An influential style
This period style is named after the English king George I, and has had a significant influence on almost all other furnishing styles.
But it, too, was built on other styles!
It was actually a combination of a number of other styles, such as rococo (lots of scrolls, flowers, ribbons - a particular favorite of the French).
Rich young Englishmen did the 'Grand Tour' where they traveled in Italy, visiting all the ancient and culturally fashionable towns. This in turn influenced English architecture (they especially admired the work of Palladio), which then went on to influence the fashions in North America.
The Georgian style builds on many of the features of earlier styles.
- The straight lines and symmetry of the Palladian style.
- The best of the French influence in rococo.
- Gothick and chinoiserie.
- A touch of the orient.
Blend all these together and you end up with a look which we now call Georgian.
The influence of technology
As with all furnishing styles, it was dependent to a large extent on new materials, discoveries in science and methods of manufacture.
New skills in furniture making, cloth weaving and printing, and the availability of different woods as a result of increasing world trade were also important factors.
The people of the time were just like us - they wanted to keep warm, and have as much light as possible in their rooms. Warmth was provided by fires, so they concentrated on making attractive fireplaces. Light came from windows, and so they built their houses with large windows. Mirrors reflect light, so they included mirrors in their decoration.
A lasting legacy in furniture
Another reason why the Georgian style has lasted and had so much influence was the beauty of its furniture. Furniture designers such as Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite have had a lasting effect on furniture ideas and designs.
Georgian interiors put great emphasis on wall decoration. They split their walls into three sections:
- The wainscoting from the baseboard (skirting board) to the chair rail (dado rail).
- The central or mid-wall section
- The top section which was made up of the frieze and cornice.
The wall panels were made of wood which was left in its natural state and stained, or painted.
Fabric was sometimes fixed to the walls by using wood battens. They were very keen on paintings, and the generous size of the wall panels allowed them to hang quite large paintings without them looking out of place.
Floors were usually wood planks which were waxed, and often covered by area or oriental rugs. If the owners wanted to show their grandeur, they would have the floor of a hall or large room laid with marble or stone.
As regards fabrics, the key to the style is co-ordination. They made sure that everything blended together and that nothing was out of place. They used many of the popular fabrics of the time, such as damask, chintz, silk and velvet.
The first and most effective way of bringing a Georgian look to your room is to divide the walls into the three sections and mentioned previously.
The base section from the floor to the chair rail (dado rail) should be about 2'6" deep (75cms). Then have the main section with the frieze part (from the picture rail to the ceiling) in proportion.
You can get both plaster and polystyrene moldings to give you the effect you want.
Many wallpaper manufacturers now supply Georgian reproduction papers. If you add a small gold border around each section, this will also help to achieve the historical effect.
If you have an area such as a hallway, you could use a marble imitation flooring. (You could use the real thing, but marble is quite expensive, both to buy and to lay correctly.)
Original Georgian furniture is only found in museums or in the houses of the very wealthy. But you can find many modern reproductions of very good quality which will allow you to create an authentic look. One furniture style which has changed very little over the centuries is the wing chair. Cover this with a traditional damask and you won't go far wrong.
When selecting your furniture, don't overdo it. Georgian rooms had far less furniture in them than we tend to have today.
One easy feature you can use is silhouettes. If you have a side view photo of a family member, use it to draw or trace a silhouette in black card, which you can then mount in a black frame. These don't have to be very big, and a few of them displayed in a group will give your room a realistic Georgian style.
Mirrors were a common feature, especially with gilded frames. Some of them were quite elaborate and large, and often used the rococo style
As regards window treatment, don't go too far. Roller or festoon shades (blinds) are ok, and maybe a swag and cascade (swag and tail). Curtains were not obligatory, but don't have anything too heavy.
The colors used in Georgian interiors were dull and sullen by today's standards. The science of chemistry was in its early days, and the color tints were still natural.
Insipid green, stone, off-whites or gray were very common. Later in the Georgian period they managed to become more proficient with dyes, and yellow and blue became available.
Because many of the colors used didn't have very much life to them, borders and edges were often gilded, which relieved the overall drabness.
When they couldn't afford real wood for their panels, a faux wood treatment was used.
Use the following colors as a basis for your scheme, but if you feel the need to branch out, remember to keep the colors quite 'earthy' and muted.
If you use this style for your paint colors but are not sure if they will look right in your room, there's a great product which may help. It's good for all types of color schemes, and is based on knowledge which professional decorators have known for a long time.
The Shortcut to Perfect Paint Colors - Paint Color Cheat Sheets
(Only for residents of the USA and Canada.)