Tag Archives: furniture

JACOBEAN AND . . .

D

1603-1688

Last week I told you about Cromwell and 17th century happenings in England. This week I want to tell you about the interiors and furnishings before, during and after Cromwell.  I found a marvelous resource with useful information that I think you will enjoy as much as I did.

Jacobean Interior1608

Jacobean Interior 1608

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the Jacobean, Cromwellian and Carolean portions of the Stuart period, that is to say, between 1603 and 1688, the articles of furniture in common use were chairs, stools, forms, settles or settees, love-seats, day-beds, bedsteads, mirrors, tables, footstools, chests, cupboards of sundry sorts, cabinets, buffets and dressers or sideboards.

Contour

The contour and style of the furniture of the Jacobean period, as of every other period for that matter, more or less faithfully reflected the social, intellectual and religious temperament and manners of the times. One can scarcely imagine Dean Hook seated in a dainty Sheraton chair, while one of Cromwell’s lieutenants in buff and bandolier occupying an Adam settee would be as absurd an anachronism as Julius Caesar driving abroad in a hansom or a motor car. The furniture was stout and staunch, even to clumsiness and severe in form and line even though bedizened with a superfluity of ornament. It matched the coarse manners, abrupt morals, and vigorous theology of the day with all their grotesquerie, terrible earnestness and redundancy of polemics, brimstone anathema and persecution. Contour and style were both thoroughly in accord with the genius of the people.

JACOBEAN BEDSTEAD, MORETON, SALOP.PLATE I. JACOBEAN BEDSTEAD, MORETON, SALOP By Courtesy of ” House & Garden”.

In the cabinet work of the later Cromwellian era the contour of carcases remained much the same except that cupboards, while still squatty, were apt to be of greater length and, with the growing strength of Dutch influence, “bun” or ball feet on chests (Fig. 6) or cupboards became more common. Chests of drawers or chests with combinations of drawers and cupboards came more into fashion.

During the Stuart period there is such a diversity of contour resulting from the modification of native English traditions by an increasingly large influx of Continental influences that it is doubly essential to grasp the typical forms as exemplified in the Key at the beginning of the book and the line drawings in the text.

In the truly Jacobean or early Stuart period we find a predominance of straight lines, simplicity of structure and craftsmanship of downright British vigour and energy. All the different sorts of cupboards and dressers were of no great height and even the bedsteads with their ponderous testers carved and panelled, supported on heavy posts, were low – much lower than one would imagine from looking at pictures of them. The squat proportions of the furniture were due to and quite consistent with the usually low-ceiled rooms.

Chairs

Development in the form of chairs and the marked increase in their number during the three divisions of the Stuart period afford one of the most interesting and instructive features of that fruitful mobiliary epoch. Hardly anything so faithfully and fully reflects the manners and customs of an age and the changes taking place therein as furniture, and of all articles of furniture the chair is by far the most sensitive to new and foreign influences of changing styles – much more so than cabinet work. It reflected not only the flux of fashion but accurately registered political and social changes as well.

In the early Jacobean period, chairs were comparatively scarce, stools and forms being in more general use. These early chairs usually had arms and were seats of great dignity. Both chairs and settles had high seats and usually heavy stretchers between the legs. Chair seats were square or almost so and chair-backs were high and perpendicular or so nearly perpendicular that the rake was scarcely perceptible. The triangular seated and heavily turned chairs, whose pattern had been brought to England, probably by the Normans, were met with but were survivals in type.

The characteristic chair of this date was the wainscot or panelled back chair. These chairs probably owed their inspiration in the first instance to choir stalls. In Elizabethan chairs of this pattern, the top rail bearing the cresting is within the uprights of the back. In Jacobean chairs the top rail caps the uprights and is part of the cresting. These wainscot chairs (Pic. 2, b) continued to be made long after the Restoration. Seats were made high with the express expectation of using either the stretcher or a footstool. There were also occasionally to be found X-shaped chairs pretty well covered with upholstery, but these occurred in the earliest Jacobean days and were so scarce that we can afford to pass them without further mention.

a. Jacobean Oak Monks Seat or Table Chair, c. 1660.(a)

b. Jacobean Oak Panel back or Wainscot Chair, c. 1630. Carved, turned and inlaid.(b)

Fig. 2. a, Jacobean Oak “Monks Seat” or Table Chair, c. 1660; b, Jacobean Oak Panel-back or Wainscot Chair, c. 1630. Carved, turned and inlaid.

