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Modern Use of the English Period Styles


The importance of English furnishings in America cannot be overestimated. During our Colonial period, English furniture, furnishing accessories, wallpapers, and chintzes were been continuously imported.

Unlike the French period styles, which demand great accuracy and a strict accord of architectural interior, designer window toppers, and furnishings, English furniture can be safely used in practically any American house or apartment. Even in a house of Spanish or Italian type, early English furniture is not impossible.

For the decorator or the householder, English furniture is always safer than any other type. The English themselves have been so conservative in holding on to earlier forms and assembling them with later models, that this assembling of early and late types in a house or even in a single room is not a forbidden practice.

It is wiser, however, to keep the early period types – Tudor, Elizabethan, and Jacobean together; while the periods of Dutch influence-William-and-Mary, Queen Anne, and Early Georgian are more suitable to be used with one another.

With Chippendale we touch more individual types and rooms in strict Chippendale style are often as delightful as those done in the French periods. Chippendale’s various types can frequently be assembled to advantage, but those in the Chinese style are best kept to themselves, unless one or two pieces are introduced as actual Chinese pieces might be introduced for variety.

Hepplewhite, Sheraton, and Adam types are often akin and may be nicely assembled. To the purist in design there is nothing more gratifying than a room in strict period style, and rooms furnished in pure period are soothing and unimpeachable. Still, the greatest latitude in the use of English furnishings is compatible with good taste.

French furniture and accessories can be introduced successfully into a scheme. A highly decorative chair or antique picture frames of the Early French periods-Henry II, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, often adds just that touch of stateliness, magnificence, and authority that a Tudor, Elizabethan, or even a Jacobean room may need.

Even an occasional Italian or Spanish piece of the same era may be introduced successfully. Louis XIV or XV commodes or tables, and even chairs may add charm to Chippendale furnishings, and many of the gracious pieces of the Louis XVI period give a delightful touch to the later Georgian styles of Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Adam.

A few Victorian pieces can be accommodated in modern rooms. When we consider the American Colonial and Early American furnishings, English types are quickly at home with the corresponding American interpretation of the period.

A single piece or several pieces from the English metropolis often grace Colonial furnishings, just as a well dressed and stylish English sister or brother from overseas graced many a provincial party in America in Colonial days, and was its central attraction. English furnishing accessories – pottery, pewter, glass, and silver are happily associated with American furnishings, and often in fact necessary to complete them.

In every period style, from Jacobean hand-blocked linens, through the various Georgian types in the Dutch, French and Classic modes to the splendid Victorian florals, chintzes are required for English, Colonial, Early American, and modern furnishings.

Wall hangings and corner protectors, window and door hangings, permanent upholstery, loose cushions and slip covers, screens, pillows, and lamp shades, dresser and table covers, and all those countless family touches that women deem indispensable for comfort. In the modern use of English furnishings no point requires the exercise of more careful judgment than floor coverings.

Other textiles such as silk, damask and brocades, woolen tapestry and needlework are all accurately adjusted to their period styles, but rugs and carpets are less studied and consequently less understood. The Oriental rug has been deemed the only suitable rug for the earliest periods, but this must be carefully selected as to type and coloring.

Persian, Syrian and Asia Minor types are available, as are also modern Chinese rugs. With Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Adam, rugs of French design of Aubusson type are appropriate. Designs in the classic mode of the Adams’ are considered necessary for rooms in the Adam style. Carpets to the baseboard are appropriate for Victorian rooms and may be used in modern rooms.