Classical civilizations, originating from ancient Greece and Rome set the foundation for Western aesthetics. This has defined our tastes in music, art and architecture to this day. Canada is certainly no exception. Classical style influences many of the previous featured styles. The Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, Neo Classical, Southern Colonial styles are all derived from Classical precedents and use Classical features to varying degrees. So, let’s get to know Classical architecture a little bit better.
Classical doesn’t mean time warp. Its legacy lies in its aesthetic/ornate value and defined by its symmetry and rational order. Add the boldness, grandeur of this style and it is no mystery why the classic feel still dominates the architectural world. Columns, pediments and ornament such as egg-and-dart moulding are iconic features of classic designs. Unlike some modern styles, every classic feature is functional and thought out. The fluting of the columns, for instance, affords grace and vibration to the otherwise solid shafts.
Whatever the ingredients of Greek building design, Western architects have tried for centuries to emulate the finished product. The product has inspired many styles, but what was its inspiration, how can you identify it and how can you mirror it in your home?
Architecture was one of the most important arts to Classical civilizations. Ancient art is more times held in high regard and “classic” is sometimes used to mean that the example is the best of its type (ie: a classical example of a cottage). Although classical styles of architecture can vary greatly, they can in general all be said to draw on a common source of decorative and constructive elements.
From the Renaissance to Modernism, classicism covers a broad range of styles. Having gone through many waves the style affords many elements to choose from. However restraint, symmetry, sophistication and appeal to antiquity should be observed to maintain the classic aesthetic.
The Greek and Roman influence provided the foundation for the classical architectural orders which would dominate the western world from the Renaissance to the present day. An architectural order describes a style of building mainly based on column design. The classic dominant orders Doric, Ionic and Corinthian were categorized by their use of varying styles of stone columns throughout different time periods. These orders became the basic language of western architecture.
In modern times, classicism surged forward in France from the 17th century onwards and quickly spread throughout Europe to become the dominant style for more than two centuries. Despite the strict rules, classicism manifested in different countries in its own way. In France the interior design was full of splendour and lustre, in England classicism was featured by rationalism and rigour. Heavily influenced by the British and French, NeoClassic styles dominated across Canada mainly for public and state buildings.
FEATURES OF CLASSIC STYLES
Classic designs will include certain features in order for it to be classified as Classic.
- All materials are natural or unique and therefore usually expensive. Columns and pilasters are usually made of marble, the walls are often covered with cloth or panelled with natural wood. Flooring uses parquet and the ceiling a classic style white and decorated with stucco friezes. Stone and brick, used as accents, are locally sourced.
- The colour scheme is maintained in light pastel colours. Shades are calm and neutral making the overall classical interior atmosphere soothing.
- Chandeliers and extravagant lighting fixtures are usually present. These are normally crystal made of transparent stones or expensive glass.
- Classical oak ornaments which are always functional and comfortable. The often wooden furniture is varnished and gives the interior an airy feel.
- Overall, classic design implies the presence of arches, stucco, half-columns and columns.
NEW AGE: NEOCLASSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Neo-classicism is a style that emerged in Britain and France in the 1750s. The style was based on the designs of Classical Greece and Rome and used widely in institutional settings like universities and government structures. It is used in residential buildings as well. Examples of this style home can be found throughout the country, with the heaviest concentration along the East Coast. These homes were built as a reflection of where you were in the class system. Their formality and importance seemed to suggest an upwardly mobile lifestyle, a way to emulate the upper classes of Europe.
Neoclassical buildings have some distinctive features of clean elegant lines, uncluttered appearance and free standing columns. Form and balance dominates the neoclassical style. Elaborate doorways, evenly spaced windows and tall columns emphasize its graphical elements and geometric patterns.
In Canada, Neoclassicism became popular from the 1820s to 1860. Much of the neoclassical buildings can be found mostly on the eastern side of Canada as their was a tremendous population growth during that time. This contributed to the need for moreinfrastructural development and the classic revival styles were highly influential at the time. Although not as popular for residential homes, NeoClassical domestic buildings are similar to public buildings. The Robert Adam inspired Adamesque NeoClassicism gave rise to the style in private homes. They were normally built of stone either as freestanding single homes or as town houses, in or near urban centres.
CREATING YOUR CLASSIC STYLE HOME
NeoClassical designs continues to persevere throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Thanks to modern technology and ease of access to the resources necessary, it is manageable to emulate the style in your own home without breaking the bank or your back! For the classic feel, you can choose a combination of stone and stucco to enhance the exterior. The convenience of contemporary materials like lightweight Cultured Stone® or ProStone® makes it easier to create the right look and texture.
Even though the perception of Classicism denotes expense and labour intensive, modern building materials are making it possible for everyone to build or renovate a Classic style home. This ancient design has evolved so much over the centuries and has given room for much experimentation. Instead of duplicating the style, take advantage of the variety of materials that will help make your classic style home feel authentic.