Lucy Abbot Throop.

Furnishing the Home of Good Taste A Brief Sketch of the Period Styles in Interior Decoration with Suggestions as to Their Employment in the Homes of Today online

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and hard varnished glare. There was wonderful inlay and veneer, and much
of the furniture was enamelled in soft colors and picked out with gold
or some harmonizing color. Gilding was also used for the entire frame.
The metal mounts were very fine. Brocades of lovely color and designs of
flowers, bowknots, wreaths, festoons, lace, feathers, etc.; chintz, the
lovely "_toil de Jouy_," which is so well copied nowadays; soft toned
taffeta, Gobelin and Beauvais and Aubusson tapestries, were all used for
hanging and furniture coverings. Cane also became much more popular.
Walls were paneled with moldings, and fluted pilasters divided too large
spaces into good proportions. Tapestry and paintings were paneled on the
walls, and the colors chosen for the backgrounds were light and soft.

The charm and beauty of this style as well as its dignity make it one
which may be used in almost any modern house, as it ranges from
simplicity to a beautiful restrained elaborateness suitable to the
formal rooms.

[Illustration: The modern style of mirror is brought into harmony with
the eighteenth century dressing-table by means of carving.]

[Illustration: This William and Mary settee would be delightful in a
country house. There are chairs to match it.]

The change from Louis XVI to the Empire was a violent one both
politically and artistically. The influence of the great days of the
Roman empire and the mystery of ancient Egypt stirred Napoleon's
imagination and formed his taste. Empire furniture was solid and heavy,
with little or no carving, and much ornamentation of metal mounts.
Mahogany was chiefly used, and some furniture was gilded or bronzed.
Round columns finished with metal capitals and bases appeared on large
desks and other pieces of furniture. Chairs were solid, many of them
throne-like in design, and many with elaborately carved arms in the
form of swans and sphinxes, and metal ornaments. The simpler form of
chair, which was copied and used extensively in America, as a
dining-chair, often had a curved back and graceful lines. Furniture
coverings were very bright satins and velvets brocaded with the
Emperor's favorite emblems, the bee, torch, wreath, anthemion. It is a
heavy and gaudy style and must be used with great discretion. American
Empire furniture was far simpler and is better suited to many American
homes. In buying it, however, one must be careful to select copies from
the earlier part of the time, for it fast deteriorated into heavy and
vulgar curves. This American Empire furniture is often shown in the
shops under the name of Colonial, which is a misnomer, as we had ceased
to be colonies years before it came into existence. It was used during
the first half of the nineteenth century.

[Illustration: These chairs are reproductions of designs by the Adam
Brothers. They are of satinwood, covered with damask. This design was
also used by Hepplewhite.]

[Illustration: The first day beds, or chaise longue, were made during
the Jacobean period. As will be seen, this "stretcher," as they were
also called, has Charles II influence in its carving and Spanish feet.]

When we come to English furniture, I think we all take heart of grace a
little, for there is something about its sturdiness that seems to appeal
to our American sense of appropriateness. By inheritance we have more of
the English point of view about the standards of life and living and we
seem to settle down with more comfort in a house furnished in any one of
the English periods than we do with any of the other great styles.

The English Renaissance is often called the age of oak, and all through
the long years of its slow development this oaken bond, so to speak,
gave it a certain unity which makes it possible to use much of the
furniture of its different divisions together. There are many fine
reproductions made of the Tudor and Elizabethan times, but from the
early Stuart days, the time of James I onward, good reproductions become
more plentiful. This does not mean, however, that one is safe in buying
anything called Jacobean or Queen Anne or Georgian. One must still be
careful and go armed with as much knowledge as possible. For instance,
do not buy any Tudor, Elizabethan, Jacobean, or Charles II furniture
made of mahogany or with a high polish. Do not buy any with finicky or
delicate brass handles. This may seem an unnecessary warning, but I have
seen dainty oval Hepplewhite handles used on a heavy Jacobean chest.
This does not happen often, but a word to the wise - . The handles which
were used were some times of iron and sometimes of brass, often with a
little design etched on them, and the drop handles were either oblong or
round rings, or pear- or tear-shaped drops with either a round or oblong
plate. H-hinges of iron were used. Chairs of the time of James I, which
are much like those of Louis XIII in France, were square and strong with
plain or spiral turned legs, and stretchers, and had seats and half
backs covered with needlework, leather, velvet, or damask. They would
make very comfortable dining chairs and would harmonize with sturdy
gate-legged tables, or the long narrow tables which show the influence
of Elizabeth's time in the carved drum or acorn-like bulbs of the legs.
A court-cupboard would make a beautiful sideboard, and one of the long
tables spoken of above would make an appropriate serving-table. Carved
chests, and screens covered with leather or needlework, may be used in
rooms of this kind, and for modern comfort one may add stuffed chairs
and sofas if the proper materials for coverings are chosen. There are
some very fine copies made of old needlework of different kinds and also
of damasks and other stuffs. One must have the right background for all
this, oak paneled walls and tapestry and plain or figured velvet or
damask hangings. There are also some finely designed heavy linens which
are correct to use.

