The Regency period was known for its elegance, a classic and romantic style, not surprising given the Romantic Movement was in full flow when the Regency period was established. An abundance of literature and poetry emerged, from Wordsworth and Byron for example, there was a certain air of glamour to the time and the Regency style was very much associated with high fashion.
The period is generally considered to have lasted from 1800 to 1830, although 1811 to 1820 was when it was most prevalent. During this period George Prince Regent, also known as the Prince of Wales governed the country whilst King George was considered of unfit state of mind. The Regency period is associated with development across the arts, which could be seen in the architecture and literature alike.
The colours of the Regency period tended to be pastels, it favoured a delicate colour scheme with a muted feel, creams, whites, duck egg blues and soft pinks were in fashion, although crimsons, deep greens and royal blues also featured. Striped wallpaper and upholstery was in trend during this period, with a penchant for matching fabrics for sofas and curtains in the home.
The Napoleon war was taking place during the Regency period, and although the conflict affected many areas of society, including the economy and politics, the Regency period became known for its refinement and the developments in culture. The upper classes in particular prospered during the Regency period, the glossy Regency society masked the greater problems of poverty and overpopulation the country was facing.
Prince Regent was renowned for his extravagance and this is prevalent in the Regency style, he embodied the fashion of the day. Notably, Thomas Hope was a big influence of the period, and he first coined the saying ‘interior decoration’ in his book ‘Household Furniture and Decoration’, he tried to harmonise interior styles in his home and was central to the Regency look that emerged.
Regency architecture was influenced by a mixture of the Gothic revival style, Ancient Roman architecture and Ancient Greek architecture; Classicism is sometimes the term used to refer to the style that denotes its inspiration from Ancient Rome and Greece. The Roman and Greek influence is apparent in lots of Regency furniture, with lions heads and Roman gods incorporated into the designs.
Brighton’s Royal Pavilion is a typical example of beautiful Regency architecture, extended and redesigned by John Nash between 1815 and 1822; he was the most celebrated architect of the Regency time. The Neoclassical style combined with French empire, that were both popular of the time can also be seen in Regency pieces, as can Egyptian and Rococo influences.
Regency Furniture, Jewellery and Silver
There is plentiful choice when it comes to Regency style furniture, made from a variety of woods such as rosewood, ebony and mahogany, the Regency style of furniture followed on from the empire style and some of the characteristics of Empire furniture are present in the designs.
A typical example of Regency furniture is a couch with scrolled ends or chaise longue with chiffoniers, low cupboards, cabinets and bookcases also rising in popularity. Davenports, which were small writing desks, were a feature of the home, alongside a Regency sofa table. Circular tables often stood on a plinth base and featured animal feet. Low chairs were also typical of the period, the backs were curved and featured brass, and they may also have been upholstered.
In terms of features, Regency furniture may include the following: brass features on wooden pieces of furniture, sabre legs, lion paw feet, metal grille and the incorporation of a sphinx head somewhere in the design.
Characteristics of Regency furniture include ornate decorations including flowers and leaves as motifs. The Rococo style is seen in the incorporation of shells and rock shaped ornamentation, with curved lines; these additions reflected the inspiration that was drawn from nature towards the end of the Regency period.
Rosewood was sometimes used as a veneer on furniture; it had a particularly striking look, with smooth, shinier finishes being popular. Occasionally exotic woods were used such as satinwood, tulipwood and zebrawood, the latter only being used for veneers due to its expense. Marble was also used as a material for tabletops.
Wood that was not that expensive such as pine, for example, would often have been painted, gilding and painted finishes were a feature of the furniture of the time, with the addition of brass and gilt making for attractive decoration.
Regency furniture designers of note during the time were George Smith, Thomas Hope and Henry Holland. Henry Holland, an architect and furniture designer, drew upon two styles in his creations, the chinoiserie and classical styles.
Thomas Hope’s designs largely featured Egyptian and Greek influences.
Regency jewellery that is highly coveted is any jewellery made by Rundell and Bridge (also known as Rundell, Bridge and Rundell). These makers very much dominated the production of silver during the Regency period, a very desirable piece is their classical style silver plate. Regency silverware is maybe considered the most elaborate that was ever made, very fine silverware was produced during this period and is very desirable.
Jewellery during this period was not actually that popular and obvious, elaborate jewellery was considered unattractive, more favoured was subtle jewellery, delicate necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Diamonds and pearls were popular during the Regency period. Notable jewellers included Thomas Gray, Phillips, and Hamlet’s.
For an elegant and decadent look the Regency style is the perfect choice, with it often been suggested as the epitome of British style when it comes to English art and design, it is possible to find a piece that will add a touch of unstated grandeur to the home.