American Colonial: England

Architecture, interiors, and furniture of the English settlers reflect the forms with which they are familiar, house and furniture types that have passed from generation to generation. Because function is more important than style, classicism in any form is rare before the end of the 17th century. By the end of the 17th century, however, prosperous colonist are following fashionable English styles such as those set by William and Mary. In areas where settlers from other countries mix, English influence tends to dominate, such as in New York and New Jersey.


For Furniture- flowers, scrolls, strapwork ,or geometric shapes. Other motifs include sunflowers, tulip, or Tudor rose. Typical William and Mary motifs include C and S scrolls, baluster shapes and balls.

Architecture- Public and Private Building

Building types are dwellings, churches, meeting houses, collegiate buildings, roadhouse and inns, and a few statehouses.

Site orientation- Houses are located near sources of water and transportation routes for crops.

Floor Plans- Churches reflect worship patterns, with the nave and altar areas being the most mportant spaces.

Typical domestic plans include the hall, the hall and parlor, and the lean-to with one , one and a half, or two stories.

 Hall plan- Which is one story with one multipurpose room and a chimney on the end.

Hall and Parlor plan- This plan has two rooms. In New England, the chimney usually is in the center for heat distribution.

Lean-to plan- For more space, someadd twoor three rooms behind the hall and parlor forming a lean-to or salt box form.

Materials- Structures are timber framed and unpainted. Uprights; post, are mortised into horizontal sills, girts, or plates. New Englanders fill the spaces between timbers with wattle and daub or brick for insulation. Finish materials include plaster, shingles, or unpainted clapboards.

Facades- Walls are plain, not divided into bays, and unarticulated, although additions of moldings and door surroundsare common as prosperity increases. Chimneys are large and prominent.

Windows and doors- Small and placed where needed, windows are covered with oiled or horn, or have shutters. Glass was imported from England, is very expensive. Typical doors are board-and-batten and do not have elaborate surrounds until the end of the 17th century.

Roofs- Gabled or gambrel roofsare of thach or wood hand-riven shingles. Pitches are steep, a carryover from medieval times to allow snow and water to run off thatch.


Materials- Interior materials follow exterior ones. Beams from upper floors form ceilings. By the end of the 17th century, more rooms are paneled, and ceilings beams are covered with plaster.

Color- Come mainly from textiles and furniture. The overall interior emphasizies the natural brown of wood, the cream of plaster, and the gray stone hearth with color accents in earth tones of Indian red, indigo, ochre, olive, and black.

Lighting- Artificial lighting  is minimal, coming from fireplacesand a few candles or oil lamps. Only churches have chandeliers.

Floor- They are of dirt, pressed clay, or random-width oak planks laid at right angles to floor joists.

Wall- They are clay- daubed, plastered, or palisade.  Plaster, more common in the South, is usually whitewashed. Paneling is usually unpainted, but Indian red is a common color when it is. Marbling is common for paneling in Rhode Island. Wallpaper and textiles hangings are rare expect among the wealthy until late in the period.

Windows and doors- Windows are small, simple, and plain; some have wood frames surrounding them. Paneled doors appearat the end of the period. Wroughtiron hardware is typical throughout the period.

Ceiling- They are low and beamed. The main large support beam is called a summer beam. Some beam are painted or chamfered. Virginians tend to plaster the spaces between beams.

Textiles- Curtains and floor covering hardly exist; carpets cover tables or cupboards. Textiles are rare except among the wealthy.

Furnishing and Decorative Arts

Type- Most homes have basic furnishings such as chairs, stools, tables, beds, and chests. The wealthy have similar-looking furniture but more pieces.

Materials- Early furniture are of red or white oak. Walnut, cherry, and maple replace oak in the William and Mary style.

Seating- Given the amount of seating pieces that survive, colonists seem to have been prolific furniture makers. The principal types of chairs are the wainscot, farthingale or  chairs with leather backs and seats, and the ladder-back. Turned chairs with and without arms are most common. Two types are Carver and Brewster.

Wainscot Chair

Farthingale Chair

Cromwellian Chair

Carver Chair

Banister Chair

Tables- Most homes have at least one table. Gateleg tables and dressing tables appear at the end of the century. Chairs tables sometimes are used in the hall.

Butterfly Table

Gateleg Table

Lowboy or dressing table

Storage- wall pegs perform many function, but boxes and chests, used for storage and seating, are important possessions. Based on English prototypes, they may be elaborately carved and painted or paneled.

Connecticut or Wethersfield Chests

Hadley Chest

Press Cupboard

Highboy- William and Mary

Beds- They include those with heavy post and paneled headboards, turned types, and simple ones intended to be covered with hangings. Draped beds are the most costly item in the home, and not everyone owns one. Those who do often place them in the parlor as a sign of wealth. Trundles and palettes are common, especially for children and servents.


Four Post Bedstead, 1760

Colonial Bedroom

Bedchamber installed in the hall of the Abraham Browne House near Waltham, Massachusetts.

Trundle bed covered with a wool rug.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s