7 Early American Style Secrets to Adopt Today
This story first appeared on Houzz. Find the original version here.
In November 1620, a group of Europeans docked near the tip of Cape Cod and staggered onto the soil of North America. Historians say they called themselves Separatists, as they had removed themselves from the Church of England, but today we know them as the Pilgrims. Many of our religious, governmental, and social roots were established by these determined and resilient folk—and perhaps our style roots too.
You'll love Early American if your taste is plain and simple rather than “more is more,” and you appreciate natural colors and materials.
The early painting above shows the signing of the Mayflower Compact, a document that outlined the Pilgrims’ self-government. According to an article in the Smithsonian, “We do know that they did not dress in black and white and wear stovepipe hats as the Puritans did. They dressed in earth tones—the green, brown, and russet corduroy typical of the English countryside. And, while they were certainly religious, they could also be spiteful, vindictive, and petty as well as honest, upright, and courageous—all part of the DNA they would bequeath to their adopted homeland.” The article goes on to point out that the Puritans earned their moniker by insisting that the Church of England purify its religious practices. The Separatists went further by splitting from the church completely.
Early American Style Secret: Cooking with Fire
There’s no doubt the Pilgrims had a tough go of it, which is why their style was simple and austere—after all, who had time to decorate when survival depended on maintaining basic shelter and putting food on the table in a strange land? Meals were prepared over an open fire.
According to interviews with Kathleen Wall, a culinary historian at Plimoth Plantation—a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts—that famous meal we now celebrate as Thanksgiving would have included wildfowl (maybe wild turkey), corn, bread, porridge, and venison. Spit-roasted bird was a common delicacy.
Early American Style Secret: Long, Feast-Ready Tables
Search online for the phrase “the first Thanksgiving” and you’ll come up with many pictures of food mounded on long, rustic tables. After all, the good harvest and the gathering of friends would necessitate such.
Early American Style Secret: Stacked Stone
It’s well documented that the Pilgrims used building materials provided by the land, including stones.
According to the New York Times, there are several New England stone fences dating to the mid-1600s that survive today. The stone fence look was later brought inside with stone fireplaces.
Early American Style Secret: Pilgrim Portraits
Probably due to the hardships of the Pilgrims’ new lives in America, there isn’t a wealth of Pilgrim portraits today. However, Mayflower passengers like Edward Winslow and the children of Pilgrims, such as Elizabeth Paddy Wensley, did have portraits of themselves. These items would have been vaunted and shown in a special place. Ancestral-style portraits take on the look of today when displayed against a modern backdrop.
Early American Style Secret: Windsor Chairs
The exact date of the Windsor chair’s creation is lost to time, but it is known that a few decades after the Pilgrims established themselves in what they called the New Country, the look was fashionable.
Windsor chairs have made a style comeback, finding their way into today’s interiors.
Early American Style Secret: Gathering Baskets
No self-respecting woman in early America would have found herself without a basket. It was perhaps the statement piece of the colony, and it was used for all kinds of household and village activities. According to the experts at Plimoth Plantation, most of the baskets the Pilgrims had were imported from England, so a collection would have been worth a fortune.
Early American Style Secret: Dried Herbs
History says that dried herbs and plants had nothing to do with nostalgia. Rather, they were used as medicines or for cooking. Many Pilgrim kitchens likely had a stock of them.
Incorporate any or all of these Early American design elements into your home, and add a Colonial twist to the 21st century.