Early Neoclassical


Architecture and Interior Design: Volume I

Chapter 26: Louis XVI and French Provincial

Concepts: People were starting to see the lack of classical order in the Rococo style, and continued to repel it.  French influences came back into the sights of our critics, and a new classicism was born.  One that is rational, truthful, honest, pure, and derived from nature.  French Neoclassicism therefore draws on 17th century (Baroque) and 16th century (Renaissance) classic traditions.

Design Characteristics: General characteristics include light scale, rational planning, mathematical proportions, straight lines, and emphasis on geometric forms.  Also melding with classical forms and details which dominate architecture and interiors.  Influences come from Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and Egyptian motifs.

Architecture: Structural honesty and simplicity were what architects strives for when designing buildings in the late 1700s.  Designers often reproduced elements from ancient buildings, but rarely ever copied the entire building.  Nature was infused with new structures, carefully planned to look unplanned.  Almost in a classical “ruins” sort of way.

Le Hameau; Versailles

Interiors: Designers emphasize classical motifs, human scale, straight lines, proportions, symmetry, and unity.  People still want comfort and luxury, however some are leaning more toward simple and natural designs.  Popular colors include pale greens, whites, gray blues, pearl gray, and dusty cool colors.  Wall  paneling, molding, and stucco are all popular treatments.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts: Straight legs, excellent proportions, and harmonious ornament are carefully executed in furniture from this era.  Popular seating solutions include chaises, fauteuil, and canapes.  They reflect neoclassical design principles.  Some other types of furnishings are commode chests, secretaire a abattant, and grand elegant canopy beds.





Architecture and Interior Design: Volume I

Chapter 27: Late English Georgian


Concepts: The late English Georgian period wholeheartedly adopts neoclassicism for architecture, interiors and furniture.  The style exhibits slender proportions, flatter details, and more ornamentation.  Robert Adam freely breaks the rules, and brings upon us a new twist on the old style which we now call adamesque.



Design Characteristics: Certain characteristics like symmetry, unity, formality, and classical elements were still very popular.  However, the late English Georgian era adapted a broader range of elements from many sources, and used these elements to become more archaeologically correct.  They strive for elegance, formality, refinement, and lightness.



Architecture: At this time, simple geometric shapes and classic elegant decoration was favored.  Inspiration still came from the antique of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.  Unlike French buildings, English structures have a picturesque quality with complicated silhouettes and movement throughout.  William Chambers followed the classical rules and proportions.  He created structures like Somerset House, in London.  Robert Adam broke the rules by changing proportions, ornamentation, and freely adapting his own style.  He went on to creating furniture and designing interiors.



Interiors:  Geometric simple shapes were popular.  Barrel vaulted ceilings, arches, and classical columns were all must-have elements of the time.  Late English Georgian interiors feature delicate colors and all together create a soft, formal, elegant, and unified space.  Robert Adam was known for mirroring the ceiling and floor patterns, to create an overall sense of harmony in his interiors.  Tapestries, sways, garlands, florals, and rosettes were commonly found as ornamentation on walls, floors, ceilings, and furniture.



Furnishings and Decorative Arts:  Most furniture is light in scale, rectilinear in form, and features carved, painted, and inlaid classical motifs.  George Hepplewhite created a line of shield back chairs, oval back arm chairs, heart-back chairs, parlour chairs, and numerous types of furniture legs.  He went on to published all his designed furniture in a book titled “The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide” in 1788.  The industrial revolution was still uprising, and many middle class families could afford to showcase silver goods such as candle sticks, sconces, tea urns, and flat decorative ornamentation.




Architecture and Interior Design: Volume I

Chapter 27:  American Federal


Concept:  Federal style is the first phase of Neoclassicism in America.  As in Europe, the style features classical details and ornament, slender proportions, and contrasting circular and rectangular shapes.  However, the American Federal style typically is simpler and smaller in scale than the European Neoclassical style.


Design Characteristics:  As stated before, American Federal style is a bit more simpler than European styles.  With that being said, American Federal is largely based on English prototypes.  Geometric curves, straight lines, classical details, and slender proportions are basic elements.  Motifs include eagles, ovals, swags, classical figures, baskets, urns, and stripes.  Sometimes famous figures, such as George Washington, appeared in decorative arts.



Architecture:  American Neoclassic architecture differs from England’s in scale, construction methods, and building material.  Scale remains domestic and proportional instead of massive and monumental.  Wood frame construction and brick prevail instead of stone is used.  Normal every day handy men and craftsmen build most constructions rather then trained architects or designers.  Therefore American Neoclassicism doesn’t have a strong theoretical base, as Europe did.  Urban structures tend to follor the Neoclassical style more closely than rural ones.



Interiors:  Federal Interiors follow the Adamesque style, created by Robert Adam, but are more simple.  Less ornamented decorations with fewer colors are characterized.  Classical motifs and architectural details dominate.  Plain plaster replaces wood paneling for walls.  Some spaces have plasterwork ceilings as well.  White, off White, Grey, Buff, and many shades of blue and green are typical colors of this style.



Furnishings and Decorative Arts:  Federal furniture adopts the light scale, geometric contrasts, veneers, straight legs, and classical ornament of European Neoclassical models such as Adam, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton from England and Louis XVI style in France.  Because makers often consult pattern books, similar design and motifs appear in all areas.  New types of furniture include sewing tables, night stands, and knife boxes.  Card tables were more common the tea tables because playing cards was becoming more popular during this time.  Generally, all seating, tables, and chests follow Hepplewhite and Sheraton’s prototypes.




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