Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Thirtiestyle publication relaunch

MoDA's Business Manager, Claire Isherwood, announces the re-release of one of the museum's most popular publications: 

One of the best selling publications from the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture,  Thirtiestyle: Home decoration and furnishings from the 1930s has been re-printed and is now available to order online here 

Thirtiestyle is a fascinating and colourful guide to all aspects of decoration and design in the 1930s home. A compendium of contemporary illustrations and photographs, the book shows the choices available to consumers during this period. Author Katie Arber drew on MoDA’s extensive collections of retail and trade catalogues, domestic magazines and household manuals to produce a vibrant and beautifully illustrated guide to the 1930s interior.  The book provides comprehensive coverage of the features of a home, including detailed sections on: bathroom and kitchens, fixtures and fittings, furniture, wallpapers and paints, carpets, cushions and upholstery, fireplaces and heating, lighting and finishing touches. Each area is covered in a way that is highly informative while at the same time hugely enjoyable to read.

If you are interested in reading more about the 1930s in MoDA's collections take a look at this guest blog post by recent MA graduate Ellen Martin, of Brighton University.  If you would like to make an appointment to view similar items or any other material in our collection please email

ThirtiesStyle is just one of a whole range of publications produced by MoDA.  Other titles in the series are: Turn of the Century Style, Fiftiestyle, Sixtiestyle and Seventiestyle. All of these - plus the Museum's other publications - can be purchased from MoDA's online shop and postage is free! 

For Trade Enquires contact Central Books Ltd 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Charles Hasler PhD Studentship opportunity

MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, is pleased to announce a new PhD studentship opportunity:

Following the recent publication of our new book Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings, we're delighted that Middlesex University has agreed to fund a PhD studentship to support more research on this fascinating collection.

The Hasler Collection has belonged to the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture since the 1990s, but until now it has remained a largely untapped resource.  The Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings book (available via the Middlesex University online store) was intended to prompt further scholarly research into the collection, and it's great that this is happening already.

Prospective PhD candidates should take a look at the details on the Middlesex University website: 

If you are thinking of applying you should make yourself aware of the scope and content of the Hasler collection by making an appointment to visit the museum in the first instance (please email

You should then discuss your proposal with Professor Anne Massey, Director of Research in the School of Art & Design, Middlesex University ( before submitting your application.

The deadline for applications is 20th November and interviews will be held in December 2015.

Good luck!  we look forward to your applications.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Charles Hasler Send his Greetings

MoDA's Head of Collections, Zoe Hendon, reveals the detail of MoDA's latest publication.

This week the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture held a launch party for our new book Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings.  We were pleased to be able to hold the event at the House of Illustration in Kings Cross, and we had a great turnout, despite the torrential rain.  Thanks to all who came along!

Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings is a taster of the many wonderful things contained in MoDA's Charles Hasler collection.  Hasler (1908-1989) was a typographer and graphic designer. His collection reflects his magpie tendencies and wide-ranging interests: it contains all kinds of printed and paper ephemera, from Victorian postcards to examples of work by big-name contemporaries such as Abram Games and Edward McKnight Kauffer.  (We've featured Christmas cards and notgeld (banknotes) from Hasler's collection on this blog before).

Professor Phil Cleaver, Middlesex University 

At Monday's launch event we were privileged to be joined by Professor Phil Cleaver, who opened the proceedings; and by Hasler's daughter Caroline, who provided some fascinating background to her father's life. The book's author, Jane Audas (freelance writer, curator and blogger), also gave a short preview of its contents and explained about Hasler's involvement with the Festival of Britain.

Caroline Hasler (left) sharing some examples of her father's work

As Professor Cleaver pointed out, the Hasler collection is a fabulous resource for students since it shows  something of the process of design (the messy, the unfinished, the work in progress) as well as the final product.  It's fascinating as evidence of the way graphic designers worked in the pre-digital age; everything had to be drawn by hand, and the collection as a whole was built up to meet the need for visual reference long before Google and Pinterest became available.  And though Hasler is not well known as a designer, he was certainly associated with the best designers of his times, and his collection therefore includes rare examples of greetings cards, invitations and magazine covers by his friends such as Paul Nash, Barbara Jones, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Abram Games.  

