marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,


Home:  A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski

A tracing of how our modern ideas of comfort came about.

Starts with a discussion of medieval homes and monasteries, including medieval inventions of furniture -- the first drawers were used by the Church. 

Life in the Dutch Golden Age and genre painting, showing their homes, and the women in them because for the first time the home really was becoming the woman's sphere, on account of the men starting to have places of business elsewhere. 

The court of the Sun King and the evolution of chairs, which are not common world wide and led to such other inventions such as desks, and Rococo, which was the first design solely used for the interior. 

The English country house, which meant that most upperclass English spent much of their time at home, or at other people's homes. 

The evolution of plumbing, ventilation, and light, technologies that deeply influenced the constructions of homes and their comfort. 

The American domestic engineers, who got a good audience because of the American lack of servants and produced such innovations as a much smaller home -- that much less to sweep -- sinks with cabinets under them for cleaning supplies, and kitchen counters. 

Revival styles for interior decorating.

The New Spirit pavilion for the Art Demo Exposition -- Le Corbusier was involved.  Much discussion of how it talked about mechanism and making the home a machinery for living versus the domestic engineers, who were actually doing the drudge work of working out how to make a home more efficient and consequently had no objections to decoration as long as it didn't hinder the housework.  (Guess who comes off looking the worse.)

Concludes discussing how a new, modern style could come about -- the reason, he suspects, that we have so much old-style decor is that "modern" decor is not comfortable.  It needs a new vision.

If it sounds very various -- well, all the topics fit in.
Tags: history reviews: across eras, secondary source

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