Accessory furnishings constitute important elements in the interior. Included here are clocks and other mechanical works, mirrors, textiles, screens, stoves, and fireplaces; and a number of smaller articles made by cabinetmakers, such as boxes, caskets, sewing tables, wastepaper baskets, lighting fixtures, frames, panelling, and floor surfaces.
Clocks are considered furnishings if the movement is enclosed within a case, which need not necessarily be of wood. Clocks can be divided into table clocks and tall-case clocks. There were two creative centres for table clocks, namely England and France. In 17th- and 18th-century France, the table clock became an object of monumental design, the best examples of which are minor works of sculpture. The actual movement is framed by a marble socle, and the clock face by a sculptural frame of solid bronze incorporating freely moulded figures and ornamentation. Some of France’s best sculptors and bronze casters were engaged in the creation of decorative frames for clock movements. A French speciality, imitated elsewhere on the Continent, was the wall clock, or so-called cartel clock, the earliest examples of which were designed by a goldsmith and ornamentalist, Juste-Aurèle Meissonier. The clock face is the centre of an ornament, or rocaille-cartouche, cast in bronze, sometimes garnished with figures of symbolic significance; for example, Time, a man with a scythe, or a crowing cock. In England, where tastes were more bourgeois, the fine movements made by skilful London clockmakers were built into wooden cases, architectonic in composition and featuring pilasters (partly recessed columns) and cornices. Simple walnut cases could be adorned with metal ornaments and brass balls. The more expensive table clocks were concealed in cases embellished with inlaid wood or tortoiseshell.
Tall-case clocks were also made in France and England. French tall-case clocks are monumental and richly designed. In the reign of Louis XIV there were tall-case clocks of the boulle type with metal and tortoiseshell inlay work. Later, in the 18th century and especially during the Rococo period, the case that concealed the weights acquired more dramatic form: richly inlaid wooden surfaces were framed and adorned by magnificently gilded Rococo ornaments in bronze. The English tall-case clock was to a greater extent a piece of furniture, and the main features of its construction remained unaltered throughout the 18th century. The tall-case clock stands on a base, or socle, from which the somewhat narrower case for the weights rises up, crowned by the framework of the actual movement and clock face. The last-named section is in reality a table clock mounted on a weight case. Each individual section of the tall-case clock is thus clearly separate; each has its distinct function; and no attempt was made, as in France, to veil the independence of the individual parts. The weight case is provided with a door in which there may be a window through which the position of the weights can be observed. In the United States, urban centres spawned regionally specific styles of casework that made the tall-case clock one of the most expensive items in the 18th-century home.
During the 18th century, barometers became increasingly popular. The mechanism was provided with a decorative wooden framework intended to harmonize with the other furniture in a room.
The use of mirror glass in furnishings arose during the 17th century. The discoloration of the melted glass because of silvering and the prohibitive cost and difficulty of manufacturing mirror glass of considerable size restricted the possibilities of large-scale application. The mirror gallery at Versailles was thus an outstanding technical achievement for its time. When Louis XIV strode through the gallery at the head of his court, the glass walls reflected the diamonds in his crown. This effect was imitated to a greater or lesser degree in all the courts of Europe. In the 18th century the wall mirror found its way into most interiors. The popularity and wide distribution of mirror glass was stimulated by the need for an increased amount of artificial light. During the 16th and 17th centuries, this need had been satisfied by placing candles in front of highly polished concave metal plates. By using silvered mirror glass, the light effect was multiplied. From then on, large mirrors hung over console tables were a necessary and functional part of rooms illumined by artificial light.
The use of fabrics in furnishing rooms is closely bound up with the need for heating. In the primitively heated rooms of the Middle Ages, textiles were used to keep out cold and drafts. In 12th- and 13th-century churches, painted textile drapery can still be discerned beneath the picture friezes. In rather cold churches, just as in poorly heated homes, loosely hung textile wall coverings were of the greatest importance. They were hung loosely because of the practice of taking them down and moving them, together with the relatively few items of furniture, according to need. It was not until the end of the 17th century and during the 18th century that tapestries and other forms of textile wall hanging became fixtures; that is, fastened to the wall within frames. Wall pictures made of paper and, subsequently, patterned wallpaper became a cheaper substitute for textile wall hangings during the 19th century. Screens or room dividers were often covered with textiles, partly to afford protection against direct radiant heat and partly to create cozy corners in large rooms. Framed screens were often covered with pieces of tapestry, with other woven materials, or with gilt leather.
Rooms and large halls were not heated until the advent of modern central heating systems. The open hearth was replaced during the late Middle Ages by the fireplace, which is merely an architectonic way of framing the burning logs. During the period when it was important as a source of heat, the fireplace became the object of design work by significant artists. A Scottish architect, Robert Adam, and his brothers and an Italian architect and engraver, Giambattista Piranesi, made considerable artistic contributions to the design and construction of fireplaces.
Other accessory furnishings
Small utility objects constitute an important part of the furnishing of interiors. Several of them are the work of cabinetmakers; for example, boxes for writing paper and playing cards, caskets for letters and documents, trays for serving or presentation. Accessory furnishings include the various articles, large and small, that are employed in the course of domestic work—from small looms to lace pillows, spinning wheels, embroidery frames, and sewing tables. Women’s chattels, partly in the form of equipment for domestic needs and partly in the form of items of storage furniture for such small items as pins, scissors, wool, and materials, all had their place in the home.
Finally, the structure and decoration of the walls, ceilings, and floors—for example, panelling, stucco work, parquet flooring, carpets—can also come under the heading of accessory furnishings. Usually, however, they are considered under the subject of interior decoration.