Late Neoclassical


Architecture and Interior Design Volume II

Chapter 2: Directoire and French Empire; 1789-1815

Concepts:  Late Neoclassical tends to characterizes French architecture.  It contrasts 3 main styles: directoire, consulate, and empire. Each has a different focus and appearance that reflects the political and social climate of its day.  Architecture, furnishings, and interiors reveal symmetry, horizontality, proportions from slender to heavier, classical details, and accuracy in design.

Design characteristics:  Directoire-Louis XVI, simple and originate from ancient Greek and Roman influences.  Consulate-  scale becomes heavier; motifs come from Egyptian and roman influences. More formal then the others.  Empire- grandeur of Egypt and Rome, pompous, formal, masculine.

Architecture: Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and Arc de Triomphe de Etoile

  • Monument to Napoleon (as most public buildings were)
  • Placed in large open place to accentuate its significance
  • Includes relief sculptures
  • Honors all who fights and dies for France in the French Revolutionary War
  • 160′H x 148′W x 72′D
  • Inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus

Interiors: Masculine, arched ceilings, roman figures, columns.  Directoire: softer muted grays and blues, greens.   Consulate: rich reds, blues and greens.  Empire: high saturated red, magentas, blue, green, yellow, purple.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts: Fauteuil and Bergere

  • French arm chair with upholstered back, arm rests, and frame
  • 1790-1815
  • Directoire style-light in scale, painted, delicate details. classical influences
  • Legs can be tapered, quadrangular, turned, or baluster shaped


Architecture and Interior Design Volume II

Chapter 3: German Greek Revival, Biedermeier: 1815-1848

Concept: The term biedermeier applies mainly to middle-class interiors and furniture in Austria and Germany during this time period.  Bieder meaning simple, plain, or unpretentious, and meier, a common German last name.  This style is an adaptation of French Empire, and replaces formality and majesty with comfort and function.  Some architecture, interiors, and furniture show French influences because most German designers studied in France.  During the 1830’s designs started adopting a more eclectic approach.  Rooms of this era accommodate a variety of family activities with a warm inviting atmosphere.  Common themes in rooms are family values, simplicity, and modesty.

Design Characteristics:  This style features Greek and Roman temple forms, the Greek order, plain walls, and minimal, classically derived ornament.  It also reveals such classical attributes as symmetry, repose, and a concern for proportion.  Geometric solids (cubes, rectangles, cylinders) compose buildings as well as furniture.  Biedermeier interiors display bright colors, good lighting, warm woods, plants, flowers, and anything else that contribute to an inviting atmosphere.  Some common motifs of the time are columns, egyptian terms, pediments, Greek key or fret, acanthus leaves, urns, hearts, and arrows.

Architecture:  German Greek Revival architecture, like that of other countries, derives it’s details primarily from ancient Greek and it’s forms mainly from Roman architecture.  German architects are not stylistic innovators, neither are they mere copyists of the work of others.  Their genius lies in the ability to synthesize ancient Greek and Roman, French, and English influences and their own past styles into a rationalism, geometric forms, Gothic-type structures.     

Schauspielhaus; Berlin, Germany

Altes Museum; Berlin Germany (Day)

Altes Museum; Berlin Germany (Night)

Interiors: Middle class homes sport modest furniture, bright colors, and good lighting.  Important family memorabilia or prized possessions like glassware, needlework, silhouettes, or portraits are displayed.  Living spaces area furnished with many chairs and other seating options to accommodate many people.  Higher class people chose the Empire style for ceremonial spaces in their homes, palaces, theaters, and museums.

Altes Museum, Interior Perspective

Furnishings and Decorative Arts:

Gentleman making pressed glass (popular display item)


Architecture and Interior Design Volume II

Chapter 4: English Regency, British Greek Revival, 1790-1840

Concept:  England’s regency is a creative and productive period for both architecture and the decorative arts.  Designers borrow and synthesize forms and influences from classical, medieval, and exotic sources.  Neoclassicism continues to dominate the arts and architecture, but the Romantic and Picturesque Movements also affect design.

Design Characteristics:  Romantics believe in the unity of reason, nature, and antiquity.  They rigorously seek the beautiful and the sublime, or the awe-inspiring and terror filled experience of nature.  The Picturesque Movement also admires nature and the visual qualities of landscapes, such as asymmetry.  These two movements opened the doors to a new eclecticism.  Greek, Roman, and Egyptian works and characteristics were still very influential.  Classic motifs include pediments, columns, arabesques, urns, classical figures, fretwork, bamboo, pagodas, pointed arches, fan vaulting, rose windows, sun-disk and vultures, and stars.

Architecture:  Regency architecture follows two paths, Neoclassicism and the Picturesque movement.  Most public buildings are neoclassical, and feature typical classical elements like columns, pediments, and attributes like symmetry, order, and balance.  Interpretations of temple ruins are common in picturesque landscapes.  Picturesque architects developed asymmetry, meandering paths, ponds with irregular shapes, and buildings or ruins reminiscent of ancient history, paintings, or literature in their designs.

