It might not be St. Patrick’s Day, but at Chestnut Hall we’re feeling lucky. We’re noticing clover shapes surfacing in our furniture and accessories lines and they’re sprouting up on our showroom floor. I’m taken back to Design History class, where a lovely and quirky English professor referred to herself as Auntie Lorella (pronounce that AHN-tee) and made every style spanning Medieval to Victorian seem romantic and world-changing. She taught us that contrary to our common association of clovers with the luck of the Irish, in decorative arts, they relate to the Gothic and Gothic Revival styles from all across Europe.
For word of the day purposes, Auntie Lorella explained these clover shapes are formally called quatrefoil and trefoil and translate to “four leaves” and “three leaves,” respectively. They were widely used in Gothic architecture, but their popularity peaked in the Gothic Revival period, which began in the mid-18th century. Gothic Revival was a whimsical era in decorative arts history, as the darkness was sucked out of Gothic design. Gothic symbols and principles were theatrically exploited, multiplied, and often painted white. Gothic ruins were treasured for their dark and romantic novelty. Horace Walpole was the trendsetter, a writer who built Strawberry Hill in London, a Gothic Revival “little plaything house,” or others might call it a palace, when everyone else was building in the Classical style. He coined the term “gloomth” to express a joyful pleasure in the gloominess of Gothic design. He filled his home with art and treasures from ancient to then-modern times, hosted extravagant parties, and allowed tourists to visit his masterpiece. Click here for a slideshow by The Guardian showing Strawberry Hill during its recent restoration and to learn more about the fantastic Horace Walpole. You’ll gain a lighter and brighter appreciation for Gothic style!
Here are some of our favorite pieces available at Chestnut Hall that include trefoils and quatrefoils.