. It is sometimes contemptuously referred to as a kitchen or tavern chair. It is particularly strong but its centuries have refined and polished it until it has become promoted to the living room or hall, and is coveted by any lover of good furniture. The fact that the present King has chosen the historic name of “Windsor” adds still further to the popularity of the chair.

History shows definitely that for at least a couple of hundred years Windsor chairs have been made in the region of High Wycombe, England, under much the same conditions as they are being made to-day. There is a great deal of historical interest connected with the manufacture of the Windsor chair, and it is perhaps one of the most romantic pages

in our industrial records.

Stuart Style Used To-day


Stuart period, homes were filled with many beautif u 1 accessories — carpets covered the floor; rich textiles were used for window draperies and furniture covers; lighting fixtures appeared in luxurious form. Few of the English styles are more appropriate for present-day use than the Stuart type, for they glow with color and no sacrifice of practical comfort need be made to carry out an interior in distinct Stuart fashion.

Architectural and decorative styles in England always have been powerfully influenced from Continental Europe, chiefly from Italy and France. The period succeeding the late Jacobean style was subjected to a Dutch influence, owing to the ascension of William of Orange with his English wife, for he brought with him hundreds of Dutch workmen. It was just at this time that France drove hundreds of Huguenot artisans into England and the low countries. The resulting change to the architectural style was great. The casement window, used in all previous English periods, now gave way to the double hung type, which had been introduced from Holland. The wall treatment underwent a radical change and the comparatively small panels were replaced by those of greater width, made up of several widths of boards, and extending’ from a dado panel to agree with the walls above. Oak was still used and frequently left unfinished to tone and mellow with age and use, but pine was used likewise and sometimes painted in grey tones, which added a great deal of beauty and interest to an interior.

The most noticeable single change in furniture design was the introduction of the curving cabriole leg, which was used a great deal for chairs, settees and tables. The “cusped” leg came into vogue at about this time, making use of a bellshaped motif.

Highboys and lowboys belong to this period—chests of drawers either on high or low legs. This furniture was of walnut,

often embellished with gilding, which

added to its rich appearance. The use of

marquetry came from Holland, it was an inlay made in rich combinations of colors, used for cabinets, tables, and other pieces of furniture of the William and Mary era. Holland also introduced the use of pottery, particularly in the form of rose and tobacco jars of figured delft.

William and Mary rooms were usually furnished and built with oak or walnut furniture and panelling. A room keyed in tones as low as those, supplied with these woods, should have color introduced in draperies and furniture covering.

Queen Anne Period

BY the reign of Queen Anne, the last sovereign of the Stuart line, the English interior had reached the highest point of development which it was to see. Henceforth during this reign there remained little to do beyond further refining the types already in use.

While large panels, columns, pilasters and pediments used in the William and Mary period were still in vogue, there came into fashion the use of carving in the form of swags, drops, garlands, festoons of flowers and fruits. The mouldings which outlined the panels were generally carved, too,

and the fields of the panels were deeply bevelled, and the whole wall treatment was painted in rich colors.

During this period there was developed a Chinese taste in both decorative motif and the surface finish. Lacquer, porcelain and oriental fabrics were familiar luxuries in the days of Queen Anne, and the furniture of that day is as often lacquered as not. It is a far cry from the Jacobean type in many respects, and in detail it differs even from the William and Mary period of the decade before. In most cases it was made of walnut or oak, though mahogany was fast becoming popular at this time.

Queen Anne was passionately fond of flowers. Consequently chintz and flowered drapes were used extensively for hangings.

The Queen Anne style is particularly interesting to architects, decorators and to those in general who are planning homes, as it affords an excellent model upon which to base the furnishing of a modern home. It contains every possible detail of comfort and the flexibility of the type is such that it can be developed in a simple way, without any sacrifice of the individuality which renders it so attractive: Never, perhaps, even during the

reign of Queen Anne, was it easier to make use of this style than it is to-day, owing to the extent to which period furnishings are being reproduced.

The furniture of the Georgian period was very much akin to that of Queen Anne except that it was a little more ornate.

The English development of the Renaissance came to an end during the close of the eighteenth century. During three hundred years English architecture, decoration and furnishings had undergone tremendous changes, but now public taste was beginning to weary of the Georgian form which exhibited a strong tendency towards heaviness, and once more people were ready for a change. As usual, it did not originate in England. In France the tendency was towards the use of simpler forms, for the splendidly ornate style of Louis XV. had begun to pall upon French tastes, in spite of the fact that this period has given us some of the most perfect and exquisite of all historic French furniture. It is strange that the gay, extravagant elegance of the first half of the eighteenth century should have wearied the French people, of whom it was so very characteristic.

Louis XV. and XVI.

THE key-note of the reign of Louis XV.

was effeminacy. The ideal form of beauty was the female figure and its lines and curves dominated in art. The straight line was avoided altogether.

