Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Decorating American Style

For those of us who live in the U.S., we have only to look around at our gardens, our public buildings, and our private dwellings to see influences from all over the world. Naturally, many European countires were major players in our country's development. Here are some styles that Americans adopted from Europe and made uniquely their own:

1) Earliest Colonial: The earliest European settlers in the U.S. were still influenced by the medieval age. This is particularly true of those who came from Great Britian and, in New York, from the Netherlands. As a result, most people say that earliest Colonial furnishings are Gothic in style.

The Windsor chair, a perennial American favorite, is an example of how Gothic style found its way into American homes. A Windsor chair is somewhat more delicate looking than many Gothic furnishings, but it is Gothic inspired, nontheless.

In general, earlist colonial homes and furnishings were simpler and even cruder than their European counterparts. American colonists also adapted local woods, dyes, plants, etc, in establishing and furnishing their homes.

Florida's St. Augustine is the oldest continually inhabited city in the U.S. Naturally, it reflects Spanish architecture, furnishings, and gardens.

France settlers left a refined mark on early American architecture and styles. Places like Savannah and Charleston reflect the delicate curved, rococo styles of the French renaissance. In Savannah and Charleston, beautiful enclosed gardens were the norm. "Low country" styles reflect a blend of Great Britian, France, and, to some extent, Africa. Houses were often adorned with delicate grillwork.

New Orleans was a melting pot of France, Spain, Great Britian, and Africa. Obviously, the French influence was the greatest.

2) Refined colonial: As American colonists became more established and more prosperous, colonial furnishings became more and more refined. The Georgian style from Great Britian was popular. Georgian style used a lot of classical details from Greece and Rome. It was heavy in p;roportion and detail. Georgian style is popular in American even today.

3) Greek Revival/Federal style: American federal style is our intepretation of Greek Revival. While European styles may have inspired a return to classical Greek and Roman architecture, Americans took the style to heart! Since we based our new and independent republic on Greek and Roman ideals of government, it is only natural that we expressed this in architecture, furnishings, and gardens. Even today, many of our public buildings -- such as court houses - are in Greek Revival style. Duncan Fife is one of our most famous federal furniture makers. Many lovely antebellum mansions have porticos lined with beautiful Greek columns.

3) Gothic Revival: The late Victorians resurrected Gothic styles, which were seen in lots of stained glass, pointed arches, and tracery ceilings. In one sense, Gothic never really goes out of style here in the U.S. The recent interest in late Victorian-era style has indirectly brought about a new revival in Gothic architecture and furnishings.


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