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Decorative Hardware Styles

Early American Decorative Hardware

In the Early American Style hardware the essential principle was to have certain pieces of hardware harmonizing with the piece of furniture itself, as opposed to the whole building. The early American wood knobs and other hardware were simple and the only concern was the function of the knob or pull—not the actual look of it. The simplicity of the designs was copied from the British designs, but after the Industrial Revolution, the hardware designs would change dramatically.

Eastlake Decorative Hardware

During the Industrial Revolution the Eastlake style was born. The Revolution led to the mass-production of many products—including pulls, wood knobs, hinges, and other hardware. It was much easier for people to posses something with an elaborate design than before. The name of the style itself is quite ironic due to the fact that the man whom the style was named for, Charles Locke Eastlake, was an architect and author who criticized the very style he was named for. He published a book in 1872, which was published in the U.S. in 1883 in which he criticized the overbearing, elaborate designs that were very prominent at the time in England. He was trying to explain why the simpler styles had a more hand-made feel to it than any mass-produced knob with overly-styled designs. It was an illustrated book and apparently the words were simply ignored.

Due to being behind in the Industrial Revolution, the United States was just beginning to become industrialized. All of the decorative details were incredibly expensive prior to the Revolution, but mass-production made everything very easy to get for the middle class. The Eastlake Style is thought to be an embellished version of the Queen Ann style.

Victorian Decorative Hardware

After the Eastlake style, came the Victorian style. The style was embraced with the growth of suburbia—from the outside of the house to the inside. The houses were usually irregularly shaped with very large porches and large picture windows. The houses were elaborately decorated inside. Most of the decorative objects were mass-produced, but still retained the authantic charm. During the boom of the Victorian style, it was thought that if a family had good taste, than they had good morals and solid virtue.

The Metallic Compression Casing Company of Boston found a technique of casting hardware in 1870. Two years later the company was bought out by an English hardware company which hired a professional designer for the hardware patterns. The competition decided to hire its own designers, which made hundreds and hundreds of different styles available.

During this time, there was also a new technique that was developed called “plating”. It is a process in which a less expensive metal is covered and finished with a more expensive metal—such as gold or silver.

Before this time, only the working-class women and the servants would do the cooking. The wealthy people did not care what the kitchen looked like because they never had to see it and the working-class people did not have time to care about what their kitchen looked like. The middle-class suburban wives took pride in doing their own cooking as well as their own house work. Cooking multi-course meals took quite a bit of time, so making the kitchen beautiful was almost a necessity. The mass-production of the hardware made it much more affordable to get.

Arts and Crafts Decorative Hardware

The Arts and Crafts style followed, making a full circle back to the time where there is a plea for simpler and more organic forms. For hardware which looked hand-made and one-of-a-kind. The style embraced the shabby-chic looks, the new antiquing processes, and straight and clean lines.

Gustav Stickley was one of the most popular and famous Arts and Crafts furniture designer. Due to the “Victorian-style overload” in terms of the hardware—Stickley opened his own hardware manufacturing. He became very well-known due to his claim that each one of his pieces was hand-made. That claim has been disproved on many occasions, but that statement was disproved on many occasions with multiple facts. It does not, however, take away the beauty of the furniture nor its hand-made quality which adds warmth to any interior.

Revival Decorative Hardware

The Revival style took the themes from the past and made them work in the contemporary space. The styles were driven by the aesthetic, not the function. The style drew upon romantic, rustic, and old world feels. The overall thought behind the Revival style is to look back to the past for comfort. It took many influences and ideas from the Spanish style and integrated it into the suburban American home.

The faster the suburban homes were built, the more prevalent the Revival style became. The style became so popular that even the chain department stores integrated it in their lines of furniture and hardware. It gave a sense of ownership and warmth to the house. The Revival style was not as overbearing as the previous historical styles which looked to the past. The style, though, came to a very abrupt end when the Great Depression hit.

Art Deco Decorative Hardware

After the Great Depression the public stopped looking to the old and the familiar, but started to look into the future with optimism and a new style—Art Deco. The Art Deco style was first used in commercial interiors and custom-built housing while many still lived in their Revival homes. The Art Deco movement began in France. The decorative artists felt as if their arts have been overlooked in the modern revolution, so they decided that they would form their own organization—Societe des Artistes Decorateurs.

While the wealthy class embraced the Art Deco style head on, the middle class kept their Art Deco interactions to movie theaters and their kitchen hardware. Most of the hardware that was used was either brass, bronze, or nickel-plated with elaborate zigzag patterns and sunbursts.

Modern Decorative Hardware

The Streamline Moderne style began with the construction of the Bauhaus in Germany. It had a new look to it which people have no seen before—glass walls supported with steel beams. Two years after it was built, the Bauhaus was shut down by the Nazis and the professors and directors fled to the United States, bringing the style with them. The style took off immediately in the U.S. starting with multiple art exhibits and with the prominent furniture companies re-thinking their predominant furniture output.

While all of the styles are incredibly bold and make a rather loud statement, you shouldn’t think solely on following the style to a t. Maybe you ought to think about the essence of a style which seems most attractive to you and the easiest way to do so is through hardware. It is the perfect way to not go over-board with the style of your choice and you will make the space look comfortable and not like a museum.

DECORATIVE HARDWARE