The Adam Federal home is the successor of the Georgian Colonial style. It corresponds with the end of the Colonial era in America and is sometimes referred to as post-colonial. Many would say that the Adam Federal home style appears to be quite the refinement of Georgian Colonial architecture.
Having existed from about 1780 to 1830, it was during this time that revolutionary European architectural ideals began to manifest and greatly influence the American landscape by large.
The Adam Federal style originated from the work of three Scottish brothers whose surname was Adam. Their work was inspired by their travels in Italy and Dalmatia, Croatia, where they explored the ruins of what once was the classical world. Because of this Greek and Roman details crept into their work. The three brothers were the first individuals to suggest a congruent look for both the interior and exterior of a home.
They also sought to dilute the rococo style, which was an 18th century French artistic movement and style, and the baroque style, which was a highly extravagant and dramatic architectural style commonly encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church. Both Robert Adams and James Adams published many books which led to quite the reputation and popularity. This led to Americans even uttering their names.
While “interior design” was a term that did not exist until much later, credited to Elsie de Wolfe in 1913, the Adams brothers would have been known for their incredibly decadent interior design style. Their interiors were abundant with striking neoclassical details.
The brothers sought to create distance from the highly calculated proportions that were typical in Georgian interior rooms. Instead they began to incorporate curved elements, extravagant plaster work, as well as stunning pastel color palettes that people were not used to. Thanks to the creation of new affordable paints, some of those colors include: Red/brown terracotta, bright pink, lemon, lilac, pea green and sky blue. Their style also exhibited various geometrical approaches.
As for the exterior, similar to a Georgian style home, the Adam Federal home had a boxy and symmetrical exterior and the doorway remained the focal point.
Adam Federal style homes would have either a flat roof with a balustrade or a low pitched roof. They would be two or more stories and could have anywhere from two to four chimneys. Windows were taller and more narrow in Federal homes and usually had shutters. Palladian windows are another telling feature. When it came to an Adam Federal style home, the home was much more ornamented while the entryway however was simpler but still elegant. While Georgian style homes sported columns by the entryway, the Federal home instead displayed pilasters or fluted pilasters. Moldings would also be thinner and simpler. There was also a decorative crown or roof over the front door.
Westover Plantation is a great example of Georgian colonial architecture, minus it’s entryway. In comparison to the Adam Federal style, the biggest distinction of a Georgian home is what are called wings or hyphens. They are the additional blocks of the home (a few stories smaller), to the left and to the right, that stem from the main block of the home. Georgian homes are wide and take up a lot of space. Adam Federal homes are different in that regard. There is usually only one main center block to a home.
This is exactly the type of structure you would expect on an Adam Federal home. This photo is the most true to the design.
Below is an example of a Georgian home that has been dressed up with Adam Federal home features. While the columned entryway, tall chimneys and wings (what appear to be home extensions on the left and right) are very much true to the Georgian Colonial home style. However, the shutters on the windows, the rounded windows and the pediment along the front roof line are all features typical to the Federal home style. This is why these two architectural home styles so often get confused.
While the Georgian Colonial home style and Adam Federal home style look incredibly similar, the telling signs of which is which, will always be in the details.