Edwardian Decorating

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PS. Kris. You pointed out something that became an important find for me, and I wanted to acknowledge you again.
I just read that the Edwardian era was all about clean and uncluttered, hence, among other things, they would have not had wall to wall carpets, as throw rugs could have been taken outside and shaken free of dust, which brings about the height of the couches you mentioned. (Disecting some of the components of the era to understand what they "were about" has been a real hang up for me.)

>>>allow the room to develop...like a garden...don't rush a good thing<<< Spoken like a professional! Besides, learning, planning and thinking about it, is half the fun!
Kris! K-Mart is in need of a new Design Diva! Martha Stewart has single-handedly driven them into bankruptcy because nobody is buying that cra---stuff. You could start a whole new return to Edwardian style! Hey! Retro is IN!!!

Hello all those of gracious living!

Randy- rival Martha Stewart? Well, that shouldn't be difficult nowadays...although to be honest, it would seem I'm going for that "Warsaw 1945" look- so chic! Shabby taken to the extreme!

Colleen- I am glad I've given you some bits; here's some more! Wallpaper: period photographs seem to indicate that if there was a wall, closet, or ceiling it Must be papered! But I believe this to be Victorian residue; for equal amounts of plain painted walls are seen- even in rented places or boarding houses.
Whicker seems to have been quite popular, giving the weekend summer place feel, even in cities. Bookcases and desks were as typical then as a tv is today...even in the slums one had at least a shelf of a few beat-up volumes of something. My immigrant Great-Grandparents would keep a stash of neatly folded newspapers and cast-off magazines, not because they were packrats; they would use the text to teach themselves English! The parlor was usually set up in a grouping of sofa/setee, one or two chairs with a table close by. It was an effort to create conversational ease, pouring tea, etc., as opposed to furniture spread out against walls rendering interaction almost impossible.
Oh! You mentioned chitz...slipcovers were used; but more for the practical reason of hiding worn, out of date upolstry, not because it was "in". Old money kept their money because of such thrift! When "tea-staining" became popular- I don't know.
Well, one last babble: Stain. Dark stain on wood (even naturally darker wood) I think came from the Neo-Gothic movement in the 1840's, when the fashion was to have a home like a Medieval cathedral! I'm not sure if this concept ever went away: we still think of mahogany a dark brownish with a hint of deep red. In fact, mahogany is really lightish- almost like a cherry. But the fashion must have stuck, and that is what people have grown to expect as the "true" color. So manufacturers give 'em what they want! Now, wood naturally darkens with age, but to accelerate the process artisans would throw ink into the stain (hence the term "ink-stained"). And varnish...in the days of linseed oil and who knows what else, that darkens up the wood also. And re-varnishing was a common "spring-cleaning" task...one sees the "crocodile" effect of that in antiques today.

Sorry! Great-grandpa was a cabinetmaker by trade: sawdust is in my blood!

Take care!

P.S.: Wax build-up? Marketing scheme- wood NEEDS protection; it wears off anyway. Wash grime off with good 'ole Murphy's, dry with clean cloth and use polish. In dry climates, do more often...especially the antiques!;)K.

Hmmm....maybe I should quit my job and give Martha a run for her money, eh? Thank you for thinking I give a little something to the topic; I was tapping away when you posted...now if I could only enhance my typing skills....

Actually, Kris, I am quite fascinated by your posts on this topic, especially the way you slip in tidbits as to why people did what they did (i.e. the slipcovers and folded newspapers). Another reason slipcovers were used (at least in my experience around Edwardians) was to keep new furniture protected. My grandmother never allowed anyone to remove the slipcovers. When the plastic ones came out, she put those on underneath. As a result, when she passed on, the furniture still looked as new as the day she bought it. The cushions were a little out of shape but the fabric was in perfect condition.


Tracy Smith

I remember my parents once getting plastic seat covers for the upholstery in one of our cars. This was a major mistake, especially in summer. I can remember getting out of the car and being stuck to the seat. And let's not even talk about getting into the car when it had been sitting out in the hot sun for hours.
Great updates, Kris. I agree with Kyrila. Fascinating indeed! Lots of good tidbits to watch for.
I recently saw a picture frame with the Crocodile effect you mentioned, and said to myself "Eeewww, who would buy that, let alone make it look like that?!" It makes sense now... (still wouldn't buy it though!)
Back to work. 3/4 done with the front bedroom, and want to get the stuff back in it before this weekend. Thanks for giving me lots more to contemplate when scrubbing walls and getting dingy from paint fumes. It really does help put it into perspective!
Hi Colleen,

Generally, a sofa was not set against a wall but more in the center of a room with a console table placed behind it. But I have occasionally seen a painting above a couch in old photos from the time. The point is to arrange it all in a way that is pleasing to you. You don't want a strictly authentic Edwardian treatment in a modern house or it won't be livable. Especially with tiny feet running amock, you will want your home to suit your lifestyle and personality.

