How Did the New England Colonists Decorate Their Homes

How did the New England colonists decorate their homes? The answer to this question provides insight into the cultural, historical, and practical considerations that influenced colonial home decoration. The New England colonies were a diverse mix of English, Dutch, French, and other European settlers, each with their own traditions and practices. This article explores the various aspects of how the New England colonists decorated their homes and the enduring legacy of colonial home decoration in this region.

The cultural backgrounds of the New England colonists played a significant role in shaping their approaches to home decoration. From English settlers with their traditional styles to Dutch and French influences, each group brought unique ideas and techniques that contributed to the overall aesthetic of colonial homes. Understanding these influences is essential for comprehending the choices made by New England colonists when decorating their living spaces.

In addition to cultural influences, the practical utilization of natural resources also shaped colonial home decoration. With an abundance of wood, stone, and clay at their disposal, colonists incorporated these materials into their home decor in innovative ways. Carpentry and woodwork, in particular, played a crucial role in shaping the architectural and decorative elements of colonial homes. This section will delve into how these natural resources were utilized in home decoration and construction.

The Influence of Cultural Backgrounds on Home Decoration

New England colonists hailed from diverse cultural backgrounds, including English, Dutch, and German. This melting pot of cultures greatly influenced the way in which they decorated their homes. Each group brought with them their own traditions, beliefs, and artistic sensibilities, which in turn shaped the aesthetic of colonial home decoration.

English Influence

The English colonists, who made up a significant portion of New England settlers, brought with them a love for simplicity and practicality in home decoration. This is reflected in the use of natural materials such as wood and stone, as well as in the emphasis on functionality over ornamentation. The influence of English design can also be seen in the preference for understated color palettes and traditional patterns in textiles.

Dutch and German Influence

On the other hand, Dutch and German settlers introduced their own decorative styles to the New England colonies. Their fondness for intricate woodworking and attention to detail can be observed in the decorative elements of colonial homes, such as carved moldings, ornate furniture designs, and elaborate pottery. These influences added a touch of elegance and craftsmanship to the overall design aesthetic of colonial homes in New England.

Understanding the cultural backgrounds of New England colonists provides valuable insight into how did the New England colonists decorate their homes. By recognizing these influences, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of design traditions that continue to shape the legacy of colonial home decoration in New England today.

Utilization of Natural Resources in Home Decor

The New England colonists were resourceful and practical, using the natural resources around them to decorate their homes. From the abundance of timber to the availability of stone and clay, the colonists made use of what was readily accessible to create functional and charming home decor.

Timber and Wood

The New England colonies were rich in timber, and the colonists used this resource extensively in home decoration. They crafted furniture, paneling, and trim from native woods such as oak, pine, maple, and cherry. The carpentry skills of the colonists allowed them to create intricate designs and decorative elements for their homes.

Stone and Clay

In addition to wood, the colonists also utilized stone and clay for various decorative purposes. Stone hearths and fireplaces were central features in colonial homes, providing warmth while serving as a focal point for family gatherings. Meanwhile, pottery made from locally sourced clay provided both utilitarian items like crockery as well as decorative pieces such as vases.

The utilization of natural resources not only added a unique charm to New England colonial homes but also reflected the practical nature of the early settlers. By incorporating these elements into their home decor, the colonists created a distinctive style that continues to influence interior design today.

The Role of Carpentry and Woodwork in Colonial Home Decoration

Carpentry and woodwork played a significant role in the decoration of colonial homes in New England. The skilled craftsmanship of colonists, combined with the abundance of natural resources, resulted in unique and practical design elements that are still admired today.

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The use of woodwork in home decoration allowed colonists to showcase their skills and create functional yet aesthetically pleasing pieces. From intricate carvings on furniture to detailed trim work around doors and windows, carpentry added a touch of elegance to colonial homes. Moreover, the availability of timber in the region allowed for the construction of sturdy and durable wooden structures, which formed the foundation for many architectural elements.