We hope the book is the beginning of further research into both Hasler himself and the many fascinating aspects of his collection. 

Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings is available to order from MoDA's online shop

Charles Hasler Sends His Greetings: the Ephemera Collection of a Mid-Century Designer

Foreword by Phil Cleaver, introduction by Zoe Hendon, essay by Jane Audas. 

Published by the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Middlesex University, Sept 2015.

Format: Hardback, 148.5mm x 210mm, 57 colour illustrations

Price: £15

ISBN: 978-0-9565340-5-7

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Collecting Colour

Middlesex students studying the Creative Non-Fiction module on the BA Creative Writing with Journalism programme visited the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, led by Dr Josie Barnard, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Journalism.
This guest blog post is by Sylvia Ikua, a student who visited the museum as part of this session and was inspired to write about a very special object from our collection.

I often refer to this intriguing piece simply as “the dye book” when speaking about it with Curator, Sim Panaser, at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA).  The book is a sort of ‘how to’ for dyeing fabric.  It contains over one hundred pages, filled with more than two hundred colour samples on fabric swatches.  The varying colours are due to the use of natural and chemical elements whose ingredients have been methodically pencilled in.     

Dye Book,1894, badda3192, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 

Mystery surrounds the book.  The owner of the book is believed to have been an Oswald Gunnell. Mr Gunnell’s name appears handwritten inside the front cover.  Some of the information currently held about the book is owed to the examination and research that has been conducted into it.  It has been presumed that the book is the result of Mr Gunnell’s hobby.  The book’s informal exterior does resembles a very large journal or crafts book. 

The blues, badda3192, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture 

However, wanting to find out more about the owner of the book, Curator, Sim Panaser, conducted further research about Oswald Gunnell.  Sim discovered an article co-written by Oswald Gunnel titled ‘The Colouring Matter of Querbracho Colorado’, published between 1878 – 1925 in The Journal of the Chemical Society.  The article extract indicated an investigation into the dye properties of Querbracho Colorado, a tree found in “the northern part of the Argentine Republic”.  Interestingly, the article also refers to “Alum”, an ingredient which was noted on page seventy-four of the dye book.  The article was co-written by Arthur George Perkin.  Mr Perkin is thought to be the son or a relation of George F. Perkin who established G.F Perkins and Sons, a dye works in North West London.  One of his sons, William Henry Perkin was mentioned and pictured in the first chapter of The Colour Revolution by Regina Lee Blaszczyk.  Blaszczyk notes that while studying, W.H Perkin “accidently synthesized a deep purple dye from coal waste” helping to “establish the field of synthetic organic chemistry, and ushered in an era of rainbow colors”. 

Another fascinating discovery was a patent under Oswald Gunnell’s name, granted by the United States patent office in July 1928, for a “label or tab for use with goods which have to be dyed”.  The connection between the name and an invention related to dyeing suggested this was the same Oswald Gunnell who had produced the book at MoDA. 

Children of the light...a note found inside the dye book

The book’s potential historic connections add to the element of intrigue that stir up when browsing through its dated, crisp pages.  In the book there are a few torn pages with ash near the binding and what resembles a recently clipped on white paper with writing which resembles a poem or incantation by an unknown author.  Glancing at the book, it is these small details that drew me in and continue to make me wonder about its creator and journey.    

A big thank you to Sylvia for writing this blog post. Sylvia graduated from Middlesex University this summer and we wish her all the success for her future.  

Monday, 24 August 2015

Collections Assistant required at MoDA

Are you a bright and enthusiastic Museum Studies graduate looking to gain experience to kick-start your career? 

