What is ‘Regency’ architecture?
The term Regency refers to a specific part of the 124-year Georgian period. When the soon to be King George IV came to power as Regent in 1811 – replacing his unfortunate father, George III of ‘madness’ infamy – his impromptu reign gave its name to a stylistic variant of Georgian architecture called ‘Regency’. The style’s era is usually considered to be 1800-1830, so a Regency home is a two century old antique and should be treasured.
How do I identify a Regency property?
Regency took the austere grandeur of Georgian architecture – those Classical-derived terraced houses with long windows, parapet roofs, railings and sash windows – and gave it a lighter touch. You can often recognise Regency homes from wrought-iron porches (often with slim columns) and balconies (sometimes with curvy canopies), painted stucco or render, long windows with fine window bars and, sometimes, curvaceous bow windows. Regency homes tend to have a sense of the picturesque bringing in ornamental touches from ancient Greece, Gothic revivalism and even Oriental styling, as seen in the greatest Regency icon, Brighton Pavilion. Most Regency properties come as two, three and four-storey homes in crescents or terraces but the era also left some highly prized stand-alone villas.
Where are the big Regency areas?
Regency houses are often associated with spa and seaside towns like Brighton and Royal Leamington Spa, but they are also found in London where they tend to be in prosperous, stately areas, among them Regent’s Park, Victoria, Pimlico, Mayfair and St John’s Wood. You’ll also find Regency homes in London suburbs such as Kew and Richmond. All lovely, but be prepared to dig deep for a prime Regency home.
Are there any perils to owning a Regency house?
As historic structures, Regency houses are often listed; so be aware of your conservation obligations. Factors that can come up include the difficulty of double glazing with thin window bars – secondary glazing might be better – and those big windows, which bring light but also allow heat to escape and can make placement of radiators hard. Stucco needs renewing from time to time, and conservation may demand lime plaster. Also watch out for deterioration of chimneys, lead flashings and gutters.
How should I decorate?
Any way you like. Regency homes have elegant Georgian proportions that allow contemporary furniture (indeed, any furniture) to look terrific. If you’d prefer to go period, then look at opulent Napoleon-era furniture, striped wallpaper, delicate pastel paints in duck-egg blue and cream, and ornamental plasterwork on cornices and ceilings.
Where can I find out more?
Read Regency Style by Steven Parissien (Phaidon, £24.95) and head to John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn fields, dedicated to the work of the master architect.