Biedermeier is the name of a style of design that developed in the German-speaking countries of Europe during the early 1800s. These countries had been left impoverished by Napoleon’s blockade. Economy was therefore an important factor in interior decoration, and there the Empire style evolved into the simple, functional and affordable Biedermeier style, with its thick curtains and padded upholstery. Small-scale furniture was made for the smaller-scale rooms in wood such as cherry, pear and maple, sometimes with an ebony inlay. Upholstery was usually in bright reds or blues in plain woollen cloth.
In Biedermeier interiors, window treatments were kept simple to allow in as much light as possible. A typical approach featured asymmetrically draped sheers trimmed with tassels and fringe.
For many countries, the Biedermeier style offered the ideal solution throughout most of the 19th century. It was acceptable at different social levels and relied more on decoration than on an actual architectural style. By 19th century standards it was a sparse and simple style - homely and unpretentious yet elegant. Floors were usually wooden, rugs and walls were brightly painted or papered in fine stripes or small flower patterns, and the ceiling was usually white. Paintings were simply framed and hung in rows while the furniture itself was small but comfortable and serviceable. A particular feature of Biedermeier, derived from Empire style, was to drape the walls with gathered fabric which would then be caught back in bunches to reveal mirrors.
The name came from a humorous character in German popular literature of the 1830s. “Papa Biedermeier” stood for family life, conservative values, and solid, comfortable living.
© Adrienne Chinn - London