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Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Federal Style in Interiors

When our founding fathers began outlining our government they looked back towards the ancient democracies of Greece and Rome. After gaining Independence from England in 1776, political pride spilled over into architecture (discussed in the previous post) and into interiors as well. It was known as Federal style which was popular from about 1780 until 1820. This neo classically based style had already become very popular in England where it was known as Georgian style in honor of the British monarchs. The name was changed in the states to be more politically correct.

Georgian interior, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, Scotland

Most of the architecture and furniture designs of this time can be traced back to Robert Adam, a Scottish architect, furniture and interior designer. He is largely accredited as being the first to integrate an entire rooms motif. In his designs, everything from the rug to the ceilings, to the furniture would match in style.

A diagram of details for Derby House in Grosvenor Square in London by Robert Adam.

Federal style is about symmetry and balance. Oval and circular rooms were popular.

Pastel colors such as soft greens, yellows and blues were favored, as well as deep sapphire and crimson. Upholstery and drapes were generally made of silk and the damask pattern was quite popular.

Ornamental motifs such as festoons, swags and urns decorated walls, ceilings, doorways and mantles.

Above interior images

Big names in furniture design were George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton and Duncan Phyfe.
Hepplewhite and Sheraton were English designers. It is believed that neither have pieces of furniture in existence that were attributed to them, but both had pattern books of their designs published. Furniture and cabinet makers were then able to recreate their furniture and eventually spread their designs from England to America and beyond.

This chair is attributed to Samuel McIntire, a notable American architect and craftsman. The vase backed chair is a Hepplewhite design, as seen in the drawing above.

A square backed chair also attributed to McIntire. It is based on a Sheraton design.

This sofa is attributed to Duncan Phyfe, who was born in Scotland, but immigrated to the United States when he was 16 years old. While his early work was influenced by the designs of Thomas Sheraton, the pieces he became famous for were of the French Directoire style and later, the Empire style.

Several pieces of Duncan Phyfe furniture are on display in the Green Room of the White House, which is decorated in a modern day Federal style.

The most famous of all Federal styled oval rooms would of course be the Oval Office of the White House. Each president is allowed to decorate to his (or in the future, her) taste in a Federal style.

Federal style is timeless design at its best.


Donna said...

I love architechtural details. Your photos are great.

And thank you for visiting my blog, I'm enjoying yours, and will be back to read more!


Renee said...

I tried to get on your blog by way of Kari and Kijsa, but I couldn't and I sooo wanted to. So... I am very glad that you came by to ATH - so I that I could check back here! Sweet blessings!

Ivory Spring said...

Hi Laura,

I appreciate the Federal Style Home Decor posts as I am a big fan of the style and Robert Adam.

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving the lovely comment.

kari said...

i absolutely love your blog! thanks for stopping by- i'll be back again!

have a blessed sunday!


Connie said...

You have taken me back to design school. Federal design is such a classic. I can remember hours on end pouring over pictures of each design era. Georgian and Federal are by far my favorite. Simple elegance never grows old.

Shannon said...

I hope you had a great 4th! I enjoyed looking through your blog at the different design styles and architecture.

Maison Douce said...

WOW! Thank you so much for all the information and the lovely tour!
I've always had a thing for chairs...

Elizabeth said...

Laura: Hope you had a great 4th! I love that you chose to write about the Federal style on this holiday weekend; how perfect. I always learn so much here.

Yellow Fence said...

You won a prize over on our blog. Stop by and check it out.

Lu Lu's Fluffy Ruffles said...

Thanks for the history on this style. Beautiful style so elegant but it wont fit my little cottage but a girl can dream.

Cote de Texas said...

Very very interesting article! great way to tie in decorating with the 4th of july - that's actually pretty hard to do! Great job!

thanks for your comment too.

Things That Inspire said...

Lovely post! I did a post in the past on Adams style in architecture. I love Georgian homes, and the inspiration for the post was my own personal quest to define the difference between Federal, Colonial, and Georgian. I love it all, but I love the extra Adams influences on archicture (on the exterior, not so much of a fan of the ornamentation on the interior!).

Anonymous said...

Hi,thanks for the wonderful pictures and info used in this site as I'm learning about interior design at the moment and found it really interesting and useful to me.
Brenda Briffa, Malta