Sunday, 22 November 2015

Room Layout

Cheverells, by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd

The idea that we’ve come full-circle to the medieval Great Hall with our "modern" open-plan "living spaces" is now a cliché. But...

"Greater iPad use is causing a demand for quiet spaces around the home," says the Guardian Nov 2015. Will we start building walls again?

The classic "country house" living room is big, light and airy. There’s a large mirror on the narrow mantelpiece over the fireplace, to reflect light into the room. Between two high windows is a tallboy or commode: a high chest of drawers on legs. On its top are a few antique items (candlesticks, Chinese vases), and above them on the wall is a circular convex mirror – again to reflect light into the room.

How did people live in those huge rooms? Judging by contemporary paintings, they created a “camp” around the fireplace with easy chairs, stools, occasional tables. Light chairs for guests were set against the wall, so that if people called you could easily carry a chair into the circle for them. (We admire Regency furniture for its "light" look – so unlike heavy Victoriana – but it was all about portability. Though you probably rang for a servant to move the tables.)

In one watercolour, the round table is set with a carafe of water and some fruit. Books are in shelves set into niches. A table near the window is being used as a desk. It’s on castors, so it could be pushed against the wall if necessary, as are the easy chairs and tea-table. At the far end of the room is another fireplace in an apse, with niches on either side holding comfortable sofas. Huge French windows lead into the garden.

In the centre of the room is a Chinese carpet that acts like a picnic rug – delineating the territory so that the furniture doesn’t look lost. In the centre of the rug (and the room) is a circular table with a long, thick cloth over it to protect its surface and hide its legs. On it is a bowl of pot-pourri. It’s convenient for reading, writing or putting down a tea tray. Also leaning against the wall is a folding table that can be brought out for cards or teacups. On the walls are light, bright pictures and in the corner is a chaise-longue for resting on. (You can’t lie on your bed during the day because you will untidy it and make work for the servants. Poor Charlotte Brontë used to rest sitting in a chair by her bed, leaning her head on her pillow.)

Most of this is from a wonderful painting of an interior by Walter Taylor, 1860-1943. It looks like a first-floor drawing room in a Georgian town house. A first-floor room will also have a better view and get more natural daylight.

A watercolour of the drawing room at Cheverells by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd shows a large Victorian drawing room very like today’s “open-plan space”. There’s a pier glass at the end of the room, reflecting the window; chairs and a settle (high-backed sofa) by the fire. There’s another settle against the wall near the window, with a sturdy table in front of it piled with sewing gear. On a round table (again covered by a cloth) under the window are newspapers, books and a knitting basket. In the far corner of the room are a harp and piano. All very cosy – everybody can gather in the warm and get on with doing their own thing, using the natural light from the window. (But Emily’s harp practice might have cut into your reading.)

But where on earth do you put the TV? How about “in another room”?

Friday, 13 November 2015

History in Quotes

Time-travel paradox

Or is this historiography? Or alternative narratives? It's about how change happens, and how we think about it, and how we try to make others think about it... (Oh, and can we make change happen by pretending it already has? Popular in the 80s.)

This narrative that says that everybody before about 5 minutes ago was UNAWARE but now we are AWARE and YAY. (Dominic Fox ‏@domfox)

I tell my son my pink shirt is of an era. He doesn’t know what an era is, he’s ten years old. (Peter Andre)

People call terrorism "medieval". But it was a far less destructive age than our own. (@JonathanFoyle)

The moment we left the middle ages behind and set out on the track to modernity. (BBC trailer for programme, 2013 If you want to know what "Whig history" is, this is it.)

The past is never dead. It's not even past. (William Faulkner)

Britain between the wars - an era whose dying embers lasted until the late 1960s. (Steerforth)

The past has its past. (Time magazine on Mad Men, and putting 50s objects in a 60s interior)

It is a fallacy to believe the past is dead; it lives with us all the time and should teach us to inform all our present actions. (Spinoza)

Times have changed, people are different, that other generation is hypocritical and rigid but WE are not. (Moira Redmond on Vita Sackville-West’s The Edwardians)

Much as we would love to believe that we saucy and imaginative moderns are responsible for introducing misbehavior into a previously fun-free world, Miss Manners is afraid that the population, even back then, consisted of actual human beings. (Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour)

