Thursday, 24 January 2013

Decorate your home, transform your life!

Decorate your home, transform your life!  The idea that it's possible to transform a room (and by extension, your life) with just a lick of paint, a dash of imagination and - most importantly - the help of a trusted advisor - is nothing new.  Only a small minority have ever had the luxury of employing professional interior designers.  The majority of us muddle through in the great tradition of doing-it-ourselves, or with only minimal help.

These days many of us get our ideas from television programmes, such as Kirsty Allsop's.  But the tradition of decorating advice in magazines and manuals goes back to at least Victorian times.  Books such as those by Rhoda and Agnes Garrett, Mrs Panton and Mrs Haweis offered the Victorian homeowner the equivalent of Kirsty's advice for their day.  (Deborah Cohen's book Household Gods contains a fascinating chapter about these female home decorating advisors, making clear the importance of the link between their work and their contribution to female suffrage - but that's another story).

In the 1930s, publications like this one promised that "with a few easily contrived alterations [and] a judiciously selected harmony of colour", you could have a, "Jacobean Interior - a Chinese room - an entirely Modern Interior - or what you will".

'More New Rooms for Old;
further suggestions for modernising the home interior'

by Grace Lovat Fraser, around 1935
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA 394)
This booklet was published by paint company Pinchin, Johnson & Co Ltd, and is essentially a promotional tool for their products.  But interestingly it was authored by Grace Lovat Fraser, "the well-known authority upon all matters pertaining to home decoration".  I'm interested to find out more about Grace Lovat Fraser, who wrote a number of books on textiles and seems to have worked for textile company Horrockses in the 1930s.  If you know more about her do let me know!

In the meantime, if you are interested in the history of domestic advice manuals you might want to come along to a seminar at the Geffrye Museum next week.  The programme looks fascinating - maybe we'll see you there...

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