Interiors of Queen Anne houses – especially those in the detached homes of North America – broke away from the ordered rooms and formal floor plans of earlier house styles. In Queen Anne houses asymmetrical room layouts were popular, and the interior decoration featured fanciful panelling and woodwork, archways and cozy ‘Moorish’ nooks on staircase landings or in round tower rooms.
Interior surfaces were decorated with dense patterns. Wallpapers and fabrics featuring floral motifs in the flattened manner of William Morris were favoured – a break away from the realistic full-blown shaded roses or other flowers that had previously dominated interior decoration.
Other Aesthetic wallpapers were gilded, featuring Japanese-inspired patterns of waves or clouds (see image further below); or more usual richly coloured stripes-with-medallion designs that would have matching borders and “cracked-ice” ceiling papers.
Black lacquered Japanese-inspired furniture, and accessories of decorative fans or peacock feathers or blue and white china added the amount of exoticness required by the style to be successful.
In North America, the red-brick style of England was generally translated into wood. English tile hanging on exterior walls was adapted and turned into the fancy-cut wooden shingle exteriors familiarly seen in American and Canadian towns. Terra-cotta decorations on slate roofs were transformed into turned wood finials topping roofs and towers in North America.
But the style kept its cozy and artistic mantra, even if some people – used to the more strait-laced Gothic and Italianate styles – could not quite get their heads around what the style was all about.
The confusion is illustrated in this imaginary conversation between an architect and his client from the time period, from the magazine California Architect of 1884:
Client: “the thing that puzzles me is to know what style this cottage is. It is not Gothic, nor Italian, nor —”
Architect: “No, it is absolutely nothing. As to style, it is simply a meaningless hodgepodge, to be frank with you.”
Client: “Well, what shall I call it? Have you no name for hodgepodges??
Architect: “Oh yes! We call ‘em Queen Annes.”
Whether houses in the style were considered “hodgepodge” (or not), in the right hands, the Queen Anne style offered remarkably beautiful homes, with a wealth of fine, handcrafted (and machine-worked) detail, that are a feast for the eyes and for people lucky enough to live in them, a stylish haven in a sometimes hectic world.
Below are some further images that help to explain the familiar details of the Queen Anne style.