Folk art techniques, both on furniture and walls, have taken stenciling from a simple pattern repeat, to sophisticated and colorful design elements, rich with story lines and decorative symbolism. Learn how to stencil now!

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During 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 luxurious appointments.


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 center of 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 heraldic designs. 

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, although lime-washed 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 leather-bound book.



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