Did you know that the ceiling rose in the centre of a period style ceiling is not just a pretty feature? They were originally installed to protect the ceiling from heat marks or soot created by candle or gas lighting. The plaster centrepiece would catch all the grime and owners only had to repaint that bit of the ceiling from time to time to keep the room looking fresh. Genius. By the way if you have ever wondered why you sometimes come across a rose which is not central to the room don’t blame the electrician. It was a Victorian custom to place the light fitting central to the chimney breast so the over mantel mirror would reflect the light back into the room.
Here’s a wonderful summary of the history of the ceiling rose by the Greenwich Cornice company.
The Baroque ceiling rose 1625 – 1714 Decorative ceiling roses were only just starting to be used in this period. Only affluent homes had plastered ceilings and those ceilings were generally very ornate. If there was a central decorative rose it would have probably been oval with romantic, elaborate, floral swirls and central pendant.
The early Georgian ceiling rose 1714 – 1765 Ceiling decoration began to take the shape of the ceilings we see today in so many period homes. The surface usually has a cornice at the edge and circular element in the centre. Palladian detail surpassed the fashion for the bold ornamental style that reigned the previous era. The detail was shallower in relief and more delicate. As well as classical motifs, Rococo style also had influence, expect bird, leave and shell details. Neo classical detailing also can be seen in many decorative plaster roses of this time.
The Late Georgian ceiling rose 1765 – 1830 Late Georgian decorative roses continued to be embellished with classic elements. Robert Adams was particularly influential in this era and he bought a grandeur based on Roman precedents. Swags, ribbons, urns, crossed weapons, wreaths and rosettes are so typical of this era. Humbler ceilings of the the mid to lower upper classes had details picked from interior design books based on palatial interiors. Decorative plaster ceiling roses began to become common in ‘normal’ homes.
The Regency ceiling rose 1811 – 1820 The Regency era was a small sub era of the Georgian period. All over ceiling decoration began to fall out of fashion but decorative plaster ceiling rose began to take centre stage. Often the plaster roses became the only element on the ceiling. The Embellishment became bolder. It became floral. Delicate swags were replaced with thick outward radiating petals, Greek designs, and arabesques were also popular.
The Victorian ceiling rose 1837 – 1901 The decorative plaster ceiling rose had now become an essential part of ceiling decoration. Even in modest houses, ceiling roses would be coupled with plain cornicing in most rooms and more elaborate embellishments in the main areas such as the entrance hall, and drawing room. The Victorian era was not a time to be shy with interior design. Newly rich middle classes wanted to show off wealth. Flowers, fruits, flying birds, festoons and of course the acanthus leaf were often used. Another reason the decorative ceiling rose made its way into every home was the invention of fibrous plaster. This method allowed decorative ceiling roses to be cast in a workshop and sold ‘off the shelf’ as opposed to the costly method of making them in situ. Casting roses also allowed for deep multidimensional embellishments that really stood out, square dentils also became easier to add, as well as intricate scrolls.
The Edwardian ceiling rose 1901 – 1914 Many people assume Edwardian decorative plaster roses were very plain, this was not, on the whole the case. Cornices tended to be seen as ‘non-essential’ and this reflected in their plainer appearance but roses were still ornate. Georgian styles were very popular and the Victorian styles also continued. Radiating palmettes, bold swags, and enriched edges were the norm.