|Christmas decorations in the 1870 room|
|Dinner setting in the 1630 room|
Each shot is accompanied by some information from the curators about the attitude to etiquette, meals and interior design from the ‘middling classes’ of London at that particular period in time.
A hall in 1630: The table is set with the second course, a mixture of savoury and sugary sweet dishes. These would have been particularly special because sugar was an expensive luxury. The sweets are made in shapes playfully imitating other foods or items, such as bacon and eggs, walnuts and a chequerboard of gilded and white leach, a dish similar to Turkish delight made of a boiled milk jelly.
A parlour in 1745: It is one of the evenings between Christmas and the New Year and a family are taking tea in their parlour after supper. They are sipping cordial, a strong alcoholic drink, with their tea. The cordial is served in glasses with a small bowl on a tall stem. A friend has called on the family and, because he has missed supper, he is offered two jellies and a glass of wine to make up for it.
A parlour in 1790: In diaries, journals and letters of the time people often referred to rooms and furnishings that they liked as ‘neat’, which meant bright and stylish as well as clean and tidy. This taste required lighter colours and much more delicate decoration. Wallpapered walls were particularly useful for achieving this effect, replacing heavily moulded panelling.
A drawing room in 1830: By this date colour schemes tended to be more unified, with matching curtains and upholstery, often in the same fabric.
A drawing room in 1870: As a room in which guests were made welcome, it would be carefully furnished with an eye to current fashion. Different patterns and styles might be used for walls, floors and curtains, creating a ‘busy’ impression.
|Decorative accessories from, left: 1870; right: 1890|
Between 1870 and 1890, the Aesthetic Movement gained dominance amongst the middle classes. It was a reaction against mainstream taste, and is on clear display in the1890 room, where a collection of small Japanese lanterns adorn a decorative display.
The 1890 exhibit also marks the introduction of the Christmas card, an English invention devised by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 as a way of streamlining the number of individual Christmas letters he had to write each year. It became common in the 1860s and really took off in the 1870s – when a cheap rate was introduced for mailing cards and unsealed envelopes.
1930s: This living and dining room, or ‘dining lounge’, is furnished in the Moderne style. Interiors were light with pale painted walls and furnishing fabrics in muted greens, oranges and beiges. There were fewer furnishings compared to earlier in the century and surfaces were plain and smooth.
Mid-Century period room: Social and domestic conventions relaxed considerably in the 1960s, and the family living room now had to provide for activities like homework, eating and entertaining. The room is furnished in the ‘Contemporary’ style, which was influenced by Scandinavian interiors and, in particular, Danish design.
1990s flat: This room is typical of an architect-designed loft in a nineteenth-century warehouse, with the kitchen, living and dining areas all in one, open space. The main features associated with this style of interior are bare wood flooring, white walls, sparse furnishings and modern furniture.
1990s flat, continued: Colour can be provided by the upholstery, a few decorative objects, such as coloured-glass vases, and a large contemporary painting or print. Sometimes, as shown here, a section of wall is picked out in a bright, accent colour.