By Courtesy of Mr. R. W. Lehhe, Philadelphia.

Slightly before the Commonwealth we find the Yorkshire and Derbyshire type of chair with open backs (Fig. 3, a). The uprights ended in carved finials and there were usually two or three carved and hooped crosspieces and these were often further ornamented by acorn pendants. Sometimes instead of the hooped crosspieces, there were several horizontal bars, the spaces between which were filled in with arcades of slender spindles and carved rounded arches.

a. Jacobean Oak Yorkshire Chair, c. 1650.(a)

b. Late Jacobean Walnut Chair, c. 1685.(b)

Fig.3. a, Jacobean Oak Yorkshire Chair, c. 1650. Height of back, 3 feet 7 inches; height of seat, 17 inches; breadth of seat, 18 inches; depth of seat, 16 inches. b, Late Jacobean Walnut Chair, c. 1685, formerly belonging to Robert Proud, now in the collection of Pennsylvania Historical Society. Showing Flemish and Baroque influences in high caned back, scroll carving and ornate arched stretcher between the two Flemish scrolled front legs. Height of back, 52 inches; height of seat, 18 3/4 inches; seat in front, 17 inches; seat in back, 14 inches; depth of seat, 15 inches.

At the time of the Commonwealth chairs were made in much greater numbers than previously, as the democratic principles, then rampant, permitted master and servant alike to use the same kind of seat, whereas, formerly, the use of a chair implied certain dignity and position and the baser sort sat on stools. From this period date the low-backed chairs with turned legs, stretchers and uprights, the upper part of the back and the seat being padded and upholstered (Key I, 2) with leather or some sad-coloured stout goods. The backs had more rake than previously.

At the Restoration, and even before that date, when popular taste was undergoing a revulsion against the spirit of repression and dulness that had so long been uppermost, a fondness for carving, though in altered form, again came to the fore. Open backs appeared in greater number with either caning or vertical balusters or slats.

Top and bottom rails of many chair-backs showed a slight concave curve, more calculated to the sitter’s comfort, while not a few arms were either curved longitudinally or bowed laterally. Others, longitudinally shaped, flared outwards from the posts. The knobbed turning of legs and stretchers, that had been popular in the Cromwellian period, retained considerable vogue for some time after the Restoration and was employed concurrently with the new style of carving.

About 1665 spiral turned legs came into much favour and were used for tables and other articles of furniture as well as for chairs (Fig. 7). This detail of style is apparently attributable to Portuguese influence and probably due to an East Indian source.

Up to the Restoration all the better chairs had been made of oak but walnut now became generally available and lent itself much more readily than oak to delicate carving and turning. Cane-backed chairs appeared at first without cresting, the uprights ending in carved finials. The top and bottom rails of the back were often decorated with a lightly incised pattern of zigzags or roundels. Afterwards cresting was added, usually of acanthus and roses, the latter the royal emblem, from the prominent use of which in the decoration, this particular type of chair gained the name of “Restoration Chair.” Stretchers and uprights as well as legs were spirally turned, while Flemish scrolls and elaborate carving in backs and cresting came more and more into vogue. The caning at first had large meshes which, however, decreased in size in succeeding years.

The next step in chair development was the addition of an elaborately carved, scrolled and usually hooped stretcher between the front legs. Very soon the Flemish scrolled front legs appeared and when these were set obliquely to the seat the approach to the cabriole form at once became evident. In the middle and latter part of Carolean times chairs and sofas with seats and high, square backs, upholstered with gay imported fabrics or some of the handsome textures that were already coming from English looms (Key II, 8) came into fashion. These also had the Flemish legs and highly ornate hooped stretchers.

The last type of Stuart chair to which we must pay special attention is the high and almost perpendicular cane-backed creation of the end of the Carolean epoch, reflecting in every line strong Flemish and Dutch influences (Fig. 3, b.) These chairs showed Flemish legs, scrolled ornament of pronounced Baroque character and caned or baluster backs.

