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Interior Decorating Styles and Periods, Architecture and the Decorative Arts

European historic styles and periods plus design term dictionary. See European Decorative Arts, European Architecture, English Historic Styles and Periods, Italian Historic Styles and Periods, Design Dictionary

English Historic Styles and Periods

Period Dates Characteristics Furniture Materials/Color
Gothic 1189-1377 Pointed-arch shapes progressing from plain to more ornamental. Designs from nature, religious themes, geometric Romanesque and Celtic sources Dresser (base topped with shelves), buffet to display silver, plates. Guilds established guidelines and access to skills. Oak, wrought iron, leather, brightly painted furniture
Renaissance Tudor (Henry VIII) 1500-11588

Elizabethan 1558-1603

Tudor motifs include lions, monstrous animals, winged dragons, Ionic columns with female heads, religious figures, linenfold replaced by shell. chests, tables, beds (canopy or tester with fabric), sideboard, cupboard, high tables covered with fabric for display, refectory table, armchairs oak, inlaid boxwood, stone marquetry
Renaissance Jacobean 1603-1649

Cromwellian 1649-1660

pearls, vases, balusters, St. Andrew's cross, star, cornucopia Drawers added to cupboards and sideboards, armchairs, gate-leg table (table expands with drop leafs and hinged legs) Turkeywork (woven embroidered upholstery with flora motif), leather upholstered seats, damask and brocade for beds, oak, carved wood, inlaid bone, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell
Baroque Stuart 1660-1689

William & Mary 1689-1702

 

bun foot, scroll arm, chests and cabinets decorated with scrolls and Chinese lacquered panels, round pedestal table, Petit-point, trimming to cover studs, walnut, veneers using precious woods, olive wood, inlays, wood burls, Chinese lacquers, Chinese style, leather, caning
Baroque Queen Anne 1702-1714 claw-and-ball feet, scroll arms, bonnet top, shell, bat-type drawer pull, ogee bracket foot, classical moldings on wall panels tallboy, card tables, kneehole desk, tilt-top table, chairs with lower seat backs, stools, secretary, scriban, lowboy, splat back chair, walnut, burl, Japanned panels gilt on black, bronze, mirrors, glass, petit-point embroidery, leather
Rococo Georgian 1714-1750

Chippendale 1718-1779

claw-and-ball feet, seat backs with arabesques, Chinese inspired, pagoda dressing table, wing chair covered in fabric, settee, semicircular console, bookcases, dining table with leaf extensions with tripod supports on copper rollers, side table, sofa table, yoke back chair West Indian mahogany, lemonwood, beech, maple, satinwood
Neoclassical, aka Late Georgian, Adam style

18th Century
Robert & James Adam 1730-1794

Hepplewhite 1765-1786

Sheraton 1751-1806

Inspired by Roman ruins. Urns, garlands, swags, damask, cameos, marble busts furniture is delicate scale, hall tables Walls painted in gray and pale blue with white classic low-relief, satinwood, plaster ceilings painted white. Etruscan red. Gilt and bronze finishes. Ceiling medallions. Carved marble mantel
19th Century Regency 1810-1820

Greek Revival 1820-1830

dolphins, rope & cable, anchors, acanthus leaves, Greek palmettes, dragons, serpents, birds, Chinese parasols, imitation bamboo tables: dining, sofa, drum, breakfast, quartet inlays of copper and tortoiseshell, ebonized wood, gilt wood,
  Victorian 1830-1900

Early: 1830-1860

Mid: 1860-1880

Late: 1880-1900

Liberty & Company designs upholstered armchairs with fringe, deep-buttoned leather chairs, sofas and settees, tables, game tables, nesting tables mahogany, walnut, walnut burl, beech, ebony, laurel, linden, teak for marine, papier mâché, bamboo and rattan for garden, industrial gilt, chased bronze, copper for table corners, Chinese lacquers, japanning, marble inlays, leather, turkeywork, upholstery of Persian carpets, quilted or printed velvet, printed silk and damask, tassels, fringe

