top of page

Regency Interiors

Looking at how interiors changed during the Regency Period

Dark Blue Walls Regency House

Stunning use of colour in this Regency House Image credit: @manwithahammer

When was The Regency?

Strictly speaking, the Regency period in England covers the nine years from 1811 when King George III became ill until his death in 1820, but the term is often used to refer to the period between 1790 - 1837, when Queen Victoria became Queen.

A More Informal Lifestyle

At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century there was a growing taste for freedom and irregularity in landscape views which was promoted by the Picturesque movement. This concept of asymmetry and irregularity soon led to changes in the layout of the principal rooms.

As people were looking to adopt a more relaxed way of life, interior design in England slowly changed to accommodate the more informal lifestyle.

Space Planning

Where the main rooms in earlier Georgian houses were planned in a strict symmetrical way on enfilade (where a group of rooms are arranged in a row and interconnected so that each room opens into the next) the rooms towards the end of the 18th century were laid out in a slightly more informal way on a type of "circuit plan":

Symmetrical layout of the main rooms on a 'circuit plan'

Although the family could use these rooms for everyday living, the rooms could also easily be turned into spaces for entertaining, like a ballroom or card room. The drawing room and dining room were the two main rooms used for entertaining.

The fact that the drawing room was seen as feminine and the dining room masculine was reflected in the decoration of the rooms. After dinner, the ladies would withdraw to the drawing room (withdrawing room) and leave the men in the dining room to continue their discussions and their drinking. Very often, houses were designed in such a way that the dining room and the drawing room would be separated by another space so that the ladies wouldn't be disturbed by the noise from the dining room.

In many country houses, the library was used as the family's informal living room furnished with sofas, chairs and different types of tables.

Regency House Floorplan
An example of an informal, asymmetrical layout of a Regency house.

As the layout of the spaces changed, people started thinking about moving their furniture around and arranging it in more informal, irregular ways. Previously, chairs and other pieces of furniture were only moved into the middle of the room when needed. Otherwise, apart from large, heavy dining tables, the furniture stayed against the walls and the middle of the rooms were empty most of the time.

"If your house was no longer symmetrical, there was no longer any reason why your furniture should be arranged with formal regularity."

- Peter Thornton

In Fragments on the Theory of Landscape Gardening , the 18th century landscape gardener Humphry Repton shows the difference between the older style drawing room in the top image and the 'modern living room' below. In the more modern scene, groups of people can be seen mingling and talking more informally.

Love of Nature

Light was a very important feature of Regency interiors. Towards the end of the 18th century, people felt that they wanted to be in touch with nature and this was reflected in their homes. Large windows and skylights above stairwells were used to let in as much light as possible. Mirrors were also cleverly placed opposite windows to reflect the light as well as the foliage outside the windows, just as we would do today. They also brought nature inside by placing vases of flowers around the house. They were big on "bringi