By the middle of the XVIIIth century the practice of wall panelling oak panelling designs in architecture had been systematised on lines very similar to those prevailing today. It was a time of rules and precepts, of brilliant architects and cultured amateurs, and of highly efficient masons and craftsmen. In a revival of interest in the work of Palladio, which led to a wholesale acceptance of his principles of design, individuality —always striking in Wren's buildings — tended to be lost in the attainment of a general standard of excellence based on generally accepted classic principles.
In the magnificent dwellings erected by wealthy noblemen, a symmetrical disposition of external features was maintained often at the cost of the comfort of the interior.
The architects of this period were men of reputation and scholarship. In the early part of the century, Sir John Vanbrugh (1666-1726) designed Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, and Castle Howard, Yorkshire, on a monumental scale ; a little later, the names of Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington (1695-1753), architect and princely patron of the arts, Colin Campbell (d. 1734), author of the " Vitruvius Britannicus," and William Kent (1684-1748), both of whom worked with Burlington, James Gibbs (1682-17S4), and Isaac Ware (d. 1766), architects and writers, the Woods of Bath, Flitcroft and Abraham Swan, are prominent among many others.
The favourite plan for a large country house such as Wanstead, Essex (Diagram XXIII), consisted of a central block with subsidiary wings containing kitchens and offices, chapel and stables, all disposed symmetrically. An extended plan with projecting wings connected to the central block by curved galleries, first used in this country by Inigo Jones about 1630 at Stoke Park, Northamptonshire became a prominent feature for the stately houses of the time with wall panelling oak panelling designs. An air of distinction was given to the principal floor by raising it—like the Italian piano nobile—above a basement or ground storey and approaching it through an impressive portico, reached by external steps in broad flights. First consideration was given in the plan to the hall and the saloon, the two most wall panelling oak panelling designs in the important apart¬ments, which were always placed in the centre and sometimes carried the whole height of the house and top lighted ; in many cases a gallery occurs at the level of the upper floor. Much was sacrificed to obtain an air of stateliness about the approach and the principal reception rooms : apart from these, planning was inconvenient and rooms of no great size were given exaggerated height in accordance with Italian precepts which were followed although entirely unsuited to the climate of this country. Whether built of stone or of brick covered with stucco, varying degrees of expression were imparted to walls and arches by means of rustications (Page 28) ; even gate piers were rusticated.
Plan of Stoke Park
The Staircase, Ashburnham House, Westminster
Examples of Rustication
Cornice, Frieze and Head of Panel Wall Panelling Oak Panelling Designs, The House of Charity Soho
Less pretentious houses with wall panelling oak panelling designs compact in plan with nipped roofs and sash windows retained their homely character. Three windows grouped together with the central one arched, produced the "Venetian " window (Diagram XXIII), which was favoured for positions of importance. The doorway generally has a pediment carried on columns or pilasters, sometimes a hood projecting on brackets ; the fanlight over the door—a simple device for lighting a vestibule—is always pleasingly designed.
The interior decoration wall panelling oak panelling designs of the greater houses was of a studied magnificence and schemes of painted decoration were sometimes executed by foreign artists. Wood panelling—impracticable for such lofty wall surfaces—was replaced by stucco with moulded panels, often designed to frame portraits or figure subjects in bas-relief. Plaster work showed much dexterity of execution, and richness of design, with a tendency to a florid display of scrolls and foliage ; cornices, friezes and the heads of wall panels gave opportunity for elaborately modelled ornament in stucco (Page 28), while the panels themselves often contained enrichments in this plastic material (Diagram XXIV). Rococo ornament of the late French and Italian schools-probably executed by travelling Italian stuccatori—made its appearance in interior decoration, while a fitful interest in Chinese decorative forms was a result of the growing knowledge of the Far East. Doorways and chimney-pieces were carefully designed with a wealth of carved and modelled ornament. Chimney-pieces especially were designed with studied correctness, the upper part usually of wood containing a picture or portrait. The effect of a vista was often obtained by arranging doors to adjoining rooms in a line and "jib " doors were provided which served merely the purpose of restoring symmetry. Mahogany wall panelling oak panelling designs, which came into general use about 1720, was preferred for the doors, but soft wood painted and wood panelling stained or painted are by no means rare in the smaller houses.
Staircases show varied treatments. In the palatial houses they are generally of stone and marble with metal balustrades. The handrail is usually of mahogany and the wrought iron panels, first of lyre form, were later more commonly of S shape. Curved flights make their appearance, but the massive carved staircase with straight flights still persists, and large single balusters of the Palladian type—first used in England by Inigo Jones and John Webb a hundred years previously (Page 25)—continued to be used in preference to the two or three slender balusters on each step. A high standard of taste prevailed and the Palladian phase of English wall panelling oak panelling designs architecture corresponded to the pomposity and artificiality of the times which produced it.