Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France

The visual culture of a new profession

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

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