Do any of these look familiar?

This section is from the book “The Practical Book Of Period  Furniture“, by Harold Donaldson Eberlein And Abbot McClure. Also available from Amazon: The Practical Book Of Period Furniture.

UNDULATING

Cardboard wiggle chair

Cardboard wiggle side chair

FURNITURE DESIGNS
1969–92

Frank Gehry’s wiggle side chair was the beginning of his most pervasive innovative ideas. While I was working in the interior design department at Bloomingdale’s, New York, Mr. Gehry came in to demonstrate the strength and comfort of his side chair. He climbed up onto the seat and jumped up and down. All of us, interior designers and furniture salespeople, watched in horror, but he knew something we all didn’t know, because he was smiling the whole time. This most amazing chair was impervious to the tests.

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FRENCH FURNITURE FLORALIZED

Typical chair of the Art Nouveau style

Last week we talked about Antonio Gaudi, Victor Horta  and others. We discussed the  designs they used and implemented based on the twines, florals and curves of nature. The double bench

Gaudi's Art Nouveau double bench

in the blog, and seen here below, was typical of the “Art Nouveau” style and is still being produced today. I mentioned that I sat in the bench in the lobby of the Barcelona Marriott. The seat is ample and comfortable. The back and arms have that parabolic curve that gives the Art Nouveau style its simplicity. There is a simplicity about the style. In this bench, the legs are, however, typically a colonial style, a popular shape, even today, perhaps mimicking the figure of a woman, that is, with some imagination. There is some kind of comfort in things that have soft curves and furniture is not exempt. It was not unusual to combine different styles in one piece of furniture in the 19th century.

The Art Nouveau style was born out of a love for beauty. The curves of the plant were seen in chair legs and chair backs. The flowing line, called the Belgian curve, which is the flat segment of an ellipse, was used for wall openings, furniture supports and furniture forms. After 1900 and the Paris Exposition, the parabolic curve took the place of the ellipse. The curve was used in woodwork, mirror frames, and furniture. The curve is specific to the style, so if you like parabolic curves, you will like this furniture. Although the lines are clean, even with some ornamentation, it has a definite line direction to the style. Unlike Victoriana that had many different lines and ornamentation on one piece of furniture.

Victoriana armchair

I always have fun making comparisons to Victoriana because the style is so pathetically massive and invasive and all made with the machine. Some of my earlier blogs addressed Victoriana. If you were rich, your “stuff” was made by machine, and the more ornamentation it had on one piece, then the richer you appeared. Victoriana tried to copy the Louis XV style, a French classic. But they missed, and instead produced this strange looking furniture.

This is how it goes through the history of furniture, the history of architecture, the history of all things. The pendulum swings back and forth. We try new, then we go back to the old, and end up with the classics.

So, if you compare the Victoriana chair above to the Art Nouveau style, which would you prefer?

Art Nouveau table

FLOWERS, SALAMANDERS & ART NOUVEAU

The style of Art Nouveau and the flower forms of the plant live on. But not

Gaudi double bench Casa Batilo

necessarily in styles of furniture. The linear floral ornamentation lives on in architecture. Specifically, the architecture of Antonio Gaudi. Last week we discussed the brilliance of this architect who built structures

Gaudi's forms on the Casa Batilo rooftop

in Barcelona that attract millions of visitors each year. His work was a major source in the use of the linear floral forms in all aspects of design. Have a look at last week’s blog on Gaudi.

The forms were promoted by Victor Horta in his van Eetvelde House (1895) in Belgium. There was a whole group of architects and designers who were responsible for developing Art Nouveau as a new style that had nothing to do with the past. It was a style that advocated art for art’s sake.

Victor Horta van Eetvelde House staircase

The design premise was based on the asymmetrical flowing lines of plant forms. Floral forms in iron are the essence of interior ornamentation. Typical use are rail designs, floor patterns, window divisions and column ornamentation in architecture and furniture. In all the forms, look for the pervasive S form. The style was used pervasively in the late 19th century to early 20th century. The style was decorative, it did not lend anything to structure. So it can be easily dispensed with. Besides, designs with moving forms can be tiring. They have vibrations and make quiet noise like bright colors. We seem to go back to the simplistic styles.

