An Introduction to Georgian Style
November 18, 2013|
- ith the fantastic ‘Georgians Revealed’ exhibition at the British Library underway, we thought it would be a great time to reveal our love affair with all that is Georgian, by exploring the era and looking at the factors that influenced the design style. In an age renowned for the elegance of its architecture, the wit of its men of letters, and the flourishing of the arts and sciences, Georgian style embraces a century of transformation under the reign of four consecutive Georges; from 1714 to 1830, often divided into the Palladian, early and late Georgian (or Regency) periods.
A fascinating and scandalous era, it was an edifying age of enlightenment for those with means; and immortalised by the great artists of their day -Gainsborough, Reynolds and Lawrence among them – the aristocracy enjoyed a life of great privilege and luxury. The fashion was powdered wigs, frock coats and breeches; whalebone corsets, hooped skirts and the finest silk gowns that copied Parisian style and kept the looms of Spitalfields spinning. During this time, Fortnum & Mason, Wedgwood, Twining’s teas, Berry Brothers, and James Lock’s hat business were founded, and prosper still.
The custom of the Grand Tour played a key role in informing tastes. It was a coming-of-age ritual, whereby young aristocrats and scions of wealthy families – as well as writers, artists and architects – would undertake tours of Europe to complete their education. Northern Europe, France, Spain and Greece would be on the itinerary, but the architectural wonders of Italy were de rigueur. These ‘students’ returned home laden with crates of art, sculpture and antiquities; inspired by their travels, and keen to replicate classical architecture and design in their own properties.
During this time, in addition to the rise of the country estate, the physical shape of London was changing, and what we today call prime central London was born. Many palatial homes of the aristocracy were transformed into Palladian treasures, and the great squares -such as St. James’s, Berkeley, Grosvenor, Hanover and Portman – were taking shape as the city expanded its boundaries both eastwards, and into the smart new West End. Lavish entertaining became the order of the day and through beautifully illustrated books such as Chippendale’s ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director’ of 1754, aristocrats and the middle classes fed their appetite to improve and decorate their homes and gardens.
So what makes this stylish era so compelling? For us it’s the grandeur and fine sense of proportion – the harmony and symmetry of Georgian architecture is sublime. We love everything about the period, from sash windows and stone floors to ornate plasterwork and delicate furniture. In fact, many of the key design staples that feature in our homes today are rooted in Georgian design.
As this ‘age of elegance’ spans more than a century and takes in various influences from Palladian to Neo Classicism, later this week we will pick out the quintessential elements that make up Georgian style at a glance and demonstrate how to achieve this grand period look.
Written by SL