We are looking for a  Collections Assistant to support colleagues in the day to day running of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Middlesex University.  The role will include a mixture of administrative and collections-related tasks, and is intended as a training role which would suit someone interested in pursuing a career in museums.

You will be enthusiastic about helping to maintain museum records in support of all areas of museum activity.  You might get involved with the preparation of e-newsletters and maintenance of the mailing list; you might also be helping with routine tasks such as object inventory checking and data entry.  A willingness to adopt new digital tools to ensure a high quality service to MoDA’s users would be an advantage, as would an awareness of social media. 

You will need a degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline,  and an interest in the subject areas covered by MoDA’s collections (history, design history, nineteenth and twentieth century decorative arts and design).  A postgraduate qualification in Museum Studies or equivalent is desirable and some experience of working in a museum in either a paid or voluntary role is essential. 

This is a temporary post (nine months) which will not be renewed or lead to a further role. For more information about the museum in general please see the website and the blog.  More specific information relevant to this post can be found on the ‘Useful Documents’ page of the website here

If you wish to apply for this post you can find the Application Form and further information here

Post title: LIB688 MoDA Collections Assistant
Salary: £19,229 per annum including London Weighting
Period: Full time, temporary 9 months
Closing Date: Monday 7th September
Proposed Interview Date: Thursday 17th September

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Value of the Everyday

This week's guest blogpost is by Ellen Martin, who recently completed an MA in Design and Material Culture at Brighton University.

Last year I completed my MA in History of Design and Material Culture at the University of Brighton – and the wonderful collections at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) were crucial to my research process throughout.

My dissertation – ‘Furnishing Fabrics for the Suburban Home in the South East of England, 1930 – 1939’ – sought to bridge the gap between histories of the ‘ordinary’ suburban home and of textile design in the 1930s. Existing histories of 1930s furnishing textiles have favoured the modern output of pioneering artist-designers and studios, such as Edinburgh Weavers. In reality however, these modish fabrics would have been used to furnish the homes of a fairly wealthy and style-conscious minority!

So how were these modest homes really furnished? What fabrics, patterns and colour palettes really appealed to the new residents of Barnet and Hayes, Edgware and Enfield? Were modern styles adopted, or did loyalty lie with traditional pattern?

Before too long I recognised that mass-produced furnishings sold at lower market levels don’t merit much space in today’s museum archives. It’s a sad fact that designer names take precedence. Existing everyday textiles are particularly difficult to source as they are so perishable. My research would warrant some more shrewd investigation, using secondary sources to build an image of the market.

This is where MoDA’s collections prove so valuable. The ordinary, everyday and indeed domestic are celebrated here! It was through the advertising material, trade catalogues, exhibition catalogues, estate agents' publicity and domestic photography of the period that I could build more realistic picture of the market. The archive also comprises a fantastic local history resource – one that paints a rich picture of North London’s twentieth century suburbs.

Illustration of ‘The Dining Room’ in Wates’ ‘Wakefield’ house,
exhibited at the Ideal Home Exhibition. 1938.
Exhibition catalogue. Wates Guaranteed Houses: Olympia 1938.
© MoDA. Object number BADDA4619.

This image is from a promotional brochure made by Wates construction company, who built a huge amount of suburban housing outside London in the 1920s and 30s. They promoted this imagery of newly-built suburbia to prospective buyers – and as can be seen, the curtains here suit the domestic scene – plain and pretty. The frilly pelmets encase leaded casements windows typical of such homes. The image below is a photograph of a suburban show-home.

Living room interior of Messrs Edmondsons Ltd. show home, 
furnished by Henry Haysom on the Meadway Estate, Southgate, North London. c. 1930. Photograph.
 © MoDA. Object number COP3.
Again, the styling is traditional and typically ‘English’ – damask covers the settee and thin chintz curtains line the windows. In this way, a domestic aesthetic was already constructed, one to which new residents could easily conform. Construction firms even struck deals with local furnishers and advertised their wares in show-homes.