In Barcelona, the style is everywhere in keeping with Gaudi’s strong influence. The double bench above was in our Marriott Hotel.

Gaudi salamander Parc Guell's rooftop

Although the bench was not the original, still it was an excellent reproduction. It was thrilling to actually sit in one of Gaudi’s creations. And walk on his rooftops to see his humorous creations. Check out this salamander. Look for the S forms. Take another look at plants, flowers, mermaids. Where else does nature provide the S forms?

Gaudi Interior Casa Vicens

This interior has moorish influence. See if you can find the S forms? Can you visualize the colors?

BILTMORE CHRISTMAS COUNTRY ESTATE

Lagoon View Fall

The Osprey, with its wide wingspan, zoomed down into the lagoon, feet first, from its nesting place nearby. The silent spring was interrupted by the rattle of wings. From her place on the rock, Cornelia raised her eyes to the sound.  Her arm was suddenly jerked by the leash in her hand. Holding onto it, she followed the dog’s trail to see the Osprey’s catch.

Cornelia, the only daughter of the eminent George Vanderbilt, was raised in this palatial atmosphere. George, the builder of Biltmore and the great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, opened his country estate to friends, family and heads of states.

The tale above tells us a little about George’s daughter Cornelia and her precious puppy…and according to history, George’s father, William Henry Vanderbilt, continued the legacy of the Vanderbilt empire in railroad and shipping created by the Commodore. He doubled the value of the Vanderbilt lines, to approximately two hundred million dollars.

The 1989 book “The Vanderbilts” by Jerry E. Patterson, states, “They were, and remain today, among the richest families in the world, and they lived as the world expected them to, lavishly and publicly.”

Biltmore Christmas Fantasy

George Vanderbilt, through his inheritance, in 1888 purchased the land that would ultimately become the Biltmore.

Grand Staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banquet Hall

 

George Vanderbilt first welcomed guests to the Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895. Today, that tradition is kept alive each year as the Biltmore House is filled with hundreds of trees and garlands from the area.  Each year, the 34-foot-tall Banquet Hall Christmas tree wows Biltmore’s guests.

During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, the Oak Sitting Room glows in the light from candles and matching fireplaces at either end of the room

Oak Sitting Room

 

George's Library

The glow of hundreds of lights and a roaring fire illuminate George Vanderbilt’s Library during Christmas at Biltmore.

 

Tapestry Gallery

The Tapestry Gallery during Christmas  shines in tones of green, blue and gold. The tapestries reach from floor to ceiling and wall to wall.  We breathed in the beauty.

During our stay, Tom and I were treated royally. We enjoyed the warmth and wonder of Candlelight Christmas.

Banquet Hall

The Banquet Hall is 72 feet long, 42 feet wide and 70 feet high. It could seat up to 64 guests.

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Vanderbilt's Bedroom

 

George Vanderbilt’s bedroom, in red with deep rich wood- toned furnishings of Victoriana.

 

Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom

 

 

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom is dressed with contrasting fabrics in yellow and black. The  French furnishings painted white add a country flavor, an informality in contrast to the formality found throughout the home.

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Winter Garden

The Winter Garden is located in the front hall. In November when we visited, the garden was filled with Christmas,  decorated with Christmas trees, plants, poinsettias, musicians, choirs of high school angels and more.

Breathtaking.

Thanks to LeeAnn Donnelly, Senior Public Relations Manager at the Biltmore in Asheville, NC, for permission to use the Biltmore images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAGIC OF CHANGE

Architect Mies van de Rohe Barcelona Chair 1929, leather & stainless steel

Nothing exists in a vacuum. There is no future without the past.  But truth is truth. So much for cliche’s. I would never run out of the endless parade of chairs, I could go on and on and on. How did we get all those differences in the mere chair? The past here is about a school in Germany that changed the future of chairs, architecture and design forever.

