Design of the Period House - 1870-1899

The neo-Gothic architectural and decorative style was fading out in the first few years of this period. Classical ideas saw a return in the 1870s as the Queen Anne Revival and again in the 1890s. Writers were still praising the 'good taste' of the Classical tradition into the 1880s. Among wealthy Americans, and to a lesser extent the British, these Classical styles dominated in the palatial homes that they built in the 1880s and 90s.

This period was a time of great social, economic and political change. With a rise in the wealth of the middle classes and as they sought to distance themselves from the formal traditions of the immediate past, architectural and design styles went in three directions:

  1. Aesthetic
  2. Queen Anne
  3. Arts and Crafts

The Aesthetic movement and its resulting style is the decorative half of a pairing with the architectural style that is called 'Queen Anne'. The objectives were purity and simplicity, avoiding the jumble of styles typical in period. Driven by slogans such as 'Art for art's sake', the Aesthetic Movement, like the Queen Anne architectural style and the Arts and Crafts movement, was a reaction to the excesses of the Gothic revival.

Based on some of the Classical principles, the Queen Anne architectural style is mixture of a few genuine Queen Anne details, with some Dutch, a bit of Flemish, a touch of Robert Adam, some Wren, and a little Francois 1st. It includes picturesque details, intricate gables, multi-paned windows, and Jacobean and Japanese elements. It is informal, irregular and asymmetric. The style was popular too in America, from the early 1880s.

Formally beginning in 1867, the Arts and Crafts style paralleled the Aesthetic Movement and the Queen Anne revival. It was a style of architecture and decor encouraged by William Morris, which focused on hand-crafted, anti-industrial processes, pruned of unnecessary decoration.

For most general builders, and indeed the house-buying public, clarity in design was hard to achieve and so most buildings employed the traditional layout, embellished with architectural and decorative details taken from all three of these styles, as well as the styles of the mid-19th century. The Eclectic Style appears in houses built from the 1860s onwards and was at its peak from 1860 until about 1890.

You can describe a house as 'eclectic' if it appears to be a mish-mash of various styles. Typically, it mixes Gothic, Italianate and Aesthetic influences, and later Queen Anne and Arts .

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