Italian Historic Styles and Periods

Period Dates Characteristics Furniture Materials/Color
Gothic 1226-1400 Pointed-arch shapes progressing from plain to more ornamental. Designs from nature, religious themes, geometric Romanesque and Celtic sources Dresser (base topped with shelves), buffet to display silver, plates. Guilds established guidelines and access to skills. Oak, wrought iron, leather, brightly painted furniture
Renaissance 1407-1540 Styles based on Antiquity, development of perspective, Marquetry and pietre dure, figures include putti, lion heads, scrolls, caryatids Table À L'Italienne (tabletop supported by heavy carved supports usually scrolls or animal heads); Savonarola Chair (first wooden curved X-frame chair with back cross piece); walnut chest (used for benches and tables as well as storage); benches Walnut, ebony veneer, rosewood, pine, ivory veneer, pewter, inlays of gold, ivory, mother-of-pearl, and tortoise-shell, pietre dure and painted stone inlay, tinted wood marquetry
Baroque 1600-1670 Opulence with scroll shapes and gilding. Architectural forms, putti, lion heads, chimera, eagle heads, grotesques, slave busts, dragons pedestal tables with slave figure support, tables with elaborate decoration, stipo, ebony, ivory veneer, tin wires, tortoiseshell, gilt bronze, pietre dure, tromp-l'oeil,
Rococo 1700-1748

Venetian

scrolls, acanthus leaves, lyre, gadroons chests with pronounced curve facade, studiola, desk, chairs with straight carved backs, sculpted gilt wood or silvered wood consoles walnut, veneers, gilt and silvered wood, scagliola, mother-of-pearl, shell, marble and wood tromp-l'oeil
18th Century Neoclassicism 1748-1796 oval or medallion marquetry, Roman urns, palmettes, wreathes, scallops, rosettes, garlands, beads, ribbons settees and sofas become more comfortable, chests, consoles walnut, walnut burl, wood painted cream, gray or sea green, gilt wood, caned seats, marble, gilt bronze
19th Century 1796-1830      

Design Dictionary

  • Burl: abnormal cell growth resulting from tree damage. Very fragile, after harvesting, burl wood is dried at constant temperature and humidity for 3 to 5 years before it can be shaped by skilled artisans.
  • Cornucopia: Greek symbol of abundance
  • Intarsia: inlay developed in Italy. Designs are carved out of the wood panel which are then filled with strips of a different wood.
  • Marquetry: decorative veneer of wood, stone, ivory, bone. Small shapes are arranged to form a pattern or scene. Developed in Germany.
  • pietre dure: hard stone inlay invented in Italy. Uffizi de Piertre Dure, a studio of stoneworkers, was founded in 1588 to make "stone paintings."
  • Quartet tables: nesting tables designed during the Regency period in Britain.
  • Scagliola: material imitating marble made from lime, gypsum, powdered marble and sand bound with water, glue and colors
  • Scriban: desk-bookcase
  • Sgraffito: scraping off a paint layer to reveal a gold undercoat used on wood furniture.
  • Stipo: cabinet with many drawers in the top section supported by Atlas figures or caryatids, the top decorated by architectural elements.
  • Studiola: secretary

European Decorative Arts

The history of decorative arts in Europe plus examples of the finest collections.

German: Meissen Porcelain

Phoebus Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun 1772-1774. Commissioned by Catherine the Great. New Orleans Museum of Art  The Americas. New Orleans Museum of Art  The Three Graces. New Orleans Museum of Art 

Great Britain

Wedgwood Two handled covered garniture vase "Adam" 1800. New Orleans Museum of Art  Monton's Pottery Monumental covered vase 1880. Pâte-sur-Pâte. Henry Sanders. New Orleans Museum of Art 

Josiah Wedgwood 1730-1795: He established a factory in Staffordshire in the 1760's to produce pottery, agateware and unglazed blue and green stoneware decorated with neo-classical white designs.

Glasgow Four: The Glasgow Four met at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1890's. The group included Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife, Margaret Macdonald, her sister Frances Macdonald, and her husband, Herbert McNair. Together they produced furniture, designs and metalwork which influenced Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and Symbolism.

William Morris 1834-1896: English founder of the Arts and Crafts movement. His firm, founded in 1861, produced furniture, rugs, and wallpapers. "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Russian: Fabergé and the Russian Jewels

Works by Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), master jeweler to the Romanov Czars of Russia. His most famous pieces are the Imperial Easter Eggs created for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife Maria Feodorovna from 1884 to 1916 under his title of "Supplier of the Imperial Court." When Nicolas II became tsar in 1896, he commissioned one for his wife, Alexandra, and one for his mother. In addition to the eggs he created masterpieces both functional and purely decorative in precious stones and metals. New Orleans Museum of Art 