British Museum; London, England-Robert Smirke

The Bank of England; London- John Soane

Royal Pavilion; Brighton, England – John Nash (remodeled)

Interiors: Like the architecture, Regency interiors are eclectic and borrow from the same sources-classical, medieval, Italian, French Empire, Chinese, and Indian.  However, classically inspired rooms are most typical.  Each interior room is treated as a unit, with it’s own color scheme and theme.  The Industrial Revolution is still having an impact, and we see many things like big windows, skylights, cast iron gates, fireplace grates, and much more.

Furniture and Decorative Arts: Eclecticism is key.  Furniture is graceful, movable, and light in scale.  Hepplewhite and Sheraton forms continue from before.  Influence comes from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, Turkey, and India.  Influential styles include Gothic, Tudor, Elizabethan, and of course classical elements.  Towards the end of this era, furniture started becoming slightly heavier, and larger in scale, with more eclecticism and embellishment.



Architecture and Interior Design Volume II

Chapter 5: American Greek Revival, American Empire: 1820-1860

Concept:  America wholeheartedly embraces Greek Revival for numerous structures ranging from banks to courthouses, cottages to mansions.  Architectural details derived from Greece, Rome, and Egypt.  American Empire furniture is characterized by classically derived ornamentation and is heavier in proportion, as well as more archeologically correct than was Federal, the previous style.  After the American Revolution, leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, see classical antiquity as the source of ideal beauty and regard it’s citizens as models of civic virtue and morality.

Design Characteristics:  Although influenced by Europe, Americans adapt English Greek Revival and French Empire to their needs, tastes, and situations.  They create unique classical expressions that is ofter symmetrical, horizontal, but doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of classicism or reflect classical proportions.  Greek Revival have bolder architecture, and have plainer simplier interiors than Europe.  Americans are less likely to imitate Etruscan or Pompeian modes than are the English or French, and Americans do not have an emperor to glorify, like France.  American Empire furniture tends to be more simplified.  Motifs include egg and dart, bead, dentil moldings, triglyphs and metopes, honeysuckles, and acanthus leaves.

  Egg and Dart Molding

Dentil Molding

Honeysuckle Motif

Architecture:  American Greek Revival architecture relies on forms and elements derived from a dew classical models adapted to contemporary requirements and ornament taken chiefly from Greece, but also from Rome.  Greek Revival became the most popular architectural icon for high-style government, commercial, and institutional buildings designed by architects and builders.

Merchant’s Exchange; Philadelphia, PA- William Strickland

Ohio State Capitol- Thomas Cole

Tennessee State Capitol- William Strickland

Interiors:  Greek Revival interiors do not replicate those of the past because few examples survive.  Public interiors have large and bold classic details rather then purely classical forms and treatments.  Important rooms are treated with columns, pilasters, moldings, and coffered ceilings.  Spaces are generally rectangular.  Most colors are neutral whites, greys, and browns.

Furniture and Decorative Arts:  American Empire is heavier, plainer, and more sculptural than the earlier Federal.  Carving, gilding, and more classically inspired forms, such as the klismos, define the current image.  The style antique, as its called, borrows heavily from, but does not copy, French Empire and English Regency.  Technologically and Industrialization influence the styles.  Rare exotic woods can be used for furniture because veneer cuts are now extremely thin.  Furniture is available for sale at auctions, merchants, upholsters, and large retail establishments.


The Industrial Revolution


Architecture and Interior Design: Volume II

Chapter 1: The Industrial Revolution

Concept: This is the time in which there are many incredible changes to the economy and society.  New materials, techniques, and forms to architecture, interiors and furniture shape the world into something innovative and fresh.  Goods are becoming more available, but not necessarily a higher class or quality. The world is experiencing new technological advances.  Glass and steel were shaping the world as they knew it.

Design characteristics: Old forms were less threatening with the new machine construction and new technology, so they mostly looked backwards for design characteristics.  Symmetry, regularity, unity, harmony, nothing out of the ordinary.

Architecture: Crystal Palace, 1851; London, England, Joseph Paxton

  • Derived from greenhouse design
  • Made of cast iron and glass
  • Mass production of prefabricated components
  • 770,000 SF interior
  • Interior was decorated with red, blue, white, and yellow

Design Practitioner: Pierre-Francois-Henri Labrouste

Labrouste was an architect during the industrial revolution who found the most effective ways to use modern materials in his work.  He understood the materials in a way not many could achieve.  Most of his work fuses functionalism with neoclassicism, for example, one of his most important buildings; the Bibliotheque St. Genevieve in Paris.  It includes masonry, cast iron columns, and glass skylights.

Interiors: The industrial revolution brought more conveniences to the people.  Someone which include of better lighting, heating, plumbing, ect.  Skylights, natural lighting, were becoming more popular because of the advances in glass and steel.  The style was simple, and had a lack of clutter. They used new materials but motifs and influences stayed the same, or took from the past.

Furnishings and decorative arts: iron gates, porches, architectural details, windows, cast iron seating, mail order furniture: bedroom suites 1890 grand rapids MI, and Chicago IL.  Michael Thonet was a well known furniture designer of the times.

Chair: Cooper Rocker

  • One of the most popular metal chairs
  • Mid 19th Century
  • Popular in the Unites States and England
  • Two flattened pieces of metal formed the entire structure of the chair
  • Modern interpretation of historic revival style

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.