As the wealth of the Colonies increased, there was a gradual introduction of articles of additional comfort, if not those of some luxury, and the architecture reflects these conditions in the construction of more pretentious houses with larger rooms. We also notice crude attempts at introducing architectural moldings and ornamentation, with the occasional use of some color enrichment.
As the products of the printing press brought drawings and descriptions of the works of the well known English architects, such as Sir Christopher Wren, Chambers and others to America, an important and rather sudden advancement was made in the refinement of architectural detail, both on the interior as well as the exterior of houses, and the influence of
Classical art becomes strongly felt. The fireplace now becomes smaller, but great interest is centered about its decoration and the use of academic forms such as pilasters, columns, glass corner protectors, and entablatures, become common, and often unusual and interesting forms were introduced by the local carpenters who often constructed these features from memory.
The plank walls were superseded at first by an informal arrangement of paneling, which in turn gave place to the symmetrical compositions of wall treatment that were typical of Georgian England. The practice of covering the interior partitions with the woodwork, allowing the inside of the exterior walls of the house to be covered in plaster, persisted for many years, and the introduction of wallpaper was a convenient method of enriching the plaster surfaces.
The wood paneling was treated in light colored paints. This unbalanced treatment of the different sides of the same room lasted until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The wide plank floors of the early type of room eventually gave place to oak flooring in strip and parquet patterns. Elements besides English were found in other portions of the country.
Flemish and Dutch features were often prominent in buildings in Southern New York, Long Island and New Jersey, and we find French elements of interior decoration copied in many localities of the South. Due to the greater wealth of the South, attempts at formal architecture are found much earlier than in the North. Along the river banks of Virginia and the Carolinas, the social life developed to a point that was nearly equal of that of the old country. The diaries of visitors from foreign lands gave witness to the manner in which they were entertained by the leading families of these sections.
During the first quarter of the eighteenth century, we find the introduction of new types of furniture and door toppers as well as a change in the design of the earlier details. Copies were made of the English William and Mary, Queen Anne and pre-Chippendale forms. The rush seat chairs, having either a splat or banister-back, became exceedingly popular and were made in great quantities.
The banister-back had a split baluster used as a rail, usually with a flat side toward the front. Rocking chairs and upholstered wing arm chairs were first introduced about 1725. The Windsor chair of England was first made in this country about 1735 and received a much greater development here than it did in England. A great number of forms of the Windsor chair were produced, the principal ones being the loop, hoop, fan, comb and low-back. Windsor rockers were not introduced until the Revolutionary period.
The principal difference between the chairs of this type and those of similar type made in England was in the kinds of wood used and the additional splay given to the legs. The majority of American Windsors were painted and none of the early ones were made in mahogany. The colors used were often vivid greens and reds or blacks, often made to match ornamental pediment.
There were four types of bed design and they are characterized today by the terms four-poster, low-poster, tent and sleigh, the last named being introduced during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The use of high-boys, low-boys and chests-on-chests closely followed their introduction in England.
Philadelphia seemed to have been the main center of manufacture of this type of furniture, although a local form, known as the “block front,” was developed in New England by John Goddard of Newport, Rhode Island. The influence of Chippendale eventually became supreme and mahogany, which some authorities claim pre-dated its use in England, was employed by the cabinet makers for all types of furniture. The first use of veneered and inlayed finishes occurred at the beginning of the eighteenth century.