First (?) Imperial Easter egg 1885. Gold egg contains enamel chicken holding a crown on a ring. Imperial Caucasus Easter Egg 1893 Louis XV style features miniatures of Caucasus and "1893" in diamonds. Imperial Easter egg 1912 containing miniatures of regiments on folding screen. Inkwell with photograph of Tzarevich Alexis 1899 Imperial seal (chameleon on column) Siberian nephrite

 

Brooch. Siberian amethyst, diamond, platinum Imperial frame and clock before 1899. Rose jasper Cigarette case mauve Guilloché enamel Magnum inkwell 1895. Sterling and cut rock crystal

Tole

Although Tole is the French term for sheet metal, Tole decorative elements are also associated with English artisans. Tole ware, typically used for lanterns, chandeliers, sconces, bowls, boxes and cachepots, has been made in Europe and England since the late 18th Century. Tole pieces are typically painted black or a rich color such as golden yellow or dark red, then detailed or stenciled with a stylized motif. Tole pieces were popular in the early 19th century - the classically inspired Regency period in France and the Directoire era in France.

History of Wallpaper

Although the Chinese have been using rice paper on their walls for centuries, the earliest record we have of printed paper comes from 17th century France where prints were made with matching continuous patterns. In England, Cole & Son has been hand block printing papers for 200 years and can still match many original prints. Hand block printing offers more intense color, more depth and interesting imperfections. They use hand-carved wooden blocks and cotton rather than wood pulp paper to keep colors from fading or whites from yellowing. Each color is applied separately with a different block and dried. After up to 12 applications, the paper is varnished for protection. It takes about 3 weeks to produce 10 rolls.

In 1778 Louis XVI set the standard roll to be 10 meters or 33' which is still used. The original flocked wallpaper was made by stamping the paper with glue instead of ink. Wool fibers were then blown on to form the design.

European Architecture:

Romanesque (English Norman) 11th and 12th Centuries

The first pronounced church building followed the end of the persecution of Christians in the fourth and fifth centuries. The original Basilica of St. Peter was built by Constantine around 330. The Romanesque style, i.e., based on Roman, emerges from roughly the 11th and 12th centuries. The arches were semicircular and the walls were thick and heavy with interior bays. The naves had stone vaults rather than wooden roofs. During this period there was a great expansion of building, they became larger and more "Roman." Their outsides were decorated with sculpture.

Gothic Cathedrals and Architecture 1150-1400

The period from 1150-1250 is often called the Age of the great Cathedrals. The arches become pointed giving the spaces a soaring lightness with ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses and steep roofs. The style started in France and spread, but by the 13th century, more regional styles emerged.

Renaissance 1400 to 1600

This was a period of great change including the fall of Constantinople, the journeys of exploration to the new world, and the reformation. Renaissance architecture draws on classical orders and design, repetition of elements and delicate carving. Brunelleschi, Filippo (1377-1446) started as a sculptor. In Rome he studied classical structures. By 1419 he was competing with Ghiberti to build the Florence Cathedral dome. The mere size made it an engineering feat. By building 2 separate shells he was able to eliminate weight and therefore, the trusswork. From this success he went on to design his own buildings.

Mannerism and Baroque 1600-1750
Neo-Classical 1750
Robert Adam (1728-1792) was one of the great architects of Great Britain and ushered in the Neo-Classical. He was part of a family of architects that included his father, William Adam, and his brother, James Adam. He designed the interiors of some of the great houses and has a deserved reputation as an influential furniture designer.
Nineteenth Century

Sir Edwin Lutyens 1869-1944: His designs for English country houses include hip and gable roofs and rustic stonework. They range from picturesque to Renaissance and Classical.

Modern Architecture

Bauhaus is the architectural school of Walter Gropius founded in Germany in 1919. It turned technology into art with the experimental use of metal and glass. The first major building, Adolf Sommerfeld's 1922 house in Berlin is filled with Expressionist details, carved banisters and zig-zag patterned walls. The object was to expose the beauty of the machine-built object. Le Corbusier 1887-1965: Swiss-born Le Corbusier (1887-1965) is one of the greatest architects of the 20th century.

Stonehenge, England's Oldest Tourist Attraction

On the chalk downs that form the Salisbury plain sits a brooding and massive stone monument that has often been misunderstood and frequently romanticized. Awe, grandeur, and mystery are words often used when describing Stonehenge.

