Ideal homes, 1918–39

Domestic design and suburban Modernism

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Shortlisted for the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion for an outstanding contribution to architectural history, 2018

Winner of the 2020 Historians of British Art Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period after 1800, 2020

 

‘A fascinating book, dealing with a range of themes, including class, gender, empire, taste, good design, efficiency and nostalgia, which are linked to the idea of 'suburban modernity' in Britain and its material manifestations in suburban houses and their interiors. Sugg Ryan succeeds in evoking the material culture of a past era which, in certain ways, resonates strongly with our own.'
Professor Penny Sparke, Kingston University

‘[Deborah Sugg Ryan’s] new book covers the type of content and arguments rarely seen in publications on modern design history: the invisibility of certain styles, their potential for inclusion and a commensurate re-evaluation of significance[.] Keeping ordinary people’s histories, rather than heroic architects’ and designers’, at the heart of her work distinguishes this book from others. The findings are shaped by primary sources, rather than locating examples to fit “predetermined theories of Modernism and modernity”, allowing the importance of home ownership, decoration and social standing to determine the outcomes. This book succeeds in contesting the exclusion zones design history has placed on what Kjetil Fallan, an academic leader in the discipline, calls “the vast masses of modern material culture not conforming to the modernist ethos”, with Sugg Ryan calling the field to account in its pursuit of the endorsement of the Modernist Movement alone, with the exceptions escaping these narrow parameters few and recent. When the author refers to multiple modernisms that are inclusive of interwar ‘medieval modernism’, ‘liveable modernism’ and ‘amusing styles’, you can be sure this book is going to open the reader to entirely new and unconstrained ways of thinking about suburban interior decoration.
Catriona Quinn
Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture

‘Sugg Ryan’s deep knowledge of the history of inter-war domestic design brings us some fascinating detail on the genealogy of the key objects used by residents to signal their knowledge and appreciation of modernism.
English Historical Revew
February 2020

‘Deborah Sugg Ryan's book begins with the personal and then develops into a fascinating and detailed study of housing design and the meanings of home in interwar Britain. These interesting intersections between the subjective, design history and a social history of the home makes for a gratifyingly fresh take on the history of housing design and domesticity during the years 1918 to 1939. The book is well-written, convincingly argued and successfully merges design history, social and gender history in what is undoubtedly an important new contribution to twentieth-century British history.’
Caitríona Beaumont
Cercles

‘Deborah Sugg Ryan's book makes an important contribution to the history of design as it was experienced by lower-middle-class and middle-class consumers in Great Britain in between the two world wars. Weaving a narrative out of such varied sources as the Daily Mail's Ideal Home exhibitions, period advertisements for new housing developments, women's domestic advice literature and the individual histories captured in the Mass Observation Archive, she presents a history of the architectural style and interior design practices of new suburban developments in the 1920s and 1930s.’
Kristina Wilson
Journal of Design History

‘Grounding her discussion in the discipline of design history, Sugg Ryan explores the aspirations and tastes of new suburban communities in England during the interwar period. Four individual stories of home ownership and homemaking reveal different aspects of emotional investment in domestic design and the drive for individuality. The author investigates how the design and decoration of these domestic spaces forged gender identities and a new suburban class.’
R. P. Meden
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