Reviving the Renaissance

By Terry Reuther Quillen


A lot of us lament the tear-down-scrape-off-build-something-huge trend that currently abounds in Nashville. But some of the more tasteful new designs are reviving grand old architectural styles. One is Dutch Renaissance, which is showing up in Nashville along Harding Place and, notably, on the corner of Estes Road and Woodmont Boulevard.


Note how the Woodmont Boulevard house, at left, reflects the building, at bottom, built in the 1600s at the height of the Dutch Renaissance. The style is sharply vertical, softened by gracefully arched pediments. 


So, what would the interior designer select to furnish a Dutch Renaissance home? The quick answer is Renaissance Revival. But it gets a little dicey, since the lines are not as neatly drawn as they are for Victorian Eastlake or Mid-Century Atomic.


Renaissance Revival has a lot of characteristics. In general, however, it tends tohave a massive feel, with elaborate carving and woodwork. And, unlike the architecture, there does not seem to be a particular Dutch Renaissance style for furniture.


Renaissance Revival could aptly be called robust, if not downright flamboyant.


Nothing says flamboyance like the name Liberace, and GasLamp Too currently has a terrific piece of Liberace memorabilia – in the unmistakable Renaissance Revival style (photo, right). The table, topped by mottled brown marble, was reportedly used in the classic Christmas film, The Bishop's Wife, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. It was a gift from Liberace to Vince Cardell, a pianist who performed with him over the years; it originally graced Liberace’s Las Vegas home. Cardell later moved to the Nashville area, and the table is from his estate. It is featured at Booth T-101 at GasLamp Too for $1,950.


The Liberace table features the elaborate carving of ancient figures that is typical of Renaissance Revival. But its carving looks tame when compared to a tremendous console with mirror in Booth T-293 at GasLamp Too. The photo, left, below does not do this majestic piece justice. But look closely at the details shown in the photo collage.


Another characteristic of Renaissance Revival is the use of turned wood legs in a twisting motif. The photo, right, includes a chair (dated 1690 on the tag) with cane detailing, in GasLamp Too Booth T-360. In the same booth is a mirror that features the heavy feel and intricate carving of Renaissance Revival. (It is not known what the initials EKW signify.) 


The Renaissance Revival chair, at the far left of the photo, below left, is from the Amherst Museum. Note its similarity to the dining room chairs, at right, from booth T-110 at GasLamp Too.


These are certainly statement pieces, and I find that a little Renaissance Revival design goes a long way. But just the right pieces would lend a lot of authenticity to the emerging trend in Dutch Renaissance homes.


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