Trade catalogues and advertisements paint a similar picture. This trade brochure from London-based furnishing store Waring & Gillow presents a range of furnishing fabrics to suit a range of budgets. There are no modern styles on offer here – instead, traditional silk damasks, floral printed cretonnes, chintzes and stripes.

"Warings Great Household Event" brochure, c.1915-1930. MoDA. BADDA149.
Preston-based firm John Hawkins & Sons Ltd. promised to bring ‘the Mills to the Multitude’ with their mass-produced fabrics sold at modest prices. Hawkins specialised in cheap printed curtain and dress fabrics and commissioned designs from the Silver Studio throughout the 1930s. Catering to popular taste, most of their fabrics in this decade were floral, traditional and most importantly, ‘charming’. They often used oranges, browns and beiges popular in the thirties and known as ‘Autumn Tints’.

‘Cretonnes & Casements’. 1933. Trade catalogue. Hawkins Household Catalogue.
© MoDA. Object number BADDA71.
As can be seen, abstract and geometric shapes were incorporated into floral design in an attempt to adopt the modern trend. This diluted fusion of styles became known (often disparagingly) as ‘modernistic’. It is also interesting to compare some of the Silver Studio’s designs (held in the MoDA archive) for similar furnishing fabrics from this period. The design below, for example, designed by George H. Willis in 1932, also combines angular shapes with more palatable floral sprays.

Design for furnishing tapestry by George H. Willis for the Silver Studio. 1932.
Charcoal on tracing paper.  64 x 47.5 cm. © MoDA. Object number SD1898.
These examples just touch the surface, but MoDA’s collections offer the design historian valuable insight, not only into the designer’s world but the consumer’s too. What I think is important, is that these objects testify to popular taste, rather than just the cultivated and cultured.

We're grateful to Ellen for this thoughtful and perceptive piece about popular tastes in furnishing in the 1930s.  

Friday, 5 June 2015

My first week

Francesca Stotter, a Middlesex University Law Undergraduate, talks about her first week working as a Temporary Collections Assistant at MoDA.

I’m at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) for two months as a Collections Assistant, helping the MoDA team with the day-to-day running of the museum by carrying out administrative tasks and offering a hand wherever I am needed. Before starting at MoDA this week, I had just come to the end of the second year of my three year undergraduate law degree at Middlesex University.

Working at MoDA is completely different to anything I have done before but I have already begun to enjoy it immensely, as there is always something to be done or a new design I can observe. The team have been very open and welcoming towards me and I already feel like a team member on my third day.

Whilst here, other than wrapping my head around the documentation and cataloguing systems,  I have had a chance to see some of the Silver Studio Collection but have for the most part been working with the Charles Hasler collection, whilst the team make preparations for the upcoming book that will be launched in September. Both collections are amazingly beautiful and intricate in detail, spanning over hundreds of works in different formats, I hope to see and learn more of them over the next two months. 

On my first day, I was covering and sorting the Good Housekeeping magazines that span back over fifty years, showing how much domestic design and architecture have changed over those years and just how influential it is on households and society. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much is stored in the archive here at MoDA and constantly find a new book, textile or design that catches my eye and has me in awe, the original designs, textiles and other items kept here are truly amazing. Before working here, I had no real grasp on where modern designs and ideas for home decorating actually came from, but it has been an insight to see all of these original designs and learn about them.

I have no prior work experience at a museum, but I often spend a lot of my free time in them. Working here is giving me a new and fresh insight into the world of museums and how they work behind the exhibitions and shows.  I can only imagine that I will continue to enjoy this job until I have to leave in July and I hope to get some legal work before starting again at university in the autumn. I feel that this job will give me a unique perspective that will help me when I go on to practice commercial law. Working here has given me an insight into the workings of a museum and also into the interests and needs of potential clients that I may encounter in the future.