Each period style embodies romantic notions of its era, and in the United States, there is hardly a deeper wellspring for romantic notions than the period of our nation’s founding – as even a quick listen to current political discourse will reveal. Our country’s common heritage has been reflected and interpreted in different ways by each generation, and continues to be today.
inspiration from America’s heroic period of idealism and simplicity
From the 1880s Shingle Style through Colonial Williamsburg and the postwar ranch-house suburbs, one thing has held constant – continuous reinterpretations of the country’s Colonial-era past as a unifying source of identity and design inspiration. Conservative and accessible, the qualities associated with the period were a solid foundation for lighting designers to express mainstream American aspiration.
Colonial Revival lighting has two opposing aesthetics. The first is defined by elegant brass fixtures with crystal drops and graceful arms; the second by a more rustic appearance of “hand-forged” iron. Both typically feature candle-type sockets, hanging chain and wheel-engraved globes or hurricane-type shades of blown glass.
A note: The Colonial Revival style has seen almost continuous popularity, often alongside other trends that come and go. Because Colonial Revival has its roots in the same historical precedents as Classical Revival, the two are often contemporary and often confused. The key difference is that Classical Revival tends to be solid and heavy in appearance, while Colonial Revival is typically more delicate and less weighty.
Colonial Revival homes draw inspiration from American architecture between the late 1600s and the early 1800s, and often feature small porticoes or porches, prominent chimneys, clapboard siding, windows with divided lights and shutters, and gable or gambrel roofs with quaint dormers. They can be distinguished from their closely related (and more substantially detailed) Classical Revival cousins by a refined simplicity and a lighter architectural touch. (Rejuvenation archives)
Colonial Revival interiors – like the exteriors – are simple yet refined, with an emphasis on finely detailed mouldings, wood mantel pieces, and genteel restraint. Colonial Revival fixtures often live in quiet, formal balance with their surroundings and reflect a certain upstanding pedigree. (c1912, Rejuvenation archives)
LIGHTING: Sears & Montgomery Ward
Drawn from Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs of the 1910s and 1920s, this array of Colonial Revival fixtures gives a good sense of what the average homeowner would have access to from Sears and Montgomery Ward – familiar and impeccably tasteful stuff. Light chain, elegant pans, candle sockets, tassels and garlands, and delicate cut glass, frosted bowls and hurricane-globe shades evoke the traditional look and feel of early American interiors. (Rejuvenation archives)
LIGHTING: Higher-End Manufacturers
On the higher end, the forms were quite similar, but the quality of execution in the details went much further, with stacks of sophisticated brass spinnings, delicate neoclassical decoration, and an abundance of crystals. (Even the familiar form of a Mission chandelier could be Colonial-Revivalized with the addition sparkling faceted glass, as seen above.) The idea was to project an impression of unimpeachable taste and quiet traditional dignity. (Rejuvenation archives)
COMING NEXT… Part 2: COLONIAL REVIVAL LIGHTING SUB-STYLES