In the Royal Society of Arts building (1772-74), for instance, Adam combined an Ionic pilaster—a rectangular column with scroll-like ornaments projecting from a wall—with a Doric entablature—the upper section of a wall designed in the oldest simplest Greek style, a liberty a Palladian would never have dared take. This new style consisted basically of a fresh combination of many architectural elements.
The various influences included the Palladianism of Lord Burlington and William Kent, both architects; the movement and vigor of the architecture of Sir John Vanbrugh; contemporary French influence, discernible particularly in details, planning, and furniture design; Roman archaeological influences; and the influence of ornamentation of the 16th century. Adam’s genius was thus a result not of isolated influences but of the synthesis of various lines of development. The Adam style was essentially a decorative style, and it is as a designer of interiors that Adam is chiefly remembered. He gave meticulous attention to every part of each room, from the carpets to the most unobtrusive decoration.
Robert’s first important work in London was the Admiralty Screen (1758). Through the influence of Lord of the Kin’s Works in November 1761 along with Sir William Chambers his principal architectural rival. By the early 1760s he had many domestic commissions; almost without exception these consisted of the completion or redecoration of earlier houses. It was ironic that despite his fame and ability Adam was rarely called upon to build completely new houses, nor was he to realize his grandiose ideas for public buildings until the very end of his life.
The first Adam interiors at Hatchlands, Surrey (1758-61), and Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire (1759-61), were still near-Palladian in style. But by 1761 his mature style was beginning to develop, and important commissions from this time include Harewood, Yorkshire; Croome Court, Worcestershire; Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire; Bowood, Wiltshire; and Osterley Par, Middlesex. In 1762 he was employed to redesign the interior of Syon House, Middlesex. (S.Mi.)