March 21 2018
It spanned 1714-1830 during the reign of multiple monarchs – George I, George II, George III and George IV – and encompasses the Regency era also. Typically, people look to locations such as Edinburgh, Dublin, Bristol and most notably, Bath, as cities synonymous with fine examples of Georgian architecture. In this article, I consider how Georgian architecture informs interior decoration.
Symmetry and proportion that reflect classical Grecian and Roman structures are two of the most fundamental principles in a Georgian aesthetic. I tend to turn to phrases such as ‘divine proportion’ and ‘Palladio influence’ whenever I find myself talking to a client about this design epoch. Ornamentation is more restrained, though not absent by any means. It is a case more of elegance than ostentation. The Georgians were great subscribers to mathematical ratios when determining their approach to space. You can expect to see buildings erected in precise cuts of stonework that follow the same form throughout. And, using a wider lens, regularity in building frontages was deeply pleasing during this era.
I find that Georgian homes always possess a genuine feeling of warmth and comfort. The rooms are quite often small and cosy, which inevitably encourages this sentiment. If we happen to be designing a home that is not of the Georgian period, but aspires to capture its aesthetic, I will often propose sectioning rooms rather than choosing an open-plan layout. It forms a lovely Georgian base to build on. Tall ceilings and many windows are common too in Georgian properties, so while the footprint is typically small, the height is not, so you are able to somehow combine cosiness and freshness. A beautiful but rare dichotomy. For me, Georgian is one of my favourite periods of architecture. In seeking to achieve balance, I feel they very much did so, because the interplay between decoration and restraint is so very right. A Georgian building is full of truly beautiful detailing, such as cornices and panelling, but I adore the simplicity of it.
The Victorians were a little crazy, showing off wealth and striving for opulence, but the mark of a Georgian example is discipline. Square and plain staircase spindles are a wonderful notion here – they are such a lovely sight, and are such a feature, without needing to shout ‘look at me over here!’ Equally, a traditional sash window is so full of appeal for me. There is a fine pedigree of joinery in Georgian design. The other point to remember with Georgian design, is that they also looked to the past, and were not afraid of borrowing inspiration from others. Chinoiserie is just one example of the global influence that the Georgians sought. At the time, this was very refreshing to see such a far reach rather than a mere stretch across the channel.
When we speak of elegance and a classic scheme, it is common to assume this means a neutral palette. But the Georgians were very fond of strong colours. In fact, many rooms throughout Georgian history were very bright indeed. It was not unusual to enter a Royal Blue hallway and straight into a Claret Red dining room.
At Sims Hilditch, this is one of the few aspects of Georgian design that we adhere to in a lesser extent. While we are not afraid of using bold shades, too many in one home is not in-line with our approach to interiors. Therefore, our interpretation of a Georgian palette for a modern home is far more toned down.
Of course, a Georgian building is the best place for a Georgian interior to live. Though, this does not mean one cannot be achieved in country homes and more contemporary townhouses. In addition to all of the aspects we have covered so far, there are a handful of features that are incredibly effective in mirroring Georgian decorating. Panelling is one. This really changes the dynamic of a plastered room; it builds such tangible atmosphere. I love it most in a dining or drawing room. Bathrooms too are an excellent setting for panelling. By adopting mouldings and ornamentation typical of the period, you can build on this further. We work on many new-build homes that base their design aesthetic on the Georgian period of architecture and when each of these considerations come together, the result is one I am always wholly pleased with.