The ways both publicly and privately as materials

The home can be summarised as the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household or someone’s or something’s place of origin, or a place where they feel they belong. Personally my home is my place of origin, not where I live now, but where I was brought up and spent most of my life, I will always call that home, but of course this varies on person to person. The home is also where we carry out private, personal activities such as dressing, cooking, eating, bathing and sleeping. “There are times when the very idea of home seems an impossible proposition. There are other times when our homes express infinite possibilities, when they reflect exactly who we are and what we might be”. As Akiko Busch describes, the home is also a place where we have the freedom to express ourselves without any judgement, it is purely personal and intimate, as if it were a mirroring reflection of a story of who we are inside and what we are about.Through centuries the domestic landscape of the home has reflected the inhabitants but during those years this has evolved and developed due to endless factors such as social, cultural and political. I am going to explore the reasons why and how they have developed through the last three centuries and compare them to domestic layouts today. Victorian Architecture developed in the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s formed by the rapid growth in population and the influence of new technologies and new materials available, typically designed with bay windows, high ceilings with heavily detailed cornicing and heavily patterned decor and furnishings. New forms of transport meant that interiors were affected in various ways both publicly and privately as materials such as wallpapers, textiles and carpets were now being mass produced and imported. Modernity was a sensitive subject in the nineteenth century and it wasn’t until the twentieth century that modernism was seen as a positive influence for interior design. The industrial revolution created issues in terms of taste among the middle classes as they panicked about how to best decorate and furnish their homes now that products were being mass produced. On the other hand, for the upper classes the industrial revolution meant even more wealth and better taste as their homes and jobs improved. The Victorian era boasted large properties on the edge of the city in suburban estates with large gardens and a handful of servants. During this period a book called Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management was published to teach the inhabitants of these upper class, three storey houses how to best conduct themselves within the household by setting out rules and teaching how to behave in the social circles of one’s associates. “Taste was not a simple matter, and reflected one’s place in society.” – The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design. In the nineteenth century it was essential to live in a house of a size which enhanced the status of the family as the social position depended more on the size of a man’s house than on any other factor. Let me begin with the front of the house, the elaborate front door entrance. “All of this spells out the poetry of arrival in a place where no one enters”. Front door entrances were traditionally designed to present the house to the world to welcome others as it is the hospitable part of the house, its main purpose is to remind us of a time when public and private rituals structured people’s lives. However, nowadays times have developed and we no longer transport ourselves on horse and carriage as we pull up to the side of the house in our new swanky cars, therefore using the side door. The famous side door is now a more practical and convenient route to entering the house, especially with armfuls of shopping. Most of us stay away from the ceremonial front door because it represents a formality which we no longer have great use for and we find greater comfort in informality, and chose to take more casual routes avoiding the exposure to our neighbours by using the front entrance. This mainly occurs in more suburban areas as houses are typically semi or fully detached and have the space to accommodate a driveway for a car next to the house, whereas, in cities you will find people will still enter their houses using the side door as they prefer a more private, disclosed entrance to their homes. Which brings me to the point that privacy has significantly impacted the way in which we design homes as through the years our attitudes towards privacy has changed. In the twentieth century homes were more public than they are today, a huge factor being that crime and devastation was not as half as bad during that time as it it is now, as now we have more private, concealed behaviours that are influenced strongly by the feeling of being safe. In the fifteenth century it was recognised by architect and historian, Siegfried Giedion that the layout of the kitchen was designed around heat sources. The fireplace was the dominant architectural feature of the kitchen which everything else was to be designed around it. As the industrial revolution progressed, domestic work became women’s work whilst men took a backseat working in the factories. Food preparation was located separately from the building as any open flames and cooking smells were thought to be inappropriate for the other areas of the house and the kitchen was reduced to nothing more than a service area during this period. In the nineteenth century, kitchens were rarely seen in artworks of interiors as they focused on more sophisticated areas of the house such as bedrooms, drawing rooms and salons. In the case that it was portrayed, it represented a place where lower classes laboured showing a place of work rather than a place of pleasure. The Victorian kitchen accommodated various spaces such as a pantry, a larder, and a scullery but as processed foods became more readily available, the need for all that space diminished as processed foods were beginning to overrule Siegfried Giedeon’s theory, that the kitchen is designed around heat sources and instead now, showcased the technology of domestic food processing. “When processed foods were introduced it was seen as a luxury as it would save housewives from