In colonial New England, woodwork was not only utilized for decorative purposes but also for practical functions within the home. Built-in cabinets, shelves, and storage units were common features in colonial houses, providing ample space for storing household items. Additionally, skilled carpenters often crafted custom pieces such as bed frames, tables, and chairs, adding a personal touch to each home. Below are some examples of how New England colonists utilized carpentry and woodwork in their home decoration:

  • Elaborately carved headboards on beds
  • Handcrafted wooden mantels and fireplace surrounds
  • Wainscoting and paneling on interior walls

Overall, the role of carpentry and woodwork in colonial home decoration reflects the resourcefulness and creativity of New England colonists. Their ability to utilize natural materials while incorporating intricate designs into everyday objects continues to inspire modern-day interior design trends.

Textiles and Fabrics

During the colonial period in New England, the decoration of homes was influenced by the cultural backgrounds of the settlers. The use of textiles and fabrics played a significant role in adding warmth and style to their living spaces. Settlers often brought with them traditional textile-making skills from their home countries, which heavily influenced how they decorated their new homes.

1. Imported Fabrics: In the early days of colonization, imported fabrics were a luxury item that only the wealthy could afford. Those who could afford it often adorned their homes with imported silks, chintzes, and damasks from Europe. These elegant and intricate fabrics were used as curtains, tablecloths, and bed coverings, adding a touch of opulence to colonial homes.

2. Handmade Textiles: For those who couldn’t afford imported goods, handmade textiles were a practical and decorative choice. New England colonists made good use of locally sourced materials such as wool and flax to create their own fabrics. Quilting, weaving, and embroidery were common skills among women of the household, and these handmade textiles were used for quilts, rugs, curtains, and upholstery.

3. Usage of Textiles: Textiles served both a practical and decorative purpose in colonial homes. They not only added color and texture to living spaces but also provided insulation against the harsh New England winters. Curtains made from heavy wool kept out drafts, while colorful quilts added visual interest to otherwise plain bedding.

The mixture of imported luxury fabrics and locally produced handmade textiles created a unique aesthetic in colonial New England homes that reflected both the practicality and refinement of its inhabitants. The use of these textiles showcases how important it was for colonists to create welcoming and comfortable living spaces amidst the challenges they faced in establishing themselves in a new land.

The Use of Pottery and Ceramics in New England Colonial Homes

One key way in which the New England colonists decorated their homes with pottery and ceramics was through the use of handmade pieces. Skilled artisans crafted various types of pottery and ceramic items, including plates, bowls, mugs, and pitchers, using locally sourced clay. These handmade pieces often featured unique designs and patterns, reflecting the individual style and creativity of their makers.

In addition to locally made pottery, New England colonists also imported ceramics from Europe. English delftware, Chinese porcelain, and Dutch majolica were among the imported ceramic items that found their way into colonial homes. These imported pieces added a touch of elegance and sophistication to the decor, showcasing the wealth and status of the homeowners.

The use of pottery and ceramics in New England colonial homes demonstrates how early settlers incorporated both practicality and aesthetic appeal into their home decoration. From locally made pieces with rustic charm to fine imported ceramics that spoke of luxury and refinement, pottery and ceramics added a distinct flair to colonial interiors.

Handmade PotteryThe New England colonists decorated their homes with unique handmade pottery crafted by skilled artisans using locally sourced clay.
Imported CeramicsColonial homes also featured imported ceramic items such as English delftware, Chinese porcelain, Dutch majolica that added elegance to the decor.

Furniture and Layout

During the colonial period, New England colonists decorated their homes with practical and stylish design choices when it came to furniture and layout. Due to the limited availability of resources, early settlers utilized local materials such as wood, straw, and animal skins to create functional yet aesthetically pleasing furniture. One of the most popular furniture pieces in colonial homes was the Windsor chair, known for its sturdy construction and simple elegance.

