What Is Georgian Architecture? Symmetry and Sophistication Reign Supreme
Georgian architecture is an architectural style characterized by symmetry, balance, and proportion that traces its origins back to 18th century England. You’ll find this popular design scheme across the nation, though it’s concentrated in the Northeast, particularly in New England.
Photo by Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.
Georgian architecture landed in the United States in the early 1700s, during the reigns of—you guessed it—George I through George III.
“In America, Georgian architecture is commonly associated with the Colonial period, since it was the most favored style up until the Revolutionary War,” says Julie Muniz, an art curator and consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. After the war, all things British were shunned, including Georgian design, and the American Federal style emerged in its place, she adds.
In popular culture, perhaps the most memorable example of Georgian architecture to appear on the silver screen is the house where little Kevin McCallister was left behind in “Home Alone.”
Design characteristics of Georgian architecture
Photo by Eric Stengel Architecture, llc
A classic Georgian home is square or rectangular, made of brick, and features symmetrical windows, shutters, and columns.
“Grand entrances were often embellished with pediments, arches, and columns, and interior spaces featured high ceilings, window headers, and crown molding,” says Muniz. “Larger houses feature a central block augmented with symmetrical wings on either side.”
Justin Riordan of Spade and Archer Design Agency points out that Georgian homes tend to have two-and-a-half stories, with an elaborately adorned front door with a pediment (a triangular structure above the door) or a transom window (above the entranceway).
Windows in Georgian architecture
Photo by Meyer & Meyer, Inc. Architecture and Interiors
Because symmetry reigns supreme in this style of architecture, the windows of Georgian homes mirror each other.
“The window layout for this home will often be the same on both the first and second floors, with the addition of a window on the second floor, over the front door,” says Riordan.
Georgian home windows are also typically flanked by shutters painted black, forest green, or navy blue.
Home decor and Georgian architecture
Photo by Peterssen/Keller Architecture
Because Georgian homes are classical in nature, most homeowners will fill them with traditional decor, but there’s no rule that says you have to stick to period furniture if you’re lucky enough to own one.
“The great thing about Georgian architecture is that the rooms are very boxlike and can work with a variety of looks,” Muniz says.
Riordan agrees: “You can contrast a Georgian exterior with a modern aesthetic inside.”
However, if you want to go the more traditional route, Muniz says that neoclassical furniture will highlight the built-in features of the architecture.
Georgian houses are flooded with light (thanks to all those windows) so Riordan says designers can incorporate dark, moody paint colors without making the inside of the house look too gloomy.
“Reversely, sticking to a white-on-white paint scheme can allow for brightly patterned furniture, rugs and art,” he says.
Taking Georgian architecture outside
Photo by Western DuPage Landscaping, Inc.
Traditional landscaping can really emphasize the classic design of a Georgian house. Consider refined flower beds, manicured shrubberies, and carefully planted ground cover.
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