But one possible value that a gadfly like me can have is in noticing, over time, certain fashions and repetitions in thought and behaviour – certain cultural tics – and pointing them out. (David Aaronovitch Aug 2011)

1962 —The future still approached, although architect Charles Moore says that it “came and went in 1957”. (Web)

The present fashion of putting off marriage until the woman is about 35 and the man 40 or over is utterly unnatural and unwholesome. (As somebody said in 1919)

They looked up and the times had changed... (Amazon review of John Le Carré's The Looking-Glass War)

That most distant of periods, the day before yesterday. (Guardian 2008)

The world has not changed as much as we would like to think. (The Week, Sept 2011)

Some of the things that people face in some parts of the world, we have lived through in our lifetime in our world. It makes one wonder why they don't take advantage of our experiences. (friend JP, 2011)

South Asians and Arabs and their diasporic peoples are Elizabethans still. (Yasmin Alibhai Brown)

The 21st century is unevenly distributed.

Mata Hari's Luggage

Mata Hari, as she called herself, was an exotic dancer shot as a spy in 1917. When MI5 searched her luggage in 1916 this is what they found:

Hat box containing 6 hats, 3 hat pins, feather boas, one veil, 2 fur stoles, 3 hat decorations, one imitation peach (another hat decoration), 1 dressing gown.

Trunk with 1 pair gent’s boots, 1 brush, 1 bundle washing, 1 pair puttees, 1 pair spurs, 3 pairs shoes, 3 chemises, 1 napkin, 1 pair leggings, 3 veils, 1 box ribbons, 3 bra shells (falsies?), 2 belts, 2 underskirts, 3 skirts, 1 dress, 4 pairs gloves, 1 umbrella, 3 sunshades, 1 pair stockings, 1 blouse, 3 scarfs, 1 night dress case, 1 coat, 1 costume (jacket and skirt), 1 bag of dirty linen, 1 bundle sanitary towels.

1 box containing 4 hair ornaments, 1 hat pin and false hair, 3 fur necklets, 1 bottle Vernis Mordore Dore (gold nail varnish), 1 box powder, 1 bottle white fluid (makeup).

Boot trunk containing 6 pairs slippers, 1 box face cream, 3 pairs boots, 2 pairs shoes, 1 pair stockings.

Trunk containing 2 pairs corsets, 30 pairs stockings, 1 lavender packet, 1 veil, 8 under bodices, 1 handkerchief, 1 underskirt, 1 shawl, 10 pairs knickers, 3 princess petticoats, 3 combs, 2 dressing jackets, 11 chemises, 1 dressing gown, towel, 1 garter, 2 coats, 5 blouses, 4 dresses, 1 petticoat, 1 scarf, 2 pairs gloves, a collar, 2 powder puffs.

Trunk containing 1 handbag with mirror inside, 1 hair comb, 3 coats, 1 box containing comb, 1 dress, 1 ornament, 2 pairs shoes, 2 fancy boxes, 1 box containing copper plate and visiting card in the name of Vadime de Massloff, Capitaine, 1ere Regiment Speciale Imperial, Russe, 1 pair gloves, 1 blouse, 7 dresses, 2 princess robes, 1 petticoat, 1 belt, wooden box with 2 brushes and china tea service.

Gladstone bag containing 2 pairs shoes, nail polishers, box of powder, pair of stockings, 2 boxes containing cigarettes, 8 hair nets, box visiting cards, box soap, pair gloves, 2 powder puffs, 1 under bodice, 2 nightdresses, handkerchief sachet containing 21 handkerchiefs, 1 dressing gown, 1 empty cash box, bunch of keys, pearl necklet in case, monocle in case, 2 earrings in box, 2 pearls in  case, green stone ring in case, green stone necklet and 2 earrings in a case, 3 fans, 2 cloth purses, one containing 1 £ treasury note, 5 or 6 pounds in silver, 1d copper, 14 silver coins and 5 bronze coins, holdall of cotton, needles etc, handbag containing cigarette case (photos inside), powder puff and rouge stick on chain.

Boat tickets, visiting card stamp, treasury note case (empty), bank note case containing four 100 franc notes, two 1000 franc notes, one 60 guilder note, one 40 guilder note, one 50 pesetas note, one 400 Russian note, 2 pieces music, bundle of photographs and French dictionary, cheque book, crayon drawing, pocket wallet containing papers etc. One travelling rug. One fitted ladies dressing case. Letters etc.