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Georgian Colonial Architecture & Interior Design

Instructor: Amy Jackson

Amy has a BFA in Interior Design as well as 19 years teaching experience and a doctorate in education.

If you love symmetry, Georgian Colonial architecture is for you. Rectangular in shape and laid out in precise symmetry, this architecture style was popular between 1720 and 1850. This design is still in demand today for many upper-end homes.

Georgian Colonial Architecture and Interior Design

The Colonial style of architecture developed in England between 1720 and 1840. English settlers in turn brought this style to America. During this period, England was ruled by four King Georges of the House of Hanover. The architectural style that developed during their reigns was known as Georgian.

Sir Christopher Wren, Britain's most famous architect of the time, used Renaissance ideals to simplify the earlier, more ornate, Baroque style. Most Georgian architecture in the United States is found along the eastern coast where the English influence was greatest. Georgian buildings in cities that grew rapidly were often torn down to make way for larger urban areas. Most of the examples that survived are in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Georgian Exteriors

A building in the Georgian architectural style is a two-story, rectangular building built of stone or brick with a side gabled roof. The floor plan is a four-over-four layout - two rooms on each side of a central entry and hallway and the same layout on the second floor. Central chimneys are found in houses prior to 1750, and later designs incorporate paired, end chimneys. The facade, or front, of the building has a symmetrical arrangement of doors and windows, usually two windows on either side of a central entry. The entryway often has a pediment, or crown, over the door with side columns. Windows are commonly multi-paned sash, or movable windows in a six-over-six pane pattern. A molding made of small projecting rectangular blocks called a dentiled cornice is found at the roof level and decorative quoins, or cornerstones, embellish the corners. Some Georgian houses had a hooded front door with a shallow roof that formed a small porch. Smaller homes might be built with the same detailing but only a two-over-two floor plan. Larger homes would be expanded by adding additions on each side of the main house.

Piscataglia Road, New Castle, NH
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New Castle, RH has a large number of Georgian Colonial houses. Some are two-story and some are a single but the exterior characteristics are the same.

Georgian Interiors

Georgian Colonial homes had no kitchens, bathrooms, or closets. The kitchen would have been housed in a small building away from the main house to protect against fire. Instead of bathrooms, the occupants of the house used chamber pots and took baths in tubs that were filled with buckets of water. Tall pieces of furniture used for storage called armoires were used in the absence of closets. These missing amenities make the restoration of Georgian Colonials very challenging.

Interior finishes were simple yet elegant. Most rooms had high ceilings, 10 to 12 feet, that were plastered and decorated with carved or molded ornamentation. Walls relied on paint and texture to add variety. Paneled walls with a chair rail and wide crown molding were also painted. Door and window trim was of simple design and painted. All windows were trimmed out with an inside sill, or stool, and apron, the wooden molding under the sill. Floors would be wide plank oak or pine.

Interior Finishes

The interior of a Georgian Colonial house could have an extensive color palette. Warm earth tones in creams, beiges, browns, and reds would be accented by white or off-white painted trim. Additional color was introduced through the use of Oriental or woven rugs placed under furniture and down hallways, artwork in heavy gold frames, and upholstery and drapery fabric. Quilts might have been displayed as decoration when not in use. Lighting rooms in the evening was done through the use of candles, wall sconces, and firelight.

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