The furniture of Cromwell's time was much like that of the time of James
I and Charles I, but was simplified wherever possible. There were no
pomps and vanities in those stern days.

When Charles II came to the throne, there was a reaction against Puritan
gloom which showed in the furniture being of a more elaborate design.
Chair backs were high and narrow with carved and pierced panels of wood,
or carved backs with cane panels, and the carved front rail carried out
the feeling and balanced the carved top rail. The crown and rose and
shell were used, supported by cherubs and opposed S curves. The
illustration opposite page 65 will give a very good idea of the general
style. Upholstery was also used, and day-beds and high-boys made their
appearance. The chests of earlier days became chests of drawers. Rooms
were paneled in oak, and much beautiful tapestry was used. Walnut began
to take the place of oak in the later days of Charles II and those of
James II, and introduced the age of walnut which lasted through the
reigns of William and Mary and Queen Anne.

The furniture of the early days of William and Mary was much like that
of the time of Charles II. The chair backs remained high and narrow, but
the carving slowly grew simpler and the caning at last went entirely
across the back. Many of the early chairs had three carved splats or
balusters in the back, and a feature which added greatly to comfort was
the slight curve the backs were given instead of the perfectly straight
backs of Jacobean days. Dutch influence at least conquered the old
style, and the more characteristic furniture of William and Mary was
made. A rather elaborate form of the cabriole leg was used, ending in a
species of hoof with a scroll-like stretcher between the front legs and
curved stretchers connecting all four legs. The cabriole leg became
simpler as time passed until in the days of Queen Mary it became the one
we all know so well in the Dutch chairs and the early work of

[Illustration: These copies of rare old pieces of furniture are of the
best. The choice of wood, the carving, the inlay, all show the highest
ideals. The Chinese Chippendale table shows the pagoda effect, and the
Hepplewhite desk has the charm of a secret drawer.]

There was much beautiful marquetry used; in fact it is a marked
characteristic of much of the furniture of William and Mary. After she
died in 1694, the white jasmine flower and green leaves were not used
so much, and the sea-weed pattern and acanthus became more popular.

[Illustration: An exceptionally fine reproduction of a Sheraton chest of

[Illustration: The walnut used in this adaptation of the William and
Mary period is very fine. Shaving-glasses were used throughout the
eighteenth century.]

The cup-and-ball design of turned legs with curved stretchers was used
for chairs, settees, tables, cabinets. China cupboards with their
double-hooded tops and soft colored brocade linings were used to display
the wonderful china collections so much in vogue. There was much
upholstered furniture covered with beautiful petit-point, which is
perfectly reproduced nowadays, but is naturally expensive. Silks,
velvets, and damasks were also used, and Queen Mary had a "beautiful
chintz bed."

The handles used were of various kinds, the favorite being the drop from
a round or star-shaped boss. The furniture was beautifully polished but
did not have a bright gloss.

