Above, a suite at the Inn at Hastings Park that incorporates a dash of Americana.
All week long, we’re putting the focus on the best examples of design from early America as collectors prepare for the January 19 sale of colonial-era decorative arts and furniture from the Anne H. and Frederick Vogel collection.
Just as in current-day décor, trends in the antique market come and go. (For instance, the craze for French Country in the early ’90s, or vintage typewriters in the 2010s.) But there’s been one category that’s never been considered “out”: Americana. That’s mainly because of just how the earliest periods of American design, of course, became the foundation for all the periods that followed. Whether you’re into the clean-lined elegance of New England furniture or the refined details of Federal-period accent pieces, a hint of Americana also makes a spirited addition to your décor. Interested in starting your collection? See our favorite examples of Americana currently for sale at Sotheby’s Home then read on for our tips on incorporating the style into your home.
While there is the typical New England restraint in the clean-lined silhouette of this 18th-century Queen Anne maple high chest, the golden hue of the wood and the gleaming finish of the dovetail brass handles imbue the piece with a sense of warmth.
An enduring symbol of America is captured exquisitely in this dramatic (and dynamic) sculpture, which was created in the early 20th century. From the tip of each wing to the talons, this is a work that catches the eye and holds your attention.
As with most mirrors, the beauty is in the frame of this 18th-century Queen Anne mirror. But what makes this piece so rare is the details – like the gilt strapwork border that decorates the mahogany frame and the brass candle arms flanking the three-part mirror.
A stunning example of Federal-period design, this table is made in the style of Thomas Seymour (a master cabinetmaker who helped define New England’s artistic heritage between the late 1700s and early 1800s). From the satin birch wood hinged top to the tapering fluted legs, this is a piece that’s beautiful from any angle.
The brilliance of this 18th-century armchair is in its thoughtful design. This was a form follows function before the phrase entered the lexicon: The graceful fan back is elegant yet surprisingly comfortable, and the angled legs were positioned to evenly distribute weight.
Decorating With Americana
What attracts collectors to the Americana category isn’t just an appreciation for beauty, it’s also about how these items call back to our nation’s heritage. Often, this means treating these antiques like the precious pieces of history they are and creating a more formal display. (This might be why some would-be collectors associate the more elegant examples of Americana with a certain feeling of stuffiness.) However, if you want to take a more casual approach to Americana, follow these decorating tips:
Focus on simple designs.
A Windsor chair is the perfect example of an antique that doesn’t feel like an antique. The clean lines mean that the chair can work with other styles, from mid-century to contemporary.
Play off of the all-American theme with color.
Going for a patriotic palette of red, white, and blue brings playful context to your collection. This can be achieved by hanging an antique flag, painting the room navy, adding white pillows to a sofa, or a crimson rug to the floor. We recommend sticking with deep undertones for a more sophisticated look, but a few brights can be used to strategically draw the eye around your space.
Mix styles and eras.
Sticking to solely one style is often what gives a room a “museum” quality, as does grouping items strictly from the same era. Instead, mix things up by putting a late 18th-century portrait above a modern sideboard or placing Federal-era candlesticks on top of a Queen Anne dining table.