Regency plaster mouldings

Regency mouldings

Regency plaster mouldings differ somewhat from neighbouring and overlapping eras such as the Georgian and Victorian eras. Some elements added to regency mouldings, including cornicing, coving and ceiling roses were unique to that era, whilst others were borrowed and adapted from the past.

If you are restoring a regency home or would just like to have authentic regency mouldings, then understanding the history and influence will give you an appreciation of the plaster mouldings you add to your property. Use the information below as a guide to choosing the right style of decorative plaster for your home, and be safe in the knowledge the ones that you choose are authentic and sympathetic to the age.

Patterns, motifs, and embellishments found in Regency mouldings:

  • Greek and Roman patterns
  • Gothic forms
  • Egyptian motifs
  • Standard Palladian forms of mid 18th century
  • Low relief mouldings
  • Egg-and-dart
  • Grecian motives
  • Anthemion
  • Continuous and Vitruvian scrolls
  • Political motifs 
  • Reeding
  • Beads

Notable people who influenced Regency interior and architectural design :

  • Thomas Hope
  • John Soane
  • Rudolph Akermann
  • Henry Holland
  • Prince Regent

Descriptive words:

  • Restraint
  • Simplicity
  • Delicate
  • Austere

Overview of Regency plaster mouldings

Plaster mouldings of the Regency period were actually simpler and more austere, and not more elaborate than had been the case in previous decades. This was not of course true of every home. The more daring and innovative interiors of the Britain’s grand mansions or indeed of the Homes of architects such as Hope or Soane, included designs and motives that were heavily influenced by the latest developments in France or Germany or the latest archaeological discoveries in Italy Greece. However it is dangerous to take such grand ambitious decorative solutions as the model for the average home of the period. Most regency walls and ceilings of relatively modest dimensions tended to follow Akermann’s dictum that a ‘simple and chaste character is best’.

This is was particularly true of Regency mouldings – now far more restrained in form and use than those of the ages of Kent or Adam. Their reticence allowed the colourful ensembles of window drapery, paint, wallpaper, and furniture – and not, as had been the case with most Palladian interiors, the cornice, door case, ceiling rose, or dado – to provide the principal visual interest within the room. This is not to say that vocabulary of Regency plasterers became more limited. Quite the reverse: recently discovered Greek and Roman patterns, Gothic forms of an academic authenticity markedly different from the fripperies of Batty Langley and his followers, and even so-called Egyptian motifs were juxtaposed with the standard Palladian forms of mid 18th century.

The resultant compositions of Regency plaster mouldings were, however delicate and mostly of low relief contrasting sharply with the heavier, traditional mouldings such as the ubiquitous egg-and-dart (although the simple, heavy ovolo remained popular in America for door and window moulding for many years). Grecian motives were naturally very popular, particularly the anthemion or the continuous and Vitruvian scrolls, used by Holland and later by Soane to decorate pilasters and soft fits of arches. Topical political motifs were also widely used – notably after 1811, the Prince Regent’s three feathers. Such motifs were often extended to the ceiling edge, although the rest of the ceiling itself usually remained unadorned. While phrases were increasingly left bare and cornices were being constricted in width, low relief decoration was, by 1800 being applied for the first time to ceiling borders, a trend which continued throughout the 19th century.

Reflecting the restraint and simplicity of Regency plasterwork was the most common moulding of the period, the humble bead. When used in a linked combination of two or more beads, the outermost edges of which were usually flush with the adjacent fillet or surface, the moulding was termed ‘reeding’. Reeding was applied to cornices, chimneypieces, door surrounds, dados, and skirting; there were even’ reeded’ glazing bars, set with two or three deeply undercut, ‘quirked’ beads. Quirking was a Greek device used to obtain a greater sense of depth and play of shadows from a basically low relief moulding or surface and was very prevalent in the Regency house.