Robert Adam, having returned from his travels in France and Italy, had designed and built, in conjunction with his brother James, Adelphi Terrace about 1769, and subsequently Portland Place, and other streets and houses of a like character; the furniture being made, under the direction of Robert, to suit the interiors. There is much interest attaching to No. 25, Portland Place, because this was the house built, decorated and furnished by Robert Adam for his own residence, and, fortunately, the chief reception rooms remain to shew the style then in vogue. The brothers Adam introduced into England the application of composition ornaments to woodwork. Festoons of drapery, wreaths of flowers caught up with rams’ heads, or of husks tied with a knot of riband, and oval pateroe to mark divisions in a frieze, or to emphasize a break in the design, are ornaments characteristic of what was termed the Adams style.
Robert Adam published between 1778 and 1822 three magnificent volumes, “Works on Architecture.” One of these was dedicated to King George III., to whom he was appointed architect. Many of his designs for furniture were carried out by Gillows; there is a good collection of his original drawings in the Soane Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
The decoration was generally in low relief, with fluted pilasters, and sometimes a rather stiff Renaissance ornament decorating the panel; the effect was neat and chaste, and a distinct change from the rococo style which had preceded it.
The design of furniture was modified to harmonize with such decoration. The sideboard had a straight and not infrequently a serpentine-shaped front, with square tapering legs, and was surmounted by a pair of urn-shaped knife cases, the wood used being almost invariably mahogany, with the inlay generally of plain flutings relieved by fans or oval pateroe in satin wood.