AROUND HOME : Biedermeier

BY ANGUS WILKIE

(Abbeville Press; 1987)

IT IS ONE of the ironies of design history that the Biedermeier style, so popular today for its simple line and understated elegance, should have flourished--if only during a brief time, from 1815 to 1848--against the pompous and over-decorated background of the Austrian Empire and the German states of the period. The style is notable for clarity of design and superb craftsmanship. It was conceived of as a kind of pseudo-elegant decor for the bourgeoisie, a much simplified version of the sort of thing that appealed to minor German princelings. Thank heaven the middle class could not afford the extravagance of the nobility, for we now have a legacy of furniture that is particularly appropriate to contemporary interior design. There are many charming watercolors of the period in the book, along with numerous color photographs illustrating this tasteful 19th-Century furniture. ($55)

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