American Georgian: Architecture

During this period, Americans look to English prototypes for architectural design inspiration.  Public buildings include government structures, churches, educational structures, and taverns. 

Public structures are formal, two stories tall, and symmetrically balanced, but larger in scale than domestic structures.  Palladian influence is apparent in temple fronts, the orders, quoins, arches, and Palladian windows. 

Churches follow the British tradition, with a Latin cross plan in the South and a more centralized plan in New England.  Common building materials are wood, brick, and stone.  Public facades indicate an increasing application of classical details throughout the period.  Designers emphasize center entrances with aedicula (frames composed of columns or pilasters carrying an entablature and pediment), temple fronts, porticoes, and/or cupolas.  The tower and steeple mark the entrance front of churches.

Exchange building and customs house, Charleston, SC-

S. Michael’s Church, Charleston, SC-

Courthouse, New Castle, Deleware-

Most large houses have a center passage flanked symmetrically by two rooms on either side, with a repititive footprint for both floors.  The long passage has entry doors at each end to catch cooling breezes and a stairway to the second floor. 

Domestic buildings imitate public ones in the application and general use of materials.  Facades with classically delineated entries are common.  Repetitively sized and spaced double-hung windows with six-over-six or nine-over-nine glass panes dominate, an obvious change from the previous use of small casement windows. 

Wilton House, Richmond, VA-

Vassal-longfellow House, Cambridge, MA-

Cliveden House, Germantown, PA-

Miles Brewton House, Charleston, SC-


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American Georgian: Furniture and Decorative Arts

Furniture design complements the building, imitates English prototypes, and offers high style as well as vernacular interpretations.  Forms and ornament reflect English Queen Anne, Early Georgian, and Chippendale modes.  Walnut and imported mahogany are the principle woods for all cabinetmaking, but regional woods such as maple, cherry, and pine provide good substitutes. 

Seating- Furnishings distinctive to the period are Chippendale chairs, Queen Anne chairs, Windsor chairs, easy or wing chairs, and camel-back sofas. 


Windsor chair-

Storage- desks with drop lids for writing and bookcases often display pilasters, broken scroll pediments, and block fronts or they may be painted with Chinese landscapes. 

Ceramics- foreign and domestic ceramics may decorate American interiors, particularly niches, mantels, and tables.

Silver- Silver is both imported and made in the colonies and usually appears in the homes of the wealthy.  Several American craftsmen become well known, particularly Paul Revere. 


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American Georgian: Symbols and Motifs

Classical motifs include pilasters, pediments, dentil moldings, balustrades, round arches with keystones, and quoins.  Common motifs in interiors include the ear, shell, acanthus leaf, rosette, and pineapple or pine cone, as well as rendtitions of naturalistic flowers. 

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English Neo-Palladian and Georgian: Architecture

Almost exclusively domestic, the style defines numerous country houses and affects smaller dwellings and town houses.  Symmetrical, geometric, and relatively plain, forms are simple; outlines are uncomplicated.  Rules for proportions are closely observed. 

The typical rectangular block main house still dominates the site.  Imitating the tripartite compositions of Palladio, some larger examples may have wings with smaller dependencies.  Symmetry, the sequence of spaces, and the alignment of doors and windows are important planning considerations.  Town houses are typically three stories high, one or more rooms wide, and two rooms deep.

Structures are of brick, local stone, or stucco.  Brick color varies from red, to brown and gray, white or cream.  Wood and metal portions, including sashes, sash frames, shutters, doors, and door cases, are painted in bold colors whose variety and hue depend on the owner’s wealth.

Facades are distinctive, having a temple front or pedimented portico at the center, Venetian or Palladian windows, and plain walls.  Designers usually group windows, elements within porticoes, and other details in threes.  Entry staircases often angle to the side of the portico.  String courses mark stories and quoins delineate corners.

Palladian or Venetian window-

Chiswick house-

Marble Hill house-

Holkham Hall-

Neo-Palladian interiors are elaborately decorated with classical and Baroque elements.  Proportions are monumental, materials rich and costly, colors bold, and furniture massive.  Libraries become more common and by mid-century, stair halls and staircases are important design elements, and dining rooms are becoming prevalent.  In contrast to plainer exteriors, interiors are sumptuous with particular attention given to circulation areas, reception rooms, saloons, chimneypieces, ceilings, and furnishing.

A Neo-Palladian ideal is classis simplicity.  Inside, this translates into light or stone-colored walls that clearly reveal proportions and architectural details in the manner of Inigo Jones. 

Typical floor materials are wood or masonry.  Oak, pine, or fir board floors have random dimensions.  Stone and marble floors are limited to entrances.  Paneling remains a favorite wall treatment. 

