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As the sixteenth century progressed the desire for simple comfort became complicated by the introduction of the ornate and fantastic fashions for wall paneling from across the Channel.
Italy was acclaimed the leader of all artistic endeavor, but the classic ideal was neither comprehended nor properly interpreted by the architectural enthusiasts of Elizabethan England. Furniture and Oak panelling and other household decorations of early Tudor interiors became gradually more and more flamboyant.
The classic features that had inspired the Italian Renaissance could be seen half buried in intricate wall panelling strapwork and copious clusters of fruits and flowers that now seem inseparable from the designs of the late sixteenth century, yet with all this the Elizabethan style as a whole remains obstinately English in spirit.
The East and West Indies with their promise of adventure and fabulous wealth lured many away from more rural pursuits, and silks and velvets, precious metals and other treasures, together with new ideas on architecture and hitherto unknown wall panelling furnishings wainscot panelling were finding their way into the homes of all those even remotely connected with the merchants of that time.
This was England's golden age, and if to our modern eye the Tudor interior designs and furnishings of the second half of the sixteenth century appear garish and over-decorated, we must remember that it was this very quality that made them of value to a still simple-minded people, in much the same way that a child is excited by a decorated Christmas tree rather than the straightforward fir or pine.
It is difficult at this stage to say exactly how much was truly English and how much was foreign in the furnishings ,wall panelling wainscoting and decorations of English homes. More often than not their furniture was a hotch-potch of pieces and designs from various European cities with an occasional piece of solid English oak that served too useful a purpose to be ousted by ornate pieces from other countries.
Guild Carvers Carpenters and journeymen and craftsmen everywhere were busy copying the new styles-a quaint Italian sideboard supported by caryatids or dolphins and made from walnut, a Dutch cupboard wit h gulled front, a French four-poster bed and carved wall panelling panel designs with curiously carved design in sweet chestnut and hung with finely embroidered hangings, a fine Chinese silk coverlet with golden birds and unbelievable flowers. The work they produced was magnificent, their interest and individuality imbuing the article on which they were working with a strength and vitality that has withstood the wear and tear of four centuries.
Inventories of furniture and wall panelling at this date give us the impression that the bedrooms and their equipment were still of more value to their owners than the furnishings of the living rooms. Much time and money was spent in the lavish equipment of the bed with its beautifully embroidered or tapestry hangings and coverlets.
The same colourful and complicated designs flowed in profusion on curtains and bedspreads carved Oak panelling panels. Frequently such designs were copies from some foreign book of ornament, but by far the most popular design included the native animals and flowers so dear to the hearts of every English countrywoman. These designs are s their length. Birds and squirrels perch on tiny flower-heads, bees, butterflies and a score of insects fill any possible gap that might occur between the trees and flowers. The flowers themselves include such everyday varieties as honeysuckle, cornflower, thistle, rose, vetch, iris and harebell, and we see the same arrangements of these popular flower shapes introduced into the plaster work of the wall panelling of that time. Richly dressed little figures in wooden attitudes and unbending attire appear in all forms of contemporary design, from mural paintings to the embroidered seat of a chair or cushion, their ruffles and farthingales executed with a formal care that gives them architectural quality.