Early Georgian Style
In England few homes reflected the glamour of the Baroque style. The average English room during the first half of the 18th-century was a logical development of the Restoration apartment evolved by Wren and his followers. As time went on the mouldings and cornices became lighter and the introduction of new woods, such as mahogany, produced a greater variety of panelling. The chief change was in the furniture itself.
A large number of objects began to accumulate in various corners of a room, owing their introduction solely to their decorative value. A growing supply of porcelain invaded the mantlepiece, and eventually demanded purpose-built glass-fronted cupboards. Niches had to be made to shelter Roman busts collected on the Grand Tour by young English gentlemen. And the growth of the publishing industry made bookcases essential pieces of furniture for the gentleman’s home.
While panelling remained the most popular form of wall covering in the library and dining room, wallpapers took its place in bedrooms, usually imported from China. Silk and satin hangings were also popular.
The expansion of London and the increase of the middle class provided the 18th-century architect with an important task. The problem of housing large numbers of city merchants and professional men, all with big families, near their place of business, while maintaining some architectural integrity, was not a light one. The result was the development of the terrace and the town square. The terrace gave the architect a unit which was large enough to look impressive and dignified. The square brought to the city a bit of the country in the shape of grass, trees and flowers.
By means of simple devices such as the depressed arch, the decorated fanlight and the sculptured keystone, the 18th-century architect avoided monotony with a subtle skill.
Early Georgian Style in brief:
- Interiors remain panelled;
- Mouldings are less heavy. The become a feature of decorative schemes with egg-and-dart, lentil, laurel and bay in use;
- Mahogany introduced in 1725 and used in panelling for an interesting pattern;
- More plasterwork appears in wealthy homes;
- The influence of the architect in interior design becomes more apparent;
- Architectural details appear - pilasters, broken pediments;
- Ceilings sometimes more ornate.
Early Georgian Furniture
- English cabinet-making reaches its zenith;
- During 1720s walnut is gradually replaced by mahogany;
- Chair backs become lower;
- Upholstered backs and seats;
- Heavy carving gradually appears on legs and arms;
- Ball and claw feet;
- Chests of drawers, desks, bookcases are ponderous, and often architectural in design.
- Sash with shutters;
- Pairs of curtains;
- Pull-up blinds;
- Holland blinds.
- Oak or pine, scrubbed and waxed;
- Sometimes covered with rugs, Oriental and larger carpets.
Metal, glass, wood chandeliers, candlelabras and wall brackets, all lit by candles.
Damasks, velvet, chintz, tapestry upholstery.
- European and Chinese appear in rooms;
- Blue and white delftware.
Landscapes and conversation pieces hung on walls.
Early Georgian Buildings
Chiswick House, Marble Hill House, Holkham Hall, Houghton Hall, Rokeby Park, Clandon House, Stourhead.
© Adrienne Chinn - London