Mereworth Castle-

Marble Hill house-

Stone Hall, Houghton Hall-

Holkham Hall saloon-

Claydon House Chinese room-

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English Neo-Palladian and Georgian: Furniture and Decorative Arts

The 18th Century is a golden age in English furniture.  People are able to spend more money on furniture, and they demand higher standards and comfort. 

Types of pieces include chairs, sofas, tables, secretaries, high chests of drawers (tallboys)m dressing tables, tall case clocks, fire screens, and beds.  Furniture arrangements support room function, with an emphasis on formality, customs, harmony, and integration.  Walnut dominates Queen Anne furniture.  Imported mahogany supersedes it in the 1730s and becomes the chief wood for Early Georgian and Chippendale furniture. 

Seating- includes side chairs and armchairs, settees, easie chairs, and many forms of armchairs and armless chairs with upholstered seats and backs.  Settees resemble large chairs for two people. 

Tables- Georgian drawing rooms have numerous tables, reflecting society’s interest in inviting friends for tea, cards and conversation.  Dining tables have three parts:  a center with drop leaves and two semicircular ends.  The ends are placed against the wall when not in use. 

Storage- Every fashionable Georgian drawing room has a commode.  It features straight, bombe, and/or serpentine-shaped fronts and sides. 

Beds- four-poster beds are most fashionable.  Queen Anne types follow earlier forms, but Chippendale headboards are elaborately carved with Rococo, Chinese, or Gothic details.  Beds feature elaborate hangings with trims and tassels. 

Textiles- Typical textiles include velvets, silks, wools, linens, cottons, and leather.  Wood block and copperplate print fabrics are common.  Textiles provide much of the color in rooms. 

Glass- the period also witnesses the development of Anglo-Irish glass.  The most famous glasshouse, Waterford, opened in 1783. 



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English Neo-Palladian and Georgian: Symbols and Motifs

Forms and elements derive from Vitruvius, Palladio, or Inigo Jones.  Elements and ornamentation are classical, and compositions are symmetrical, horizontal, and feature classical repose. 

Classicial architectural details such as columns, pilasters, balusters, dentil moldings, and quoins, appear in architecture, interiors, and furniture throughout the period.  In Queen Anne furniture, motifs include shells and acanthus leaves.  Early Georgian furniture may feature swags, urns, eagles, cabochons, lion masks, satyr masks, and/or foliage.  Motifs in furniture and interiors after mid-century include ribbons, leaves, shells, foliage, birds, pointed arches, quartrefoils, and tracery. 

Rococo Ornament

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Louis XV, Rococo: Architecture

Le Regence and Louis XV architecture continue the classicism of the Baroque era, but with an increased elegance and lightness in scale and appearance. 

Hotels (town houses) built in Paris for the aristocracy are the chief Rococo building type.  Most hotels are sited at the rear of large plots of land in the city to creat gracious forecourts with majestic gates of entry. 

Plans are generally symmetrical with rectangular rooms.  Most hotels are of local stone and trabeated construction.  Some lower stories are arched.  Buildings have more refinement and continuity than Baroque buildings.  Architectects emphasize centers and/or ends by projecting them forward or with defining architectural elements.  Facades feature less contrast of light and dark and movement that in the Baroque style.  Pediments, columns, or rustication accentuate entrances, and sting courses mark stories. 

Rectangular or arched windows have simple lintels above them.  Curvilinear ironwork, such as on balconies, may distinguish lower portions.  For emphasis, designers locate doorways as centerpieces in compositions and surround them with columns, pediments, coats of arms, and other ornamentation.  Mansard, hipped, or low-pitched or flat roofs with balustrades are common. 

Interiors and furnishings are the primary expressions of Le Regence and Louis XV style.  During the 1670s and 1680s, rooms become less formal with lighter, even playful, decoration.  Wood paneling replaces heavy marble walls, columns and pilasters disappear, and cornices diminish in size. 

Rocaille decoration with its asymmetrical profusion of curving tendrils, foliage, flowers combined with shells, and minute details defines the character of the Louis XV interior. 

The ornate interiors constrast with refined, plainer exteriors.  During Le Regence, most paneling is painted white with gilded details.  By the 1730s, a pastel yellow, blue, or green palette replaces white.  Single hues and contasting values of the same hue decorate paneling. 

Large windows, light-colored walls, shiny surfaces, and numerous mirrors fill rooms with light along with ornate lighting fixtures.  The most common flooring is wood blocks or parquet.  As the focal point, the fireplace sets proportions for paneling.  The chimneypiece is smaller and projects less than before.  Windows feature curved tops.  Coved ceilings and curving corners are the most common ceilings. 

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