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English Rooms & their Decoration at a Glance



The type of room used by our forefathers during the period which this book covers, centres chiefly around the story of the hall from the period when it was all important in the mansion to the time when its vogue gradually declined.

The needs of a community are necessarily the fountain head whence the more important ideas spring. This applies particularly to the period with which we are dealing, since the craftsman designed his own work, and the houses were built by the most convenient method which presented itself. There was no apparent attempt at designing the rooms from the beginning with a view to their final appearance as a whole. At a later period, when individual architects designed them, the work lost a certain amount of its spontaneity. It gained in studied harmony and balance as a result of the deeper and judiciously applied knowledge of the architect, but lost a good deal of its early picturesque character. It is true that towards the end of the period with which we are concerned there were men who styled themselves architects, and who prepared designs for a number of mansions, but it was not until the dominant influence of Inigo Jones was felt later in the first half of the lyth century that the principles of classic design were appreciated. It was not until then that English Renaissance reached its high-water mark in purity of design.

The condition of the country at any period is intensely reflected by the interior treatment of the rooms, not only in the character of the work produced during the various periods, but also by the general system of planning that prevailed. The whole story is one of a change from warlike activities to a peaceful and home-like condition. This state of affairs led to a growing desire for privacy on the part of the nobles and wealthy people, and a gradual enfranchisement of the lower classes.

The rooms illustrated are chosen as being typical examples of the periods in which they were built, and show the gradual tendency of design from the bare and utilitarian nature of the early work to the opposite extreme in the late i6th and early 17th centuries, when every endeavour was made to render all things beautiful by the embellishment of almost every available space with decoration of one form or another. The result was a virile and spirited style teeming with inventive and ingenious ideas, unfortunately often spoilt by the intensity of the spirit that guided it. The most common fault of Elizabethan and Jacobean work was its overcrowding and elaboration, and the rather blind use of motifs, the principles of which craftsmen did not understand. The style, however, was very picturesque, and its naivete" has a certain charm quite peculiar to itself.

The early effect of the Italian Renaissance, which reached here via Flanders, was in essence simply an intermixture of new motifs with the traditional Gothic forms of the previous period. It gradually gained ascendency over the latter, but even in the early part of the I7th century was really only a covering of the Gothic style. The latter had been the only style known, and was too deeply rooted to be quickly cast off. Apart from this there was no one who properly understood the true Palladian style, so that the Elizabethan and Jacobean work represented simply an ingenious grafting of the Renaissance on to traditional Gothic forms.

It will be seen, therefore, that evolution was gradual. It was quite common for work of a certain character to be produced long after new ideas had inspired the same kind of work in other places.

The examples illustrated in this book have been arranged chronologically, and in the majority of cases general views of rooms are followed by portions of details in order that the character of the work may be appreciated. The survey of the period is concluded by short descriptions of the various details of the rooms, such as doors, fireplaces, etc., and an explanation of the salient features in their evolution.

Charles H. Hayward (1925)



















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