I’m a sucker for antiques (as you guys have seen from my room reveals) but it can be super overwhelming trying to tell your Art Nouveau from your Art Deco. On the quest for antique expertise, here is my easy guide to antiques, their eras and how to choose the right one for your home.
This style was popular from the 17th and early 18th centuries. If something looks ornate, it’s probably Baroque. Think florals and angels; detailed decoration on massive cabinets. Inlays were the order of the day, pioneered by Andre Charles Boulle who worked for Louis XIV. The style developed in catholic Europe so pieces are most often French and Italian. If you’re really feeling the drama with a piece, then Baroque is your answer.
Rococo came after the Baroque period, in between Louis XIV’s death and the beheading of Louis XVI in 1793 during the French Revolution. The style is what we would think of now as quintessentially French chateau, with secular subject matters over religious iconography and even more ornamentation! Smaller features such as chandeliers and silverware grew in popularity during this time too. The style spread through Europe and is characterised by shells, leaves and a playful feeling.
The clue is in the name for this one. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Neoclassical artists took their inspiration from Ancient Rome and Greece and the style coincided with a renewed interest in antiquity in ‘Enlightenment Europe’. Symmetry, geometry and classical motifs were the thinking behind this era. The style was popular in the USA and became more widely realised with the excavation of Pompeii in 1748.
Arts and Crafts
William Morris is the king of the Arts and Crafts movement, born as a reaction to industrialisation in Britain. He was obsessed with beauty in all interiors. The focus here is on the connection between the craftsman and their products. Intricate joinery, wallpapers and textiles are the things to keep an eye out for! His most famous print (and one of my favourites) is Strawberry Thief.
This style is a kind of extension/development of Arts and Crafts and swept through Europe and the US around the turn of the 20th century. Designers like Renie Mackintosh took inspiration from the natural world in a further rejection of mass production. There’s quite a modern feel to Art Nouveau items as they used tons of iron and glass in curving shapes.
This one is super easy...think The Great Gatsby. Luxury and elegance; geometric lines and hard angles. If something looks expensive it is probably Art Deco; indications of wealth and sophistication were key. In terms of materials, steel and chrome, polished wood and veneer are the most common. Art Deco architecture has much of the same features so is super easy to spot.
This style remains popular today, but started with the designers of the Bauhaus which was built in Germany in 1919 as an arts school. Big full-length windows, open fireplaces and partial walls are characteristic of this. There is a sort of sleek minimalism to Mid-Century Modern, with lots of plastic used for the first time. Charles and Ray Eames were the big names of the movement.
Which is your fave? I just can’t choose! I found a lot of my antiques through visiting independent dealers in English towns (think of Frome, Tetbury, Bridport and Petworth) but there are also lots of online dealers who have some real treasures. I spent a lot of time on www.loveantiques.com.