The restrained and more simple form of decoration had come into vogue in France with the reign of Louis XVI. Fresh inspiration was being supplied from Italy, the source of all ideas upon architecture and decoration of that time. Renewed study was being made of the antique and the excavations at Pompeii brought to light treasures buried since the first

century. This fired all Europe with a new zeal in the belief of the classic.

Robert and James Adams supplied England with a style based partly upon French fashion and partly upon this antique—a type which departed considerably from that which until then, had been used in England. The brothers, who held a high social position, were only the designers—never the actual makers— of the pieces which bear their name, but they had the co-operation of some of the greatest English craftsmen of the day in carrying out their ideas. Their form took on a new and severe simplicity and straight lines predominated everywhere, though the subjects of decoration were evidently of Greek and Roman inspiration.

While comparative richness and splendor had been the most notable qualities of the English styles previously, the Adams brothers made a graceful and somewhat delicate interior, in which light colors predominated. The interest of the Adams interior was due largely to the rare beauty of its furnishing, for, with the skill of great architects directed to designing even such small details as table linen and silver, the interior possessed decided decorative coherence. Furniture forms were based upon

antique or Louis XVI. precedence, sometimes gilded or painted in light colors, but often of mahogany and satinwood. Chair forms were often borrowed from the Queen Anne and Georgian periods and re-designed to possess more delicacy and grace. Particularly charming were the sofas or settees of the Adams period, which possessed graceful lines.

The name of Chippendale is commonly given to a good deal of the early eighteenth century furniture, which was not Chippendale. When he began to design Gothic and Chinese styles were already in vogue and his particular achievement was the harmonious blending of these with the French and Dutch styles; thus were created the real Chippendale type.

Chippendale Designs

CHIPPENDALE, pieces are chiefly in mahogany although sometimes in walnut. The artist did not use inlay or paintings, but some of his finest pieces are japanned or gilded. For ornament he used scrolls, shell work, cupids, fruits, leaves and animals. His chairs show a great variety of legs—straight, square, cabriole, or elaborately carved in fantastic designs. He is particularly fond of the marks of the French style current at the time, such as the “ogee” curve, or the fluttering ribbon. He designed every kind of household furniture, much of which has come down to the present day.

The special designs known as Chinese Chippendale constitute a distinct type, the charm and elegance of which contributed greatly to his fame. Of a popular group of cabinet makers, who worked together in England during the end of the eighteenth century, Hepplewhite was the most original genius. His designs bear little resemblance to those of Chippendale, whom he succeeded in popular favor, being lighter, graceful, though not quite

as strong. His style is most familiar in his chairs and side-boards, and his serpentine front side-boards have been widely copied in this country. His chairs are characterized by their backs—oval, shield or heartshaped, often carved with the three feathers of the Prince of Wales. His other favorite carved motifs are wheat husks and draperies. Hepplewhite’s specialty was carving, inlaying or painting on wood. Mahogany was often inlaid or veneered, with satinwood, then painted or japanned with flowers and medallions.

Sheraton’s designs, the chief features of which were simplicity and usefulness, were not appreciated fully during his lifetime, and it remained for succeeding generations to make his name famous.

There are very few words used in connection with architecture, decoration and furniture, which convey so many different ideas as the word “colonial.” In its true and generally accepted meaning it refers to the architecture and decoration developed in America prior to the revolution In its wider sense, it refers to all the furniture made in the United States from the earliest settlement through to 1820, and taking in the American modification of the Empire style.

At first colonial furniture showed many types, for the early settlers strove to reproduce the patterns of their native country. But these gradually merged and the English feeling predominated, until by the late eighteenth century there was an interesting and delightful type of quite individual American furniture. Timber in those days was plentiful and there was no need to economize, consequently there is nothing frail about colonial furniture. In the colonial style we have no one particular designer’s work, as this type was a natural outcome of the great need felt by the English gentleman whose life carried him to the more southern states of America. In the beautifully rounded lines, the desire for comfort so well illustrated in this style, we can feel the warmth and generosity of the acclimatized southern nature, a by-word for hospitality the world over.

Among the many influences that have moulded the styles of the present generation on this continent, the colonial stands foremost, in fact, apart by itself.

Following the colonial style, and in some measure affiliated with it, came the Mission furniture, now quite generally used on the continent, and, of course, numerous more modern pieces, hardly definite enough to be called any particular style, but made always with the idea in view of filling a need.

In Paris every home is competing for prettier lampshades. The stronger the light the thicker are the materials used to soften it so that the light is no more bright than the dim candle light of bygone days. Forged ironwork is used a great deal with fancy lampshades and in formal rooms such as the dining room, study, waiting room and entrance hall nothing but these are seen. The sketch shows a rather dainty lamp to be put on a side table. The lamp itself is in worked iron and the lamp shade is in printed silk with a long glass bead fringe. Many fancy objects that have been collected when traveling may be used for the purpose of lampshade fringes. Some very unique and original electric lamps have been made out of hippopotamus teeth.