Hope it is going well. Can't wait to see how you are coming with it all.

Colleen, you should contact Mike Tennaro! He's got some fabulous things in his store (besides books) that will fit in lovely with your decorating. I saw a couple of paintings that were authentic, they matched each other and would look terrific on a small wall where you want a couple of 8x10 size (or slightly larger) paintings. Also, have you considered using sepia photographs from long ago? Some of them are quite artistic and offer the viewer opportunity to use their imagination in contemplating what story the picture tells.


Bob Cruise

Former Member
Ah, the Edwardian Age!

It inspired my own personal decorating mantra:

"There is no such thing as too many peacock feathers."

Add a naughty litho by Aubrey Beardsley and you're all set!

Hi Bob! Yes, this is not only turning out to be extremely educational, but opening my eyes to so many new ideas. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle taking shape. Looking at my stark house, I can see where the old timers get the saying... "They don't make um like they used to!" Seeing a little clearer what was involved in decorating the rooms of Titanic, and today's cost for similar items, it is unbelievable!
Colleen, you might want to pick up this month's VICTORIA magazine which features monogrammed linens. These pretty sheets, towels, shams and fine birdseye face and hand towels can be found very reasonably. Some of the tablecloths and napkins can also be had for a good price and all are thick with monograms. Of course it is a lot of work to keep this stuff ironed but nothing is prettier than a bathroom towelbar full of monogrammed towels. The hand towels go for 3-7 dollars usually. White seemed to be the only color for sheeting and bathroom toweling-once in a great while I see ivory or ecru. The laces on some of the bed counterpanes and sheets are exquisite and in the upscale antique shows and shops. Sheets can go easily for $200 plus. Looking through many Gilded Age homes, white seems to be linked to the perception of hygienic and the floors are white tile with white porcelain or marble fixtures, nickel- plated faucets and white terry mats. Medicine cabinets hanging on the wall are interesting-usually painted white with a glass or crystal knob and mirrored front- such a change from the Victorian medicine chests. I am skipping up a few years and decorating an art Deco bathroom at present- looks like the Queen Mary!
Victoria magazine? I have never heard of it, but sounds like something I need to subscribe to! Monogrammed towels? Uh oh! I remember them in my grandmothers house, but hadn't given it a second thought! I recall a story I heard as a child. My grandmother re-did her bathroom, and purchased gray towels. Family members came out for a visit, but did not mention the bathroom and hard work that grandma did. Finally she couldn't stand it any longer and asked, "What do you think of my new gray towels in the bathroom?" To which the reply was "Gray? We thought they were white, and they had just turned that color from not being washed!" It was THE ONLY time that she had colored towels in her house.

Interesting on the tile, and so on in the bathrooms. One would almost think it would look like a hospital! Need to get in with a historical society and get an insiders look!

Randy. when I get it all finished, I will be certain to invite you over for tea! (I better purchase a tea set!)
Matelasse was popular especially in the summer homes and seaside cottages and had been popular also in Victorian bedrooms. It has never gone out of style and is still easy to find in bedspreads and shams. The whole subject of beds is interesting to explore. In the great mansions of Newport,married couples usually had separate bedrooms (with a communicating door!) and single or 3/4 beds were not unusual. Rosecliff mansion has a very large master bedroom with a pair of double beds. I expect if one was not a millionaire, the usual double bed was found in humbler homes. Caroline Astor wisely put son JJ in a Newport Beechwood guestroom with a double bed when he married his first wife Ava Willing, a Philadelphia socialite, so he would be compelled to get to know her better! Ava was Caroline's choice- and not a successful one as we know. Ladies were busy filling hopechests with handmade and trimmed linens too and our own Lady Duff Gordon published a series of handwork books on tatted edgings, pretty accessories, and even crocheted night caps. Embroidered tea napkins and card table sets were the rage for ladies who lunched and these dainty trifles for dressing table, boudoir and diningroom can be still easily obtained. Here is a link for asking questions and finding articles on lifestyle-The Victorian and Edwardian Ladies League The Victorian and Edwardian Ladies League and a photo of matelasse and a birdseye linen towel. Ladies doing the Grand Tour brought back glorious laces from Belgium and France, the history of lace would take hours to cover -but the Edwardians were wild for lace insertion on everything from dainty lawn and batiste tea dresses and blouses (called waists)to delicate bed covers and shams. And plenty of these little ladies had the maids to iron and launder them!
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