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The House   | October 1902

New Continental furniture designs for the English house

In the article last month, The Decline of Art Nouveau, dealing with the alleged decadence of L'Art Nouveau, some distinction was drawn between that style in France and its manifestation in other continental countries. Indeed, that was the reason for the adoption of the French name in preference to the many other denominations the style has received from end to end of Europe. In France, the naturalesque has been the predominating element, not so in other countries.

It is striking testimony to the value generally set upon conventionalisation in art that those forms of decoration which depend mostly upon a close imitation of nature are not so much favoured by far as those in which adaptations have been made, stiff and extreme though in many cases they be. This fact may be due to the obstinacy of tradition. The great Latin countries—France and Italy—have achieved in the past their artistic success in styles, in which the naturalesque plays little or no part. How hard it is, indeed, for Italian workers to desert those traditions by which their craftsmanship has flourished exceedingly during past ages is shown by the fact that their contribution to the new style is practically nothing. Certain French artists, with the vivacity and energy which distinguishes their nation, have indeed set out on entirely new lines, but with no great success, as the article last month was intended to show.

A German cosy corner nook of ornate furniture
sketch   a German cosy corner complete with bookshelf and reading sofa

The Germans are in rather a different case. Teutonic countries have ever been the home of the Gothic style, the ornament in which bears much closer relation to natural forms than anything ever found in the Renaissance. This may account for the fact that in Germany a certain chastened form of new art appears to be making headway. Their work undoubtedly draws its inspiration from nature, although, as was said, a necessary amount of conventionalisation has taken place.

There are other reasons, however, to which may be attributed the success of German work as compared with the French. A remark applied to the Bourbon kings may be spoken of the latter, "they learn nothing and forget nothing." The most recent productions of the former, on the other hand, appear to show a respect for the reaction which has undoubtedly set in in people’s taste.

Extreme forms have been deserted in many cases, and more reasonable ones adopted. The little writing desk and winged chair, for instance, are really quite reasonable (they come from Vienna) as long as they are not brought too closely into comparison with the curvilinear productions of the 18th century. The cosy corner from Germany, again, is very pretty, and, further, it supplies a great deal of room for little nick-nacks, and altogether may be approved.

The design of the modern dining room (shown below) is simple, and for a modern room, for instance, it would look very pretty. It should be pointed out, however, that a great deal of the value of a scheme like this lies in its colour, and it is impossible to show the colour in the sketch.

A modern dining room from Messrs. H. C. R. Mackintosh, of Glasgow
sketch   a modern dining room from Messrs. H. C. R. Mackintosh, of Glasgow

The dining-room, by Messrs. H. C. R. Mackintosh, of Glasgow, possesses a good many colour properties worth remarking, but as to the form of its furniture, the backs of the chairs resembling over-grown mushrooms, and the form of the table seem quite inexcusable. Round the panelling and the walls appear to be a number of hobgoblins whose cramped position alone would be sufficient justification for a spring to alarm the unwary. Altogether, the style of the room makes one feel that it is not exactly the place to be in at twilight.

We will continue looking at English furniture trends. The continental trends are making their way to English shores. We look at what works in our homes and tips to avoid poor design.

Further reading

The decline of Art Nouveau furniture

The decline of
Art Nouveau

Modern English furniture fashion trends

Modern English
furniture trends

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