Neo-Classical Style of Decorating
If you are one of the millions of fans of the US version of Antiques Roadshow, you have heard the Keno twins talk about such names as Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Sheraton as if they were old friends. These are three of the most prolific cabinet makers of the Neo-classical period and original furniture is to die for. Lucky for the person who likes the Neo-Classical style of decorating there are plenty of beautiful reproductions to use in your home.
The Neo-classical style itself developed in France and England in the mid 1700’s. As in most movements, it was a cry against the former style which was the more excessive Rococco style in decorating. Lines became more important and the perception of less is more became the impending theme. It is rare to see a smaller home in the Neo-Classical style of decorating. It is very formal and looks better in larger homes. However, you can bring elements into a smaller home that reflects your appreciation of this special period in interior design.
There was generous use of color during the Neo-classical period. You would expect to see light or soft grays, pinks, creams, sage greens, muted rose, blues and mustard. Because the homes were those owned by the upper crust, there was generous use of goldleaf. More bold colors like terra cotta, black and red were used sparingly. Yes, wallpaper and lots of it was a staple but if the look is too much for your sensibilities, the plain muted wall colors with more vibrant hanging tapestries will do quite well.
Fabrics for the interior of the homes featured an upscale look but were not frilly or excessively feminine. While silk Damask and brocades came from France, you can find more frugal replicas in your neighborhood upholstery stores. It was not uncommon to see cotton, linen, fine needlepoint, wools and tapestries. Window treatments were optional and were usually a simple swag or cascade. Remember, this was a time when they went against all the excesses of the Rococco era.
Materials used for flooring were diverse. You could have highly polished light pine, marble, stone or marble and beautiful inlays were common.
The furniture used in the Neo-Classical style of decorating was simple with plain lines. If you want to get a real feel for the type of furniture in the Neo-classical home, look online for examples of Sheraton, Hepplewhite and Chippendale. Print some of the pieces that you particularly like and visit garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores and large retailers to find reproduction pieces that are still usable.
As in many of the other periods, in the Neo-Classical style of decorating large gilded mirrors would be placed above the fireplaces. Portraits of family members would have graced the living room where as more informal landscapes would have been used in the family’s living quarters.
The use of accessories was hugely popular and one of the more famous names to come out of this period was Wedgewood. Everyone is familiar with the light blue ceramics with the white cameos and figures as decorations. Many of the designs were fashioned after classical Greek and Roman figures as well as mythical creatures like sphinxes, griffins and satyrs and real animals such as lions and dolphins. The use of vases was most important, not just for holding fresh cut flowers but for use as decorations. Other items one would have used for decoration were tea sets, urns, statues and candle sticks.
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