When Anne came to the throne in 1702, the English cabinet maker had
became an expert craftsman, and we have the beginning of the finest
period of English cabinet-making, which later, in the Georgian period,
blossomed into its full glory. The furniture of this time was of walnut.
The chairs had a narrow, fairly high back, with a central splat
spoon-shaped and later fiddle-shaped. The corners of the back were
always rounded. The cabriole legs were often carved with a shell on the
knees, the acanthus being used in the more elaborate pieces of
furniture, and ended chiefly in a club foot. Stretchers became less
common, but if they were used were pushed back and did not form such an
important part of the chair design. Seats were broader at the front
than at the back, and all furniture showed a real desire for comfort and
convenience. Marquetry and lacquer were both in great favor, and there
are wonderful examples of both reproduced, but especially lacquer.
Petit-point, damask, velvet, and chintz were all used for upholstery and
hangings. Chintz was becoming more plentiful, but it was not until the
Georgian period that it reached its perfection.

The Georgian period covers the work of Chippendale, the Adam Brothers,
Hepplewhite, and Sheraton, who gave to the eighteenth century its
undying decorative fame.

[Illustration: A glassed-in sun-porch furnished with comfortable wicker
furniture adds much to the joy of life.]

When Chippendale began his fine work, the Dutch influence of Queen
Anne's reign was still strong, and this shows in his furniture; but his
genius lightened and improved it. The characteristics of his style which
remained fairly stable through his different phases were the use of
mahogany, a certain squareness and solidity of design which has no
appearance of heaviness because of the fine proportions, chair backs
with a center splat reaching to the seat. The curving top rail always
had curving up corners (see drawings page 84). The center splat was
solid at first, but soon was pierced and carved, and went through the
many developments of his style such as ribbon-back, Chinese, and Gothic.
In some chairs he also used horizontal rails, and what are called
"all-over backs." The legs of his earlier furniture were cabriole, and
later they were straight. He used much and beautiful carving, gave
great attention to the beauty of the wood and the perfection of
workmanship and finish. Chippendale's settees were at first designed
like two chair backs side by side, and if a larger settee was made
either a third chair back of the same design or a different but
harmonizing one was used. His dining-tables were made up of two center
pieces with wide flaps on each side, and two semicircular tables, and
all four pieces could be fastened together into one long table by brass
fasteners. The end pieces were used as side tables or sideboards, for
the sideboard as we know it did not come until later. He also made
oblong sidetables, some with marble tops, which were used as sideboards
with wine-coolers placed underneath, and usually a large tea-caddy or
tea box on top. The beds which Chippendale made were large and elaborate
four-posters, with beautiful carved cornices and posts. The curtains
hung from the inside of the cornice, and silks or chintz were used for
the curtains. His mirror frames were very elaborately carved, and in his
rococo period were fairly fantastic with dripping water, Chinese
pagodas, rocks, birds with long beaks, and figures. They were gilded,
and some were left in the natural mahogany. He made folding card-tables
with saucer-like places at the corners for candles, and later when the
candle-stand came into fashion, the tables were made without them.

[Illustration: An admirable example of the Sheraton style mahogany
settee with original silk covering.]

[Illustration: While this nest of mahogany tables is attractive in the
room its appearance in the picture is of an inappropriate and heavy
mission table.]

[Illustration: A lamp would be an addition to this corner. The footstool
is Victorian and a bit clumsy.]

There are many fine reproductions of Chippendale's furniture made which
carry out the spirit of his work. In the medium and inexpensive grades,
however, there is danger of bad carving, a clumsy thickening of
proportions, a jumble of his different periods, and too red a stain and
too high a varnish glitter. Good examples can be found in these grades,
but one must spend time looking for them, and perhaps it may be
necessary to have them rubbed down with powdered pumice and linseed oil.
If one uses Chippendale furniture, or that of any of the other Georgian
makers, the walls should not be covered with a modern design of wall
paper. Plain walls or molding may be used, or one of the fine old
designs of figured paper, and this must be used with great discretion
and is better if there is a wainscot. Chippendale was very fond of using
morocco, but damask and velvet and chintz may also be used. The chintzes
were charming in design, and many good copies are made.

[Illustration: This is in reality a moderate-sized room, yet the open
arrangement and the clear center give the impression of great space. The
curve of the fireplace and the oak panelling are simple Tudor. The
furniture is a mixture of many kinds.]

[Illustration: The wallpaper border, the bedspread, the table cover, and
the curtains are all wrong in this room. The Empire bed is good but
should not have castors.]

