Sunday, July 3, 2011

industrial revolution and its effects on victorian interior design

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Before the 1700’s cotton, wool, silk, and tapestry were still being done by hand and even the few inventions to improve the process of producing these fabrics was still time consuming and limited the amount of fabric that could be produced. However, being a weaver or fabric maker was a pretty good source of income and was usually a family business. But the fabrics produced were sometimes if not always full of errors in patterns or lines at some point in the bulk of the material. So inventors started making bigger machines such as the cotton spinner and the jacquard loom to help make a more flawless product and at the same time allow for greater production of this material. These mechanical inventions and new processes which made it possible to speed up and constantly increase production as well as the movement of textile production from the home business to the factory is what is known as the Industrial Revolution. This new technology was not widely accepted at first because it halted killed common entrepreneur ship now being a weaver was not a lucrative business but owing the factory was. It was also met with protest because machines were threatening the wool industry, which was big at the time in Britain. Not only that, there was strong competition from other countries as far as how complex the designs were on their textiles. So they could curb competition and keep textile moneys in the country smuggling or import of Indian, Arabic, Egyptian, French and Italian fabric was prohibited for some time. But the public interest in these materials did not die so textile factories produced imitations of these materials. In Britain, by 180, the Industrial Revolution had fully mechanized textile factories allowing for greater and more elaborate textiles to be produced.

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The classes of this country also changed due to the revolution. Not only were there aristocrats now, but there was a middle class made up of factory owners, entrepreneurs, manufacturers and political activists, there was a working class made up of the coal minors and cotton factory workers and of course the extremely poor. Britain’s demographics also changed with its thriving industry as people who owned and worked for the factories were moving from the country to the city to be closer to work. And the aristocrats were vacationing in the city from April to July of each year for more recreation than they already enjoyed in the country.


Queen Victoria’s British monarchy began in 187 and ended in 101, the sixty four years of her reign was an age distinguished by a strong pride in inventions and self-confidence as a people. Victorians were delighted with their advance in scientific knowledge and technical skill. In many cased this pride in inventions supported aesthetic appreciation. For example, one could be proud of the imitation of on material by another-wood painted in imitation of mahogany, ebony or marble; semi precious stones, etc for decorative purposes. They were fascinated with these new materials, which were before only available or associated with the wealthy; the Victorians took pleasure in their display of commercial property. Although they were not the only culture to love these ornaments or have a strong reverence for the beauty of nature and imitating it, what distinguished them was their lack of taste in exploiting these subjects.


With Britain’s thriving industry and many colonies it was enormously prosperous. In the first half of the 1th c the swelling size of households, the rapidly burgeoning middle classes and their demand for new houses to proclaim their social position and means put enormous pressure on the already over crowded cities, driving people of adequate means further out of the fringes. As a result of the demands of a rapidly expanding, socially aspiring, population, architects and designers often plundered the past for inspiration.

The main styles to regain popularity were Rococo, Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish. The styles ebbed and flowed in popularity, often co-existing with one another.


In the homes of the rich in London Empire Classicism fought with Rococo Revival, Baroque, French, Italian Renaissance, Moorish, Egyptian, Oriental, and for course the all around popular Gothic style. These styles were either recreated as authentically as possible by determined historicists or carefully compiled by the cultivated rich from actual element of old European rooms. More often, though, styles were merely approximated, using loose interpretations of largely European models. It was not unusual for the wealthy and powerful to combine styles in the same house. Rococo was considered suitable for the bedrooms, boudoirs and drawing rooms, where as Gothic was appropriate for libraries, dining rooms, and other male preserves.

Rococo revival and French 18th c styles were the most widely accepted for interior decoration from the 180’s to the end of the century. The styles Neo-Rococo and Louis revival were of great general appeal to the socially mobile in England dud to their association with aristocracy tastes refinement. The style was light and cheerful and was considered feminine and frivolous. For the previously reason this style was reserved for boudoirs and rooms suitable for entertaining such as drawing rooms.

Anything neo-renaissance or italiante suggested scholarliness. This class sought to convey an impression of monumentality and weightiness. One of the characteristics of this style was its stress on drapery. Banded fabrics and emphasis on the horizontal were thought particularly appropriate.

Most popular in England, largely due to the architect Augustus Wilby Pugin (181-185) who had designed the interior and exterior of the Sir Charles Barry’s new Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben Clock tower, was the Gothic Style.

The middle class did not really have a preferred style; they generally reinterpreted any style that took their fancy.


Upholstery was highly patterned by this time due the inventions like the jacquard loom.

