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By Juliette Guilbert

With the end of the Revolution and the birth of the new republic, Americans looked to ancient Rome for cultural as well as political inspiration.  At the same time, newly professionalized American architects sought to express the power and influence of their patrons by creating dignified yet democratic homes.  The result of this political and aesthetic cross-pollination was the Federal style, which soon became identified with the hopes, ideals, and character of the young nation.

Ironically, the guiding light of ancient Rome shone on the new republic by way of Old England.  Federal period architects like Charles Bulfinch enlivened a somewhat poker-faced Georgian colonial template with classical detail straight out of stylebooks of the Adam brothers, the most renowned architects of the British eighteenth century.  A typical
Federal home had pragmatic Georgian bones (symmetrical brick facade, balanced rows of windows around a central door) adorned with graceful Adamesque flourishes.  A semicircular fanlight over the front door, arched three-part Palladian windows, dentil moldings or a balustrade around the roof all served to soften square Georgian lines. The centrally placed front entryway was the focal point, with the door flanked by sidelights, pilasters, or slender columns and possibly topped by a small portico.

Federal Fireplace Mantel

Colonial and Federal Style fireplace mantel

Purchase this Mantel

Period: Colonial/Federal
Hand built wood mantels with hand applied composition ornamentation
Carefully assembled utilizing tongue and groove, splines and precision engineered joints and miters.
Our mantels can be manufactured in any size or wood species desired. Poplar is our standard wood.
Stock Opening: Width 47 1/2 in. x Height 42 in.
Height: 4' 6"
Width: 5' 7 1/2"

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Federal, Colonial and Early American Period Moldings and Cornices

Moldings and cornices add attractive curves, scale and proportion to any room. They are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and can quickly create a period and historic feel to any home.

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But it is interiors that truly distinguish the Federal-style house from its colonial predecessors.  Unlike the exterior, interiors could be asymmetrical and curvilinear, a major departure from the early American layout of a central hall opening onto four square rooms.  Circular or oval spaces were common (the most famous Federal style oval room is the Oval Office).  Decorative ceilings and mantels, adorned with elegant garlands and swags, rose above simple curved plaster walls.

To create a convincing Federal setting, use a judicious mix of homespun American colonial furniture and more refined Adam-style pieces (Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton).  Pewter and silver, luxurious but understated textures -- cream-colored damask, polished wood floors -- suggest the optimism and increasing prosperity of the new nation.  Colors should be light and delicate: powder blue, cream, yellow, soft pink and muted rose.  Of course, the quintessential Federal detail is the American eagle, soaring above the mantelpiece.  And while some might consider a plaster bust of George Washington to be a bit over the top, for the true neo-Federalist it will add just the right patriotic touch.

Federal Style architectural details and ornamentation!

Ceiling medallions, cornices and moldings. Authentic Period and Historic Home architectural ornamentation.
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Colonial Mantel,  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Colonial Mantel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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