unwanted domestic labour whereas now it seems to be a luxury to be able to do the work yourself”. Today the kitchen has become a performance area and a celebration of our sensory experiences showing the shift in English attitudes towards domestic rituals. In many houses the kitchen is known to be the grandest interior as we see cooking as a personally rewarding, sophisticated skill that we want to share with others hence the oversized worktops and dining space. Kitchens are developing and constantly responding to new and improved technologies, we no longer want to accommodate all the appliances we used to as now foods are available in every form; fresh, canned, frozen, so we no longer need to accommodate appliances such as food processors etc. In the twentieth century the dining room was considered to be the second most important room of the house, the parlour was the first. Meal times were special occasions, not only food and the arrangement was of high importance but also the way you dressed was crucial. However, as the evolution towards a more casual lifestyle continues we are more likely to eat our breakfast on the kitchen worktop or sat on a train, and eat our pizzas in front of the television than to sit formally in the dining room. Nonetheless, there is something satisfying about setting the table, and with our best efforts we lay the tableware out as neatly and precisely as possible, even if it takes a few attempts. “Domestic rituals can quiet the mayhems of the human spirit has been recognized and institutionalised throughout the ages, and recorded in the history of tableware and table manners”. Not only was the dining room formal in the twentieth century, it was also influenced by gender division. “The private interior space of the middle class home was increasingly defined as feminine territory, the antithesis of the public, external world of work peopled by men. Within the domestic arena, however, the key rooms tended to be further grouped to either side of the male-female divide, the most explicit contrast being between the “masculine” dining room and the “feminine” drawing room.” – The Handbook The male’s dining room would be situated at the front of the house and is the first door to lead off from the hallway, typically containing dark leather upholstery where they would engage with their friends and enjoy drinks after dinner. Adjacent to the dining room is the drawing room for the female which contains lighter furniture where she would prepare and serve breakfast. The gender division presents itself strongly in this era as the male dominates the interior with his grand dining room situated at the front of the house to boast importance, whilst the female remains quiet completing her chores at the back of the house demonstrating a domestic hierarchy. A similar reference to masculinity was made in the painting below.                          A Bloomsbury Family (1901-1907) by William Orpen. As you can see the painting depicts the male at the front of the scene engaging with his family. The furnishings and decor are dark and cold which the male chose himself. The children are sat respectively at the dining table whilst his wife appears to be non-existent in his presence as she fades into the surroundings “Almost a guest in her own domestic space”. – The Handbook. Today we no longer possess a domestic landscape ruled by gender division as we have evolved into a generation that is equal and the dining room and drawing room have merged into one, now just called the dining room. The formal dining room has become more of a computer room or a room where we fold the washing. In some ways we are forced to be more relaxed about the rituals of the family dinner hour as our lifestyles are too busy to be arranging the tableware and food neatly on the table. However, dining rooms are still existent as no matter how casual we are evolving we still want to hold on to our cultural heritage as we use this room for more formal and special occasions, showing off our best tableware. No matter how different our homes change, everything in it will always relate back to our heritage. The original purpose of living room was a room where you would receive and entertain guests, a display room to show off your taste and wealth. Through the years the living room has acquired various names from being a parlour in the eighteenth century, a drawing room in the nineteenth century and a living room in the twentieth century until today. And the question would be as to why? The answer relates back to the fact that we have evolved into a more casual lifestyle, we have changed our attitudes to courtesy as we think it is unnecessary to perform certain activities in front of people. The living room is still the social region of the house but due to our change in attitudes it is reflected in the development of floor plans todays as our social habits have changed since the previous centuries. All areas that were once necessary for social gatherings, we have now combined into one single living space as we require fewer rooms. However today, we still continue to show off our wealth but through more modern approaches such as technologies as the size of your television and sound system typically depends on your wealth. The reduction of rooms in homes through the years is also largely influenced by the astonishing increase in house prices as it costs significantly more per square metre now than it did in the late twentieth century as house prices have risen by an average of 800%. In 1980 the average house price in the UK was £23,497 compared to an astounding £211,672 along with multiple recessions this meant that UK houses had to be built using minimal rooms to be affordable for the average family. Hence why grand Victorian houses now have been developed into multiple flats as it is cheaper to make flats within a house of great size than to rent out individual houses as it is significantly more expensive. In the mid nineteenth century it was crucial in the English country house to own a library showing off your social status by the books you read and owned. This room was a variation of the drawing room as it often contained musical instruments where you would sit and entertain guests. Today knowledge barely exists in a physical space as it has developed into an electronic space occupied on computers. With