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17 September 2014
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Georgian interior

Georgian (1714 to 1837)

Georgian style embraces a century under the reign of three Georges and is often divided into the Palladian, early and late Georgian periods. The style was partly a reaction to baroque which George I loathed.


The three phases of Georgian are a continuum of each other. As the century progressed, the style became lighter and lighter in terms of colours and decoration and eventually became regency style.

Georgian textured wallpaper

Taking an interest in fashion and interiors was very much the order of the day; entertaining was becoming more popular and print books containing designs and architectural models were becoming available to the public for the first time.

Style

  • harmony and symmetry
  • airiness, space and light
  • pale colour schemes and woodwork
  • delicate furniture

Influences

  • Palladian style - especially Inigo Jones' s architecture
  • the Grand Tour - it was highly fashionable for the upper classes to take a tour round Europe, particularly Italy, for two or three years
  • the Orient

The names

  • Robert Adam - architect and designer, influenced by the way the Italians decorated their buildings
  • George Hepplewhite - furniture maker in the late Georgian period
  • Thomas Chippendale - cabinet maker renowned during the middle Georgian period

At the time

  • 1714 George I on the throne
  • 1748 Pompeii discovered
  • 1813 Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen
  • 1837 Queen Victoria crowned

Georgian sauce boats, fireplace, ceiling rose, architecture

Get the look

  • Early Georgian colour schemes include burgundy, sage green and blue grey but, as the style developed, they became lighter and included pea green, sky or Wedgwood blue, soft grey, dusky pink and a flat white or stone. Many of today's leading paint manufacturers now produce historic colours helpfully labelled according to the period.
  • Floors can be bare floorboards covered with Oriental rugs. Grander houses had stone or marble floors in pale colours, perhaps a keystone pattern. You could cheat with a lino in the same pattern.
  • Print rooms were popular and this look is easy to recreate: paste walls from floor to ceiling with old prints and engravings or photocopies made to look old and add a coat of varnish for longevity.
  • Walls were still panelled but the panelling only reached dado height and the plaster above was either painted or papered. If your hall has panelling, paint the cornice the same shade as the walls but, if you have painted walls, paint the cornice to blend in with the ceiling.
  • Look for simple repeat patterns in wallpaper such as trefoils. Some of the original designs are still being produced today. Wallpaper was imported from the Far East so anything with a chinosierie feel to it would be in keeping. Towards the end of the Georgian style, simple block papers began to be introduced and experimented with; designs were fairly rudimentary so look for geometric patterns with squares and stripes, perhaps with darker shading behind. Consider handblocking wallpaper yourself with a stamp.
  • Mouldings are intricate - ceilings might have ribbons and swags, classical figures and urns. There are companies who specialise in making reproduction ones as well as firms who will restore and repair original features.
  • For soft furnishings, look for glazed cotton fabrics with small sprigs of flowers. The same fabric would have been used for both the upholstery and curtains. Armchairs and divans often had loose covers made from cheap ticking or striped linen, which were removed for special occasions. Curtains often had pagoda style pelmets on top.
  • The arrival of paraffin was a major breakthrough for Georgian lighting. Look for chandeliers made from glass, metal and wood with curved arms like an octopus for a centrepiece. Elsewhere, use wall lights in brass, silver, or silvered wood or a simple candle flame bulb. Fittings in pewter or tin were used in less grand homes.
  • Furniture should be delicate - wing chairs and chairs with hoop or shield backs are typical.
  • Fireplaces would have been the focal point of a room. They should be elegant with basket grates, cast iron backs and decorated fronts featuring swags, urns, and medallions, perhaps flanked with classical pillars. Add a firescreen painted to match the room or featuring a trompe l'oeil.
  • Decorative objects can include screens, fans, porcelain and lacquerwork from the Orient and bronze ornaments. Hang pictures in formal groupings, flanking the fireplace.
  • If your front door is Georgian it's likely to have a filigree fanlight with a canopy and pediments. Original Georgian properties had sash windows and shutters.

What to invest in

  • furniture by Chippendale or Hepplewhite

Where to see it

  • Bath - particularly The Royal Crescent
  • The Geffrye Museum, London E2 - has rooms showing the development of Georgian style
  • Sir John Soane's Museum, London WC2
  • Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex - the Long Gallery designed by Robert Adam
  • 28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh - a whole square built by Robert Adam and purchased by The National Trust for Scotland. Tel: 0131 243 9300
  • The Georgian House, 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 226 3318

Further reading

  • Georgian House Style by Ingrid Cranfield (David & Charles)
  • The Georgian House Book by Steven Parissien (Aurum Press)
  • The English Archive of Design and Decoration by Stafford Cliff (Thames & Hudson)

© Image copyright:
David Garrick silver sauceboats image courtesy of the Antiques Roadshow finds database.
Imitation Georgian ceiling rose courtesy of www.decoratingdirect.co.uk


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