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.
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…