The early twentieth century was the beginning of a new era envisioning how we live, work and play. A few who influenced our design decisions from the early centuries to now were the innovative, the thinkers, modern men of the day.  We lived through, and in this order, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Palladio, Downing, Gaudi, Mackintosh, Gropius, van de Rohe, Graves and Gehry. Are you bored yet? Plug any of those names into your Google and read about their magic. The magic of change. The magic of changing lives. We love magic. But do we love change?

Bauhaus Signage

The talented architect, Walter Gropius developed the idea of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany in 1919, a school to teach design differently, to create change. Finally settling in a new building in Dessau in1926, the Bauhaus is one of the world’s most fascinating schools. It changed how we view and philosophize design. Design in art, furnishings, buildings, even fabric for fashion.

The Barcelona chair, above left, was designed during the Bauhaus era.

I suppose a few weeks might be worthwhile to spend on this history of change of the world. But today, I want to give you some more chair fun.

Take a look at this one. Robert Cohen’s bentwood rocker. This is Robert’s design of a chair made from one single piece of wood. Robert, a modern man who is an innovative thinker, is my architect and friend. He designed a fabulous new studio for me with twelve feet of north light windows. Perfect light, especially for an artist who paints. I paint soft realism. www.gailingis.com

Architect Robert Cohen, AIA, Bentwood Rocker 1986

After he saw last week’s blog with the chair from the book “397 Chairs” he sent me an email. He wrote that a chair he designed was in the book. “Really? It is a small world after all.” I exclaimed. I looked in my book and there it was, #258. So, at a business meeting recently this was the conversation between me and Robert.

Gail: “What inspired you to design this chair?”

Robert: “Well, I actually designed it for a chair competition to be exhibited in “The Chair Fair, Furniture of the 20th Century” at the lntemational Design Center in Long Island City.” While investigating the design idea, I noticed chairs were made with several parts that had to be assembled. I thought it would be interesting to design a chair out of one piece of wood. We used hard maple that could be stained in ebony, cherry, or natural. It also could have been made with Dupont Corian.”

Gail: “Congratulations on your design being chosen for the exhibition. Was the chair ever manufactured?”

Robert: “We made a prototype. And we added an optional loose cushion. But I discovered shipping a chair in one piece would be quite costly and inconvenient. Beyond the prototype, it was not offered for sale, but I still have the rocker.”

Gail: “Thanks Robert. I appreciate your skills and innovative spirit.” www.robertcohenarcitect.com.

Come back next week for more surprises………………

What do you think about changes? In your life what changes have you experienced making a difference in the way you live, work or play? Do you love change? Or only magic?

 

FLW INTERIORS & SEATING

Fallingwater Fireplace in Living Room section

If you are  reading this, you are probably curious about Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors.

FLW was not a singer songwriter, he was not a shoemaker, he was not slothful, and he was not an interior designer. FLW was a creative genius in architectural methodology and an engineer. He knew he was an architect and engineer, but he also thought he was a designer of interiors and furniture maker. Fallingwater is a prime  example of Wright’s
concept of organic architecture, “promoting harmony between man and nature through a design integrated with its site buildings, furnishings and surroundings as part of a unified, interrelated composition.”

His large sitting room at Fallingwater could have had several “conversation groupings.” There is ample bench-like seating that is designed for lots of people sitting side-by-side.FLW lined up the seating all around the perimeter of the room. Unless you are sitting with your sweetheart and holding hands, it is difficult to sit right next to someone and hold a conversation. The best seating is to group conversation areas so folks are sitting across from one another.

When last I visited his magnificent Fallingwater I found it curious there was no seating at the fireplace. The fireplace is a  perfect conversation area, but the rock ledge he designed and installed is in the way.

Lined up sitting

The windows are behind the seating. It would be difficult to enjoy the view. A view or fireplace  are natural focal points to group seating. Neither the view nor the fireplace was considered.

Fallingwater is the ultimate realization of his vision of man living in harmony with nature. Walls of glass enhance the site-and-house connection. But what about the functional connection for those using the space? He argued with his client about design and money. Instead of an agreed budget of $50,000 max, the cost escalated to $155,000.

Keep posted for a look at more of Wright’s ideas.