The Brothers Adam, all four of them, were architects. Robert and James saw the relationship between the building structure and the design of the furniture within. While both Robert and James designed furniture based on their architectural interests, Robert Adam became the most well known of the brothers.
The elements of design of the Robert Adam style reflects the need for furniture to blend in with or complement the building design.
To help in the recognition of Robert Adam styling, the following elements may in total or in part be present in his furniture designs.
- Cabinets, tables and occasionally chairs are rectilinear in shape. In other words, the lines are clean and straight most often outlining a rectangular form.
- Legs were square, straight, and often tapered. The spade foot may or may not be present.
- Chair backs were often rectangular. However, they may be oval, wheel shaped, or shield backed as well.
- There is usually no underbracing on Brothers Adam furniture, making it light and clean.
- The furniture appears to be very formal due to the straight lines and the classic ornamentation.
- Ornament is classical, such as the lyre, Greek urns, egg-and-dart moldings all done in low relief, inlaying or painting.
- Typically commodes and console tables are oval in the front, some with veneers.
- Mahogany was the primary wood used unless the piece was to be painted, gilded or veneered. In such cases, cheaper woods were used.
- Moldings were very delicate and finely scaled.
- The proportions of most pieces is usually good.
- Many of the pieces are large and imposing as they were generally designed for a specific location.
- Hand painted panels were common, often done by well known artists of the day.
- Filigree work was occasionally added to important places on cabinets.
- The upholstered pieces used silk, brocades, or damasks with designs in proportion to the piece.
- Rare woods were used for inlay work. The woods most often used were harewood, tulipwood, rosewood, and satinwood.
Robert Adam emerged from Brothers Adam