Fabric production was increased and more complicated patterns were accomplished as a result of the industrial revolution. But the process of upholstering furniture was also improved due to the industrial revolution. By the 180’s the use of the coil spring (invented in 18 by Gerog Junigl of Vienna) in furniture was widespread throughout Europe. In this new upholstery the same narrow strips of fabric or leather webbing were interlaced across a seat frame, and a piece of linen was tacked above it but as before, but it now supported a group of coil springs instead of horse hair. Each spring was sewn to the webbing and all of them were tied down to a certain height and to each other so as to resist lateral pressure. A piece of canvas covered them, and a thin layer of horsehair on top cushioned the sitter from the springs themselves. And as before, the exterior material be it cloth, leather or some other fabric was attached to the furniture frame. Coil spring upholstery necessitated a great change in the appearance of a chair or sofa, for the seat now had to be much deeper. In about 180 the loose tassels of silk used in tufting disappeared in favor of buttons, finished in the same fabric as the seat of back. By about mid century this feature was combined with coil springing in the technique known as deep buttoning springs were placed between the buttons, which were drawn downward, creating a series of indentations. Excess fabric was gathered into pleats at the buttons. Deep buttoning helped to hold the coils in place and maintain the shape of the seat.

These developments suited the increasing desire for comfort and luxury in furniture on the part of the expanding bourgeois market that was generated by the industrial revolution.

The Victorian period witnessed the most pronounced manifestation of this trend in overstuffed furniture. Rounded corners, replacing square-stuffing, were combined with coil springing and deep buttoning in forms that were both massive and opulent in appearance. Often, the entire wooden framework of a piece was covered in upholstery. Novel forms that displayed this type of upholstery were the Borne, Divan, Lounge Chair, and various sorts of Ottoman.


Heavy drapery festooned every possible surface in Victorian Homes-pelmets, mantelpieces, door lintels and tables. In summer, much of the drapery tended to be cotton, muslin or chintz; the colder months velvet or damask would be used instead.

During the early Victorian period the popular colors were crimson and bottle green. But after the introduction for aniline and other chemical dyes colors would be fairly lurid. When chemical dyes were developed in the 1850’s brighter colors were introduced, principally purple, Prussian blue, yellow and green. However this new brilliance could do little to lighten up the over all gloom prevalent during both day and night the window treatments cut out a lot of the sunlight, and artificial illumination was generally poor as paraffin lamps were not yet introduced.

The furniture tended to be rounded, heavily stuffed and elaborately trimmed. It was light colored and striped and floral chintz was used as loose covers for drawing rooms or bedrooms. Naturalistic pieces could be covered in plush, horsehair or dark silk, trimmed w/floor-length fringing, gimp and tassels. The upholstery on furniture pieces such as footstools and chair seats incorporated needlework; embroidered cloths, mats, antimacassars, beadwork and above all a type for tapestry embroidery called Berlin Wool work.

Towards the middle of the century, because Victorians like draping everything in sight, fireplaces were often dressed in fabric, a flounced pelmet, perhaps of velvet, attached to the mantle shelf and curtains that can be drawn across the opening when the fireplace is not in use was common.

Dressing tables were lavishly draped in lace-covered calico.

After 180 window treatments became symmetrical again. Divided curtains looped back low down and trailing into the floor would emulate a typical effect; contrasting linings or corded edges would give added authenticity. Behind heavy main curtains would be a pair of sub curtains in lace or muslin.

At the time the entire window was usually framed by a deep flat pelmet or lambrequin, which extended down 1/ of the curtain at the center and almost to the floor on either side. The lambrequin might be elaborately shaped and trimmed to reflect a particular style such as Gothic or Moorish. During this period there were also “glass curtains” (like net curtains) which hung against the lower panes to preserve privacy. Heavy silk or worsted damask figured satin and merino were fabrics favored for drawing rooms, with muslin for the summer. Green or red damask was for dining rooms. Chintz was reserved mainly for loose covers and for bedroom drapery. Trellis, floral sprigs, designs evocative of the Gothic style were the patterns or designs common on fabric.

At the window either heavy fringed drapery was pulled back to one side or divided with twisted rope and bed curtains were treated the same usually.


The Industrial Revolution in Britain eventually improved the processes of textile production and furniture upholstery and drastically changed the population of the city to large numbers and living in the country declined. The builders of industry lived in the urban areas while the aristocrats continued living in the country but vacationed in the city. This increase in population in urban areas spurned a building trend to meet the housing needs of these people and therefore a new era of architectural design and interior decorating in which Rococo, Gothic, and the Italianate styles was revived.

Features from almost every historical period were combined in the first half of the 1c. Fabrics were printed with gothic heraldic and Moorish designs, among others. Curtains and door treatments tended to be symmetrical, using brocades, velvets, tartans, and damasks, heavily trimmed with fringes and often lined with a contrasting color. Lighter touches were achieved with chintz move often kept for bedrooms or used for loose covers.


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