Victorian “home interior” is difficult to discern when it comes to
furnishings and accessories such as moldings, decorative paneling,
trim and ceiling treatments. Victorian period analyst, Mary Gilliatt
highlighted the difficulty in determining the home interior decoration
you are a specialist in the style of decoration associated with
different periods, it can become confusing to distinguish between, or
even to recognize the various components that together form a
particular style. Apart from the interiors depicted in early paintings
(notably those from the Dutch and Flemish schools) and the domestic
settings which can be glimpsed in the backgrounds of early portraits,
there is very little record of what interiors were really like before
the latter part of the eighteenth century.”
designers and architects quite often matched the style of exterior
architecture to that of the interior until the introduction of various
period treatments became fashionable. Actually, no single style can
claim preeminence because of the exotic and eclectic variations that
have been used.
of this, there has been an adoption of the Gothic based “romantic or
picturesque” mode with its smaller domestic structures. Hotels,
palaces, and grand manors, however, have retained the Renaissance
Italian and French style that had been the influence of Beaux-Arts
masters in the later 17th through the 19th centuries. Victorian
specialties seemed to adopt the “loose and free” layout of
distinguishing the “period”, the elevations corresponding to the
plans are useful in determining it. The gothic style is usually
asymmetrical in homes...cathedrals also were asymmetrical, with the
exception of their towers. The temple front is certainly the most
evident element of the period. An elevation that is symmetrical is
usually based on the Greco-Roman example.
there are columns supporting the arches or a straight
entablature, whether the structure is set on a plinth or pedestal
base, whether detailing or workmanship is Medieval, Neo-classical, or
Victorian (either British Edwardian, American Victorian) and whether
the columns are proportional in accord with the Orders described by
Vitruvius or is there liberty in the ratio of width to height, spacing
between each intercolumniation and if the arches depict Art Nouveau or
Art Deco all have to be taken into consideration.
homes height and width of windows, pitch of the roof, handling of
decorative trim elements (such as stone, brick, aluminum siding or
wood), design of chimneys and wall proportion to window, all combine
to create a “period” style. The ratio of wood or aluminum siding
and trim to the stone or brickwork is noteworthy. How the joints are
pointed and the pattern in which they are laid, the particular size of
separate masonry units, how deep the mortar bed is and whether the
windows are casement or single--double hung all combine to create a
can attribute period style to Michaelangelesque, Wrightian, Corbusian
and Miesian. In the example of Wright, we must consider in which
“time of his life” we are inquiring. His earlier Prairie style
houses are uniquely different from the International style of
Fallingwater or the later Modernist Guggenheim museum, and his
contributions while working for Adler and Sullivan were actually
colonial revival and Tudor styles.
work was identifiable throughout Europe because of his “plan book”
Quattro Libri dell’ Architettura, which was published in 1570. There
is the work of Mark Hampton or a Gehryesue type style.
period style can be noted because of individual architects and
interior designers who added distinctions as they traveled European
borders. The Italian architects were encouraged to stay at court in
France and England, while English architects did work in Russia.
XVI’s architect handled “ attention to detail” in his own less
flamboyant way. King Henry V’s apartments were less decorative than
Henry VIII’s and Elizabeth I’s royal living quarters were
influenced by the Renaissance.
this modern day, there is a marked difference in individual
architecture. Gropius is not like Mendellshon, Italian “futurists
differ from Russian structuralists, Richard Meier varies from Paul
Rudolph, Michael Graves and Charles Moore are similar but do not share
in the same quality. Allen Greenberg gives much attention to
authenticity, while Robert Stern and Ricardo Bofil each have their own
styles. Again, attention to detail points out the difference.
“Period Home" Style:
is simply not enough data about detail and classical or gothic design
in the educational system, either in the U.S. or abroad, to learn
about the original period styles although reference books are becoming
more prevalent. Yet, most architects have yielded to the modern
movement and will travel abroad to see first-hand the various home’s
fine details, workmanship and overall design. Or, they visit colonial
to pre-40’s home design in the U.S. to see the best examples.
witness in the U.S. “French Country”, English Tudor”,
“Mediterranean” and “Contemporary” architectural styles. Truly
“good” period architectural work is very costly and time consuming
to recreate than the commonplace designs more “filling in”.
have an ideal example of near-perfect “period” work in the U.S. in
Vanderbilt’s Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. An American,
Richard Morris Hunt designed the beautiful, elaborate estate with much
skill from tedious experience and learning. He attended the Paris,
France school of fine arts (Beaux-Arts--France’s leading institution
of fine arts) about the turn of the century. There, he studied by
sketching entire buildings and classical style directly on site, thus
learning theories of proportion, composition, principles of axial
symmetry, and rendered palaces, public works, bridges, casinos,
fountains and so on, analyzing ancient and contemporary buildings with
is a Renaissance French palace on Francis I’s Fontainebleau. Hunt
brilliantly combined a masonry veneer with contemporary materials
(electricity, cast in place concrete walls, elevators, modern
plumbing, steel roof framing, etc.) while yet retaining the classical
proportions and decorative details. He founded an astounding piece of
American Architecture while maintaining the realistic mood of the
1890’s and the French Renaissance, and the result is an
unparalleled, detailed work with “period” style.
fact is that the architects who were well trained and educated by
visiting original, authentic structures are the ones who have achieved
the most convincing replicas...their own “original” elaborate home
designs...in the most authentic period manner.
is created by duplicating as near as possible all aspects of a
building’s design---from its detailed floor plan to the exterior
bulk and detail. Gilliatt puts it this way: “Quite apart from
considerations of budget and lifestyle, the salient question must be
exactly how far should you go in your attempts to preserve or
recreated the past?” Naturally, by our use of modern conveniences
and technological additions to original design like central air and
heat, modern bathrooms, electricity and telephone systems and kitchen
appliances we are deviating from the original period works somewhat.
But, how we interpret authenticity may be open to interpretation. Some
feel that as long as one is meticulous in his attention to cabinetry,
door hardware, fixtures of plumbing and electric, countertops,
roofline, heights of floor to ceilings, interior moldings, coloration
and materials, window and door style and placement, exterior
composition and other fine details, he is accomplishing the period
work. Otherwise, it seems to portray eclecticism.
American Renaissance was the time of the mid-nineteenth century
through the l920’s and 30’s when architects produced this
country’s finest quality homes that were inspired by the magnificent
“period” styles gotten from Greco-Roman and Gothic designs.
Displayed by masters of the day, Carrere and Hastings, H. H.
Richardson, McKim, Mead and White, and Hunt, architecture was shown in
designs ranging from classic to eclectic or combinations of several
styles, and thus evidenced originality and creativity either way.
“a little of this and a little of that” so to speak, eventually
produced rambling elevations, Gothic and Greek mixtures, and spindles
and crockets combined with Moorish arches. The effect likens
individual excitement in art world to the wild, eclectic designs of
architecture that seems to have arisen from the mid-twentieth century
to this modern day.