the growing availability and decreasing cost of laptops and computer screens there is no longer the need to acquire a domestic library. We have more contemporary ways of owning books meaning wealth and class no longer determine who gets information and turns it into knowledge as the home library today is the internet. “We no longer associate comfort with knowledge” Libraries have an atmosphere of security and comfort which we no longer need to pursue as we can find knowledge in the comfort of anywhere we wish, even in the bathroom. Hence, why nowadays we have so much clutter and no storage space. As previously we had numerous rooms to hold our belongings, through the years it is apparent that we have decreased and we are carrying on decreasing the space we have, resulting in excessive cluttering and over consumption. In most country houses in Victorian England the laundry had a room of its own usually placed far from the main building to remove the steam and smell from the rest of the house and to provide enough room to dry clothes. The laundry was considered women’s work and throughout history has been known as the place of courtship, as men would wait for their laundry they would study the contents of the washing to know if a lady was married or had children. In the case that she didn’t, she would then be approached, hence why it is a famous place of courtship as Akiko Busch refers crudely to the laundry room as “nothing but a brothel” in the book Geography of Home. Today the laundry is no longer the work of women as the laundry room is now called the utility room suggesting no gender significance whatsoever. The development from a laundry room to a utility room lies in the fact that we no longer need masses of space, it is like the kitchen; we want appliances that reduce the time and space needed for household tasks, therefore separate rooms for all these tasks are unnecessary and time wasting. Now, you are much more likely to find a toolbox next to bottles of household cleaning products as we have a much more unified approach to housekeeping. During the seventeenth century those who did household work slept in a single room, often in the same bed. Towards the end of the eighteenth century bedrooms became less crowded as there was an increasing concern for health and hygiene which promoted the idea of individual beds and bedrooms. It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century that domestic privacy began to play a part in the way people lived and slept. Now, instead of filling the room with people, we fill it with things that suggest activities other than sleeping. “There is a time and a place for everything” Our bedrooms serve a variety of functions, for example a new city apartment in the centre of London where the space is premium, we want it all in the bedroom; books, a telephone, television etc. Particularly in some extreme cases the bathroom is located in the bedroom. The bedroom was initially a place to sleep but we have such busy lives that we feel the need for multiple activities to be located in one room. Which leads me to argue that consumer buying indicates that twin and double beds have decreased in recent years and queen and king beds are increasing as the stress levels of our contemporary lives now are driving us to by larger beds as they are no longer solely used for sleeping but also a sanctuary and retreat from daily life. The change in lifestyle has significantly impacted the way houses are designed as we no longer fulfil the original purpose of the rooms and the way houses were laid out in previous centuries. Older houses make little sense for how we live today as they no longer respond to our needs. The bathroom was an invention of the twentieth century, however dedicated rooms for personal hygiene was only seen in upper class homes. Otherwise, you would simply have a basin under your bed that would be used once a week filled with hot water and shared between the household. Cleanliness has always been considered a virtue, even in them days, and the rising numbers of people catching diseases such as cholera and typhoid due to unsanitary conditions meant that sewer systems had to be implemented. This lead to the development of porcelain fixtures as they were easy to clean, anything to reduce the chance of catching a disease. By 1920, the majority of new constructions included plumbing and one full bathroom and by the middle of the twentieth century, bathrooms were considered an essential component to every home. Today, bathrooms are significantly increasing in size and are more luxurious and better equipped than ever before with; Jacuzzis, massage head showers, televisions etc. Unlike centuries ago, the bathroom is considered the only place in the house where we are justified being alone and is in some ways, more than the bedroom, a getaway from the real world.  “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them,” Sylvia Plath wrote in her 1963 novel The Bell Jar. Today the typical domestic landscape is developing in significant ways due to the changing structure of family as it is fragmenting into a variety of households such as single parent households, homes that contain offices, homes for unrelated individuals living together etc. Most homes today express a different logic than they used to, we have new attitudes towards privacy, and security and home safety meaning the layout of our homes have adapted to respond to our needs today. Economic and social issues have shaped and changed our ways of working and living, we now use our bedrooms as offices, kitchens as living rooms and we are becoming increasingly creative in how we adapt space. The latest trend in domestic layouts both apartment and houses are open plan spaces, as I talked about previously we are evolving into a more casual and busier lifestyle, therefore needing our living spaces to be practical and efficient reducing them into one. There is no longer a pattern or cultural definition for our domestic layouts, it’s now a matter of personal choice and how the space works around us instead of the other way around. As technologies and materials develop, it has a knock on effect on our lifestyles. The future of domestic layouts will forever be in the hands of our lifestyles, therefore, they will always be changing but always relating back to our heritage.