The layout of colonial homes was designed to maximize space and functionality. Open floor plans were common, with multipurpose rooms serving as living spaces during the day and bedrooms at night. Furniture was often arranged to facilitate social gatherings, with communal spaces like the parlor or tavern room at the center of the home.

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As families began to prosper in the New England colonies, there was an increase in the availability of imported goods from Europe. This led to a blending of styles in home decoration, with traditional English and Dutch designs influencing the layout and choice of furniture. The result was a fusion of practicality and sophistication that reflected both the values of the colonists and their aspirations for a refined lifestyle.

In summary, the practical yet stylish design choices made by New England colonists in their homes were a reflection of their resourcefulness and adaptability. From handmade furniture crafted from local materials to the incorporation of imported goods, colonial home decoration in New England was a combination of heritage, necessity, and aspiration.

New England Colonist FurnitureKey Features
Windsor chairSturdy construction, simple elegance
Multipurpose roomsUsed for various activities throughout the day
Blending of stylesInfluence from both European importation’s and local traditions

The Evolution of Decorative Styles in New England Colonies

As the New England colonies developed and grew, so too did their decorative styles. The evolution of home decoration in this region can be traced back to the influence of the settlers’ cultural backgrounds and the utilization of natural resources. Both practicality and style played a role in shaping the decorative choices of New England colonists.

The early colonists brought with them a variety of cultural influences that shaped their home decoration. For example, Puritan settlers favored simple and functional designs, while Dutch settlers brought a love for intricate woodcarving and detailed furniture. This blending of cultural backgrounds resulted in a unique combination of decorative styles that set New England homes apart from those in other regions.

One notable aspect of how New England colonists decorated their homes was their use of natural resources. With an abundance of timber at their disposal, woodwork and carpentry played a significant role in colonial home decoration.

From hand-carved furniture to intricate detailing on doorways and mantels, wood was a key element in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere within colonial homes. Additionally, the availability of materials such as clay for pottery and ceramics allowed colonists to incorporate handmade goods into their interior decor.

Overall, the evolution of decorative styles in New England colonies was shaped by the cultural backgrounds of the settlers and their practical use of natural resources. These influences resulted in a unique blend of functionality and style that continues to be celebrated today.


In conclusion, the home decoration of New England colonists was a reflection of their cultural backgrounds, resourcefulness, and practicality. The colonists drew inspiration from their European heritage while adapting to the new environment by incorporating local natural resources into their decor. From intricate woodwork to handmade textiles and imported fabrics, the colonists utilized a variety of materials to adorn their homes in both functional and stylish ways.

The legacy of colonial home decoration in New England endures through its influence on American design aesthetics. The craftsmanship and attention to detail seen in colonial homes continue to inspire contemporary interior design. Visitors to historic sites can still marvel at the pottery, furniture, and layout choices that defined the colonial era. Several elements such as simple yet elegant woodwork and handcrafted textiles remain popular in modern homes, showcasing the enduring influence of colonial style.

As we look back on how did the New England colonists decorate their homes, we can appreciate the creativity and ingenuity that went into shaping their living spaces. The rich history of colonial home decoration in New England provides valuable insight into the resourcefulness and adaptability of early settlers. By learning from their techniques and choices, we can gain a deeper understanding of our own cultural heritage and continue to be inspired by their timeless decorative styles.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Were Colonial Houses Decorated?

Colonial houses were decorated with simple and practical furnishings. They often had wooden furniture, hand-woven textiles, and decorative items made from natural materials. The color palette was typically muted and earthy, reflecting the available dyes at that time.

What Did the New England Colonies Houses Look Like?

The houses in the New England colonies were built for practicality and durability in the harsh climate. They were typically two-story structures with steep roofs to withstand heavy snowfall. These homes often featured small windows and a central chimney.

What Is the New England Style of House?

The New England style of house is characterized by its practical design, with a focus on functionality over ornamentation. These homes often have a symmetrical facade, large central chimney, and modest decorative elements such as simple moldings and shutters. This style reflects the region’s history of Puritan values and practicality in architecture.

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