the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, English domestic
architecture and interior decoration blossomed. As
the economy boomed and the Church lost influence,
the attention and resources previously reserved for cathedral building were transferred to the secular realm. The simple thatched roof cottage and spartan, portable furniture of the Middle Ages gave way to
substantial, permanent housing with relatively
|The unmistakable "black-and-white" Tudor house, with
its massive dark
timbers, reinforcing diagonal beams, and whitewashed
plaster, is the
period's design archetype. Upper stories often
overhang the ground floor, as building space was at
a premium. The chimney is massive and ornate, with
a curving shape and patterned brick.
Medieval ecclesiastical splendor survived in
somewhat homelier form: the
Gothic arch was flattened; windows and doors were
ornate, but smaller;
decorative colored glass in the home echoed
cathedral stained glass.
Dramatic color reigned -- sky blue or orange, ruby,
sapphire and other jewel tones, gilding. Textiles
adorned walls, as during the Middle Ages: tapestry,
crewel work, damask, velvet.
In the sixteenth century, the invention of the wall
fireplace revolutionized architecture and interior
design. (Earlier hearths had occupied the
a room, and smoke had escaped through a hole in the
roof.) An impressive fireplace of stone or brick,
with wooden or stone lintels, should be the
centerpiece of the Tudor interior. The woodwork and
overmantel can be plain or decorated with dignified,
unfussy period designs like carved strap work or
Another Tudor innovation was the wide availability
of glass for windows.
Windows -- and with them, natural light -- became a
common feature of
ordinary houses as well as palaces. Mullioned
windows were popular, as was the oriel, a projecting
bay window cantilevered on an upper floor. Window
coverings should be rich -- velvet, damask, brocade
-- as textiles were an important means for adding
comfort and beauty to the Tudor home.
Oak paneling is the typical Tudor wall covering,
plaster was also used. Paneling can feature
geometric or botanical designs, and tapestries or
hanging rugs add warmth and period authenticity.
Linen-fold paneling, which is carved to resemble
folds of cloth, is emblematic of Tudor design.
Floors can be stone, brick or wood -- particularly
granite, flagstone, and
wide-planked oak. Oriental carpets were still a
rarity, and were most
likely to be found as table coverings. Rush matting
was the most common
Tudor floor covering. Sisal or coir mats, or even a
heavy, textured wool
carpet in a neutral color, make a fine substitute.
Tudor furniture, in keeping with the new aesthetic
of permanence, is heavy, carved wood. Built-in
cupboards were essential to the Tudor home, along
with hinged storage benches, canopied bedsteads with
curtains and carved headboards. Wrought-iron studs,
hinges and latches add authenticity to furniture,
windows and doors.
Glassware and pewter were commonly housed in open
cabinets during this period. Near and Far Eastern
imports like porcelain were beginning to reach
English shores, and can be displayed sparingly.
Another luxury item made more widely available with
the invention of the printing press was the