Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France

The visual culture of a new profession

Author: Anca I. Lasc

This book analyzes the early stages of the interior design profession as articulated within the circles involved in the decoration of the private home in the second half of nineteenth-century France. It argues that the increased presence of the modern, domestic interior in the visual culture of the nineteenth century enabled the profession to take shape. Upholsterers, cabinet-makers, architects, stage designers, department stores, taste advisors, collectors, and illustrators, came together to “sell” the idea of the unified interior as an image and a total work of art. The ideal domestic interior took several media as its outlet, including taste manuals, pattern books, illustrated magazines, art and architectural exhibitions, and department store catalogs.

The chapters outline the terms of reception within which the work of each professional group involved in the appearance and design of the nineteenth-century French domestic interior emerged and focus on specific works by members of each group. If Chapter 1 concentrates on collectors and taste advisors, outlining the new definitions of the modern interior they developed, Chapter 2 focuses on the response of upholsterers, architects, and cabinet-makers to the same new conceptions of the ideal private interior. Chapter 3 considers the contribution of the world of entertainment to the field of interior design while Chapter 4 moves into the world of commerce to study how department stores popularized the modern interior with the middle classes. Chapter 5 returns to architects to understand how their engagement with popular journals shaped new interior decorating styles.

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‘Anca Lasc’s massively researched and clearly presented investigation constitutes a vital chapter in the history of this kind of design.'
Stefan Muthesius, Nineteenth-Century French Studies

‘Anca I. Lasc’s well-researched book sets out to bring serious attention to the rise and work of the interior designer in the second half of the nineteenth century in France, and in this it admirably succeeds. Mining an impressive corpus of previously understudied archival materials, with a focus on print culture portraying domestic interiors, Lasc makes a convincing case for a scholarly reconsideration of the period’s interior design aesthetic, an aesthetic that has traditionally been dismissed as mere eclecticism or historical pastiche.'
H-France
February 2020

‘Brings to light an impressive number of understudied source materials on French design ... a useful reference for those interested in connections between the work of professional domestic designers and other print images of interiors, such as those found in mass-circulating fashion plates and photographs. It should also appeal to scholars of literature seeking historical context for the interiors that figure prominently in works by certain literary authors of the period.' 
H-France Review
March 2020

‘Joins some of the most intriguing and ambitious contemporary writing on nineteenth-century design by pointing to the ways in which developments in design, its expression, and its practice were very often mediated quite outside of the practice of design itself.' 
Design and Culture
March 2020

‘Lasc recounts a very detailed history of a profession through its literature and visual culture. This history, especially her detailing of the intertwined nature of art and decoration throughout the nineteenth century, allows us to understand better the history of design and where design, the decorator, and the interior as a space of art, were at the end of the nineteenth century.'  
H-France Review
March 2020

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