Sunday, December 17, 2017

Decorating With Barley Twist Furniture

And you thought this blog post was going to be about furniture. Just kidding! However, there is a connection between these tasty old fashioned candies and the beautiful interiors and furnishings that are spotlighted in this post on the barley twist design element.

Barley-sugar twist candy is an ancient sweet originally made from hot sugar syrup and an extract of barley to color it that was popular from the 1600's. At the end of the post is a recipe for the candy if you are interested in trying some.

This well known design feature on furniture has been with us for many years The shape dates back to 333 AD when Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, brought back a pair of helix shaped columns from Jerusalem to be used in the altar of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. According to tradition, these columns, known as Solomonic columns, were originally used as structural pillars for the roof of the Temple of Solomon. In France, the twisted column or torsade was a major element in furniture design during the reign of King Louis XIII 1610 to 1649. The design element came to England with Katherine of Braganza in 1661 when she married Charles II.

While English collectors and dealers often refer to the twisted shape as barley sugar twist after the sweet barley sugar twist stick candy that resembled the 17th and early 18th century leg, the French prefer just torsade or barley twist.

Whether your style is French or English a piece or two of barley twist furniture will supply instant old world flavor to your interiors.

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Because of the legs, the table is the piece of furniture that I think usually comes to mind when barley twist is mentioned.

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18th century French walnut table with barley twist legs. Serpentine columns and barley twist were especially predominant during this time.

During the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14) cabinet makers predominate style of leg was the popular barley twist turned leg. 

There are fabulous little tables out there with barley twist legs. Search for them at auctions, Craigslist, antique malls and fairs.

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A rare French Antique Louis XIII style open barley twist writing table.The ability to carve open torsades or spirals such as the four comprising the legs of this table was considered the height of professional accomplishment achieved by only a few artists.
This lovely room features a desk with barley twist legs.
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An antique French Henri II carved oak barley twist table/ library desk.

Inessa Stewart Antiques

A 19th century French Renaissance barley twist etagere buffet. 
The barley twist design has embellished many fine antique cabinets, side tables, and chests over the centuries.

The barley twist design was originally hand made and hand carved. Here my friend Patrick Damiaens, who is a Master Ornamental Woodcarver from Belgium, works on a large barley twist.

 English craftsmen soon learned to create the intricate twist on a lathe. This led to more variations of the barley twist being made such as double and open which involved hollowing it out.

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After tables, I think chairs are commonly associated with the barley twist design. I adore antique French needlepoint upholstered chairs, and if they come with barley twists it's icing on the cake.

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Barley twists became a much desired design element as part of the revival of interest in Gothic and Renaissance style. Here the chair legs are connected by a barley twist trestle to provide support.

I love the medieval look of Gothic style dining rooms with barley twist legs, etc.

The Dining Room, Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire

A great French carved server with stunning thick barley twist posts

Inessa Stewart's Antiques

Before long, people were using the barley twist as an ornamental feature, instead of a structural one. Here is a 19th century oak French Renaissance armoire with barley twist 

This tall and beautiful antique Welsh dresser, complete with barley twist columns,will make a statement in any room! 

An antique 1880 French hunting style carved buffet beautifully enhanced by the barley twist design element. 

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This beautiful piece reflects the French tradition of massive and sturdy furniture. Beautiful foliage in the form of leaves, fruit, vines, tree branches or barley twist were often carved along edges of buffets.


A Henri II style buffet with exceptional carving and barley twist.
Hunting style furniture was produced in 19th century during the Industrial Revolution in France better defined as the Renaissance Revival.Furniture makers specialized in detailed carvings of winged griffins, lion’s heads, and trophies of the hunt, including deer, fish, eels, rabbits, birds, and dogs. 

The glamorous bed with carved barley twist posts add stunning design to any bedroom.

Here are a few other lovely bedrooms with barley twist bedposts.

What a fabulous bench standing on four barley twist legs connected by a barley twist stretcher.

You don't have to have a big presentation of barley twists to give and old world feel to your room. A hint of it here and there does the trick. 

It's funny how just a sampling of the barley twist design element can manage to provide instant medieval flair to a room.

Small tables with barley twist legs will work with a variety of styles if you like an eclectic look.

Here a bit of barley twist on the arms of a lovely little cane back seat gives an English feel to an equestrian style space. 

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Bring country charm to any tabletop with a collection of Barley Twist Candlesticks.

Barley twist balusters create beautiful staircases with a very old world flavor.

Either natural or painted, barley twist embellishment on a kitchen island is another way to incorporate them into your interior.  

I'm loving this painted barley twist column with it's wonderful gilded capital.

Joss and Main

Painted furniture pieces featuring barley twists are quite appealing as well......especially when done in shades of ivory.

Recipe as promised.

Sugar - 2 1/4 lbs warmed
Barley - 9 oz (hulled)
Water - 9 pints

Stir barley and water over gentle heat until dissolved. Cook the barley for 5 hours in water.
Strain the water and barley jelly like liquid and return it to the pan.  Add sugar and cook at 300 degrees until hard crack stage, being careful to not burn the sugar.  Pour mixture onto an oiled marble slab. As soon as mixture begins to cool, cut into long strips and twist them.

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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