Happy birthday Robert Adam

Bring out the stylized, Italian-influenced birthday cake with the straight, delicately fluted candles. It’s the birthday of architect and designer Robert Adam (July 3, 1728 – March 3, 1792), one of the great innovative designers of the Georgian period.

What made Adam so popular and influential? I like to think it’s because he made the connection between how people lived and how rooms should look, and that furniture should blend harmoniously with the decor. He created chairs that were made to be sat in with some degree of comfort, lower, and with backs that moulded to the spine, like the lyre back and shield back chairs.

His work reflected the tastes of a generation that considered the Grand Tour the final polishing of a gentleman’s education. He was the first designer to contract his work to other companies, notably that of Hepplewhite. There’s a complete list of characteristics of his work here.

Here are some pictures of Nostell Priory in Yorkshire, which features furniture designed specifically for the house when it was built in 1733.

Even the dollhouse at right with its original fittings and furnishings, has Adam-Hepplewhite style furniture.

While I was poking around online trying to find–and choose between–the many examples of Adam’s work, I found this antiques site, apter-fredericks.com, which has a wonderful timeline of furnishings–warning, I noticed some really awful mistakes in the history, but the furniture illustrations are wonderful.

Adam might not have been too easy to deal with–the National Trust site for Osterley Park, a Tudor house he was hired to modernize, describes him as “self-confident, brusque and with an unrivalled command of classical antiquity.” You get the feeling Mr. Adam liked to get his own way and was right more often than his browbeaten clients.

And talking of antiquity, did you catch Antiques Roadshow recently when this fabulous Georgian box desk, from ca. 1805, was appraised? Check it out.

Have you visited any Adam houses? Share your thoughts on decoration and furniture. Tell us about your latest home renovation projects or your antique fantasy wish list. That box desk is at the top of my list…

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

What a wonderful post Janet. I’ve been to Apsley House years ago (as I’m sure have all Regency lovers who have been to London)and thought it was divine. Although I thought I would never figure out which exit to use at the roundabout! His style has an elegance and a simplicity to it that I like.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Thank you for a lovely post, Janet. I love Adam design.

An interesting example (I think I may have mentioned it before) is Mellerstain House, which was started by William Adam and completed by Robert, his son.

Julia Justiss
14 years ago

Adam’s style–like all English high style–also crossed the pond and had a major influence on decoration in America. I used to be a tour guide for Historic Annapolis and several of the interiors created in the 1800s were influenced by his work–light, airy and more delicate than the roccocco.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Loved your post, Janet. I love looking at pictures of the interiors of houses and of furnishings as well as reading about them in books. I had to rein in my enthusiasm in my current WIP, otherwise it was ending up as a furniture survey. 🙂

Cara King
14 years ago

I love Adam interiors. One of my favorites:

The library at Kenwood House.

I want to live there!


Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Great post, Janet. I am a Regency design addict. I have book after book that I sit and drool over. Elena, thanks for the intro to Mellerstain House a while back. That is one gorgeous place! I have probably been in some Adam designed houses, but I was so young I probably had no clue someone actually designed these palaces!

OMG, Cara, there is room for both of us to live in that library. It is incredible!!

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Okay, Blogger keeps eating my comments today!! But I think there is a beautiful Adam ceiling in the gallery at Syon. It’s been seen in lots of movies, including (I think!) “Cranford’

I also love books on Regency design, and sometimes dream about a clean, Classical, symmetrical house. But with my poor housekeeping skills, it would be a cluttered mess within about a week!!