A strictly mid-Georgian Classical floorplan would have a central hall, and formal and entertaining rooms on the ground floor. If the servants’ quarters were not in the basement, there would probably be a series of attic rooms in which they were housed, in which case there would also be a secondary staircase towards the rear of the house. The upstairs would sometimes be similarly formal at the front, with the two main bedrooms – with a dressing room between them – sited over the main reception rooms.
The staircase is the most commanding feature in middle- and upper-class Georgian houses. It was comprised of straight flights or largely curved: it could be of the ‘closed string’ type, where tread ends are hidden, or have ‘open strings’, where the staircase profile follows the line of the treads.
There was emphasis on the handrail which should be continuous. The more it twists and turns the better. Staircases ended with newel posts with elaborate volutes. End treads were also a feature. Balusters were sturdy and turned in a variety of timbers. If pine was used it was painted, although by the 1770s painted thin square-section ‘stick’ balusters were fashionable. Towards the end of the century, iron balusters appeared. Painted fretwork balusters were very much in fashion in the 1750s. This was the so-called ‘Chinese Chippendale’ look.
These can be bare floorboards, but grander houses had stone or marble floors in pale colours, perhaps in a keystone pattern.
These were panelled but only to dado height and the plaster above was painted or papered. If your hall has panelling, paint the cornice the same shade as the walls but, if you have painted walls, paint the cornice to blend in with the ceiling. Look for simple repeat patterns in wallpaper such as trefoils. Wallpaper was imported from the Far East so anything with a chinosierie feel to it would be in keeping. Towards the end of the period, simple block papers were introduced.
Ceilings might have ribbons and swags, Classical figures and urns. Traditionally, the complexity of mouldings and the room decoration diminished with the dimensions and with the relative social significance of their location. There are companies who specialise in making reproduction ones as well as firms who will restore and repair originals.
The basic Georgian fire surround had a plain wooden frame with two uprights and a beam. Try to aim at elegance. If you go for basket grates, cast iron backs and decorated fronts featuring swags, urns, and medallions, perhaps flanked with Classical pillars, you won’t go far wrong.