The Adam Brothers, of whom Robert was the more important, showed strong
classical influence in their work, and much of it resembles that of
Louis XVI, which was influenced from the same source. Chairs had square
or round or oval backs, and they also used a lyre-shaped splat which was
copied later by Sheraton. Often the top rail was decorated by small and
charming painted panels. These little panels were also used in the
center of cobweb caning in chair backs and settees. Legs of chairs and
tables were tapering and round or square and often reeded or fluted.
Adam used much mahogany and kept its beautiful golden brown tone (not
the dead brown called "Adam" too often in the shops), and also
satin-wood and painted wood. The best artists of the day did the
painting. Wedgwood medallions were introduced into the more important
pieces of furniture. Painted placques, lovely festoons, and charming
groups of figures, vases of flowers, and Wedgwood designs, and designs
radiating from a center, as on semicircular console table tops, are all
characteristic of his work. He also used much inlay. As Adam usually
planned all the furniture and the interior of the house, even to the
door-knobs, he kept the feeling of unity in both background and

[Illustration: The Hancock desk was a design greatly favored in America
in the eighteenth century. This fine example dates from about 1750.]

[Illustration: The general proportions, the broken pediment and torch or
flame ornaments and drops, large brasses, and cabriole legs all show
that this splendid example of a highboy belongs to the same time as the
desk, about 1750.]

Hepplewhite's furniture has much of the delicacy of Adam's work, by
whom, without doubt, he was influenced, as he was also by the French
styles of the time. Luckily his own personality and sense of beauty and
ingenuity were strong enough to develop a marked and beautiful style of
his own. His favorite chair back was shield-shaped (see page 83), and he
also used heart-shaped and wheel backs, either round or oval, and
charmingly painted little panels. The three feathers of the Prince of
Wales was a favorite design. He also made ladder-back chairs, usually
with four rails. On much of his furniture the legs tapered on the inside
edge only and were put in at a slight angle which gave security both in
fact and appearance. He also used reeded legs. His console and other
tables are beautiful in design and workmanship, being painted usually in
different forms of the radiating fan design, or inlaid with beautiful
colored woods. The inlay used was often oval in shape, sometimes only a
line and sometimes panels of different woods or matched veneer. The
handles used were round or oval. He made sofas and settees with either
chair-back backs or all upholstered with the frame showing and the
covering tacked on with brass tacks close together. His cabinets are
fascinating, with their beautiful inlay and delicate strap work over the
glass. He made four-post beds with fluted posts, and chests of drawers
and little work tables and candle-stands and screens; and one thing we
must be deeply grateful to him for is that he developed the sideboard
into a really useful and beautiful piece of furniture. He made nearly
everything in the way of necessities, and all show the marks of his
taste. His dining-tables were on the plan of those of Chippendale but
lighter in effect with tapering legs instead of the long cabriole leg
ending in claw feet. His mirrors were usually oval with charming
festoons. His favorite woods were mahogany and satin-wood, and he used
many fine woods for inlay. Chintz and taffeta and fine velvet are all
appropriate to use.

In his best designs Sheraton was much influenced by Adam and Hepplewhite
and the style of Louis XVI, but like them he also developed his own
special and beautiful style. He used mahogany and a great deal of
satin-wood of beautiful grain and of a delightful straw color, which was
often veneered on oak frames. He was exceedingly fond of inlay, and his
designs called for inlaid panels, borders, and festoons. He used the
shell, bell-flower, fan, etc., all carried out in fine colored woods. He
also used much painted furniture, and often designed white and gold
furniture for drawing-rooms. His characteristic chair back was
rectangular in shape with a central splat resting on a rail a few inches
above the seat (see page 83). This splat was in many different forms,
both inlaid and painted. The legs of his furniture were tapering and
either square or reeded, the square usually being inlaid. He made
beautiful sideboards which were inlaid and finished with a brass rail
around the sides and back of the top, and round or oval or lion's-head
handles with rings. He also designed most graceful inlaid knife boxes.
Like Hepplewhite, he designed all kinds of furniture both large and
small, and, until his deterioration came when he designed his
astonishing Empire furniture, his style is full of beauty and charm and
delicacy, and is copied very successfully by our modern makers.

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Online LibraryLucy Abbot ThroopFurnishing the Home of Good Taste A Brief Sketch of the Period Styles in Interior Decoration with Suggestions as to Their Employment in the Homes of Today → online text (page 12 of 12)