It’s gigantic uprights and massive lintels loom from the dim mists of time and have fascinated us for thousands of years. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in the 12th Century that Merlin, the great magician of Arthurian fame, accompanied Uther Pendragon to Ireland where, with his magic, he dismantled the Round stones that had been brought from Africa by giants. They were re-erected near present day Amesbury at the site of a great battle in which Britons under their rightful King Aurelius wrest control of their land back from the hated Saxons. Aurelius was said to be buried there after his death, as was likewise Uther when his time came.

The reality is something other. It is at once more prosaic and far more fascinating.

Stonehenge was not the first great building project in Wiltshire, nor was it the last. It is not the isolated phenomenon that it may seem. All over Europe, Stone Age people raised monuments of massive stones. The landscape of western Europe is dotted with megalithic structures known as menhirs. Burial mounds and stone cairns are scattered from the Orkneys to Malta. Many other, though not all, such construction has been lost to us because they were made of wood. It is impossible to say how many of these constructions were built since the ice receded and human culture returned to lands now free of ice and snow.

In the area near Stonehenge are found countless tombs, many dating to over 6,000 years ago. Some of these are long barrows, large funerary structures ringed with causeways and ranging up to 100 meters in length. Others are small round barrows centered in bowl shaped ditches. Other mysterious structures called cursuses are also to be found. Their use is unknown.

Henges are circular earthworks surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Some contained construction of wood such as at Woodhenge, others of stone. They are known throughout the British Isles, with concentrations in the Orkneys and Wessex. Stonehenge is easily the most famous.

Stonehenge I

The first known monument on the site of Stonehenge was built in about 2950 BCE. It consisted of the circular embankment, the ditch from which the dirt for the embankment was taken, and a ring of 56 holes today known as Aubrey Holes. The bank was cut in two places for entrance. It was undoubtedly used for religious purposes. It’s solar orientation is unmistakable.

Stonehenge II

Stonehenge was changed after about a half century. It appears that a wooden structure was added and the ditch partially filled. This phase lasted until about 2400BCE. During this time, the monument appears to have been used for cremation burials. The emphasis had changed.

Stonehenge III

As early as 2550 BCE, a new phase of construction at Stonehenge began. A circle of bluestones was erected. Over time, the circle of Sarsen stone that so defines Stonehenge as we know it were added, as were the Sarcen trilithons and the horseshoe setting of bluestone. By 1800 BCE, Stonehenge consisted of two stone circles and two horseshoes. The last construction, consisting of the Y and Z holes, may never have been completed.

History of Stonehenge

"Stonehenge was not the first great building project in Wiltshire, nor was it the last. It is not the isolated phenomenon that it may seem. All over Europe, Stone Age people raised monuments of massive stones. The landscape of western Europe is dotted with megalithic structures known as menhirs. Burial mounds and stone cairns are scattered from the Orkneys to Malta. Many other, though not all, such construction has been lost to us because they were made of wood."

Why Stonehenge was built and who built it has been asked for centuries.  Many of the explanations are as fanciful as Geoffrey’s. The astronomical orientation of many of its features appear to be quite obvious, but this has not always been recognized. Some have supposed it belonged to the Romans. Vespasian built a camp a short distance away, but Stonehenge had long passed out of use by then. Some have said it was a great Druid temple. Again, its builders had long vanished before there were Druids.

It is clear to those who study Stonehenge with a scientific eye, that the prehistoric people of Britain possessed a greater knowledge of the heavens than they have been given credit for. Archeologists who also know astronomy have found celestial orientations for many ancient structures. Can Stonehenge be the greatest of these?

The history of Stonehenge starts with "the first known monument on the site of Stonehenge ... built in about 2950 BCE."

"On the chalk downs that form the Salisbury plain sits a brooding and massive stone monument that has often been misunderstood and frequently romanticized. Awe, grandeur, and mystery are words often used when describing Stonehenge."

"It’s gigantic uprights and massive lintels loom from the dim mists of time and have fascinated us for thousands of years. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in the 12th Century that Merlin, the great magician of Arthurian fame, accompanied Uther Pendragon to Ireland where, with his magic, he dismantled the Round stones that had been brought from Africa by giants. They were re-erected near present day Amesbury at the site of a great battle in which Britons under their rightful King Aurelius wrest control of their land back from the hated Saxons. Aurelius was said to be buried there after his death, as was likewise Uther when his time came."  Stonehenge written by Bruce Olsen of http://www.bruceolsen.com  

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Last modified: January 06, 2016