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Edwardian Interiors

This period should be seen as both the Indian summer of the Victorian world and the awakening of a modern and vibrant new century.

- Trevor Yorke (The Edwardian House Explained)

Growth of the Edwardian Middle Class

There were three basic Edwardian social classes - the working class, the middle class and the upper class. It wasn't easy to define the middle class as it wasn't one cohesive group but rather a hierarchy of groups between the classes above and those below.

"People in this class owned no land... your gentility was almost purely theoretical....Theoretically you knew how to wear your clothes and how to order a dinner, although in practice you could never afford to go to a decent tailor or a decent restaurant. Theoretically you knew how to shoot and ride, although in practice you had no horses to ride and not an inch of ground to shoot over."

- George Orwell

The middle classes were anxious to gain respectability and confidence by separating themselves from the classes below. Etiquette was essential when you were part of the middle class and there were numerous publications available that gave advice on how to behave. In protest against the dirt and diseases of city centres, health became a fashionable obsession for many.

As the transport system improved, it became easier for those who could afford it to move out of the inner cities to the new suburbs where houses had gardens.

It is interesting to note that there wasn't a general aspiration for people to own their own homes, renting was socially acceptable and 90% of of all British homes were rented on leases.

In the late 19th century, most Victorians were still living in heavily draped, cluttered and overfilled rooms. But by 1901, with the official end of the Victorian age, fashionable interiors became lighter, less cluttered and simpler.

"...a certain fashion for expensive simplicity was beginning to make itself felt; a certain taste was arising, which tended to eliminate unnecessary objects."

- Vita Sackville-West (The Edwardians)

The Ideal Home

During the previous century, the Victorians strived towards the ideal of morality and social duty. Their homes were a very important part of family life, but they had an obsession with privacy. The spaces within their homes were planned so that children, adults, servants and guests could all be separated and they created as many rooms as possible, each one with its own specific purpose.

With too many rooms, passages and small windows, Victorian houses weren't at all suitable for the Edwardians' new style of living.

"By the Edwardian period the mid-Victorian moral home had given way to the healthy home"

- Helen Long, The Edwardian House

There was an idea of the 'Ideal Home' at the start of the 20th century which was displayed at the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1910. This 'Ideal Home' had eight rooms: a hall, living room, four bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen.

Health and hygiene became hugely important and houses now had to be lighter, airier and more comfortable than before. People needed individuality, flexibility and informality from their homes and they aimed to create a cosy homeliness.

Edwardian Entrance Hall via Pinterest

Sunlight, cleanliness and simplicity were high on the list of the Edwardians' priorities. Paler colours and carefully positioned windows were used to bring sunlight into the house.