The Last of Victoriana

The Last of Victoriana

Victoriana was stylized as modern in the 19th century. The latest and newest interiors were influenced by the manufacture of ample materials used in profusion without any aesthetic considerations. Ornament was almost entirely produced by the turning-lathe. Balusters, spindles, wooden grilles, and dwarf columns were used in profusion without any consideration given to order. Layered mixed designs were used on all vertical and horizontal surfaces. Wall composition and orderly furniture arrangement were disregarded.

Excessive use of unrelated patterned surfaces on walls, floors, and upholstery were common. Walls were covered with wallpaper of poor design, painted stencil patterns, or real or paper-mâché imitation Spanish leather. Windows were dressed with heavy draperies, swags, valances, and jabots, enriched with heavy fringes. The machine, manufacturing furniture, accessories, wallpaper and accessories, all highly profitable products dominated the industry.

profusion of designs

Drawing room in Robert Edis London house circa 1870

According to Peter Thornton’s book 1984 “Authentic Decor” this image depicts the profusion common in Victoriana. The ceiling had stenciled decoration. The deep frieze at the top of the wall was painted by an artist. Gas-piping beneath the frieze was used as a picture-rail. Walls were papered with William Morris’ designs in a pomegranate pattern. The cabinet was ebonized (stained in a black finish) and had painted heads representing the season. Curtains covering the shelves were common.  Floors were covered with patterned rugs. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

These images show layers and layers and layers in design profusion of confusion. Even the most elegant interiors were smothered in mixtures of patterns, designs and color. Every corner, every window, every door had some kind of finish, not necessarily designed to work together.

The Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in  Norwalk, Connecticut built circa 1870’s had the same fate as the Robert Edis house. In its elegance the Drawing room walls, ceiling, floor, all surfaces and windows were covered with fabrics, furniture, accessories and mirrors to double your view. Take a real tour. See Victoriana for yourself.

Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum Drawing room circa 1870

Victoriana ended when it was realized quality of design had gone lost. New ideas of simplicity became easier to live with. And handmade furnishings became important again as they are today. If not for the history of Victoriana we would not understand the importance of uncluttered, organized, well-designed spaces.

Steampunk is designed to be tongue-in-cheek Victoriana.

Victoriana house remodeled to stylize Steampunk

You can have some fun, see Steampunk and roam through this house at www.modvic.com.

Enjoy. If you want to get some Steampunk, call the vendor. The contact information is below.

Don’t forget to leave your comments, questions and challenges. My question to you, what have you always wanted to know in interior design and didn’t have anyone to ask?

Bruce Rosenbaum
President
ModVic, LLC
SteamPuffin
36 Pleasant Street
Sharon, MA 02067
781-784-0250
bruce@modvic.com
www.modvic.com

 

 

WHAT DOESN’T VICTORIANA LOOK LIKE?

WHAT DOESN’T VICTORIANA LOOK LIKE?

Phlip Johnson

Philip Johnson Glass House Contemporary Interior, New Canaan, CT

 

 

 

 

Please note the clean, contemporary, organized space in the Philip Johnson Glass House.

All images are from Victoria Lyon Interiors www.victorianlyoninteriors.com.

This week’s blog is about space, order and design and has nothing to do with taste. Taste is ambiguous and personal. You can apply your taste to any of the basic concepts discussed.

The images above are vignettes of traditional design.

Old world elegance mixes with modern colors and textures to create the master bath/dressing area for the lady with very discriminating tastes. Designer Victoria Lyon says her space “evokes the casual elegance of an English country house,” but also brings in modern touches that “let us know that the lady of this manor definitely belongs to the 21st century“.

The dressing area features sweeping curtains, a feminine skirted dressing table and a plush chaise. Old world fixtures, a free standing burnished metal tub and a sparkling marble shower create a bathroom with character and class.

The image below “Traditional Country” is an uncluttered, well-organized, well-designed space. The soft, warm color on the vertical planes (walls) is comforting and pleasing. Warm deep colors have vibrations, move forward into the room and take up visual space.

traditional country

Traditional Country www.victorialyoninteriors.com

Crowding can cause conflict in a life, in a mate, in a child. All this talk about beauty, function, good design, what does it mean? If you like lots of stuff around you, okay. But how is it arranged? Is there order? Is there negative space, meaning quiet space? A place of peace?

Function … what in the world? Clocks have a function, cars have a function, computers have a function. So what has function got to do with space? Space has to provide a place for you to stand up, lie down, sleep, wake.  And all the activities in-between. Where do you write your checks, where do you write your stories, where do you play? If you have any, where are the kids, where do they snack, where do they do homework, where do they play?

Here are a few examples of functional items. Clocks, clocks tell time, what would we do without time? Cars are constructed to take you from point a to point b, computers output and input information. If we take a look at the world around us, everything we need is organized in some way.

You may like contemporary, you may like traditional, you may like the American style (mixture of both), it doesn’t matter. The images above are well-designed, well-organized, functional spaces.

Nineteenth century Victoriana had no specific order. The more stuff squeezed into a space, the more it supposedly displayed great wealth.

Order is important for our well-being.

Thank you to Victoria Lyon interiors for her gracious participation in this blog. www.victorialyoninteriors.com.

Come back next week for more Victoriana surprises. Remember to post your comments. I especially enjoy your inquiries and challenges.

What about you, your home, your office, your play space? You love clutter. OK! But is it organized?

 

Are You A Steampunker?

Are You A Steampunker?

Mighty news is in the works – Victoriana is back. I never thought I would see the day. From all I remember as a youngster, to my concentrated academia and career in the arts and disciplines teaching about beauty, I believed Victoriana had produced some of the ugliest products ever made in history. Like living in “Dark Shadows.” My years of work and study in art, design, and architecture have produced in me a clear idea of how space, color, and unity can be utilized to produce a well-designed and functional environment. Environments like schools, sports stadiums, spas, places of worship, galleries, museums, our homes and more. The list is long.

According to Wikipedia: Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power was widely used—usually the Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of Steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.

Image below on the left is a handsome 21st Century clock by Roger Wood made in the aesthetics of Steampunk style. Metal and layers. See more on his website. http://www.klockwerks.com

Steampunk garnered its name from the idea of steam power and the inventions of the industrial revolution. It is based on history. Robert Fulton and his steam engine were instrumental in changing manufacturing. Eli Whitney and his cotton gin made extracting cotton from the plant easier. The spinning jenny run by steam made weaving easier. The Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human history.

Image on right is the only surviving example of a Spinning mule built by the inventor Samuel Crompton.

Almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Machine-based manufacturing became protocol. Victoriana produced thinkers of future possibilities and science fiction, hence Steampunk; layering, metal, designing with objects of technology.

Image on right, Victoriana style, is a Herter sofa made for the Lockwood’s, circa 1867. Two of the sofas can be seen in Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk CT. The mansion is still looking for the other pair. Lockwood is open to the public. www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com 

Remember a couple of years ago in fashion when layering became popular? Now it’s more popular than ever. We discovered layering works, both indoors and outdoors, and it is fashionable. For fashion, so many designs are being shown in layered form.

Free People fashions for Bloomingdale's

2011 Free People on the left in particular.

 

Image above on right: 1905 Duster keeps the road dust from the new automobiles off her layers of underclothing.

Mrs. Lockwood layered in corset, petticoats, slips, blouse and can you see more?

Image on left: Let’s look at Mrs. Lockwood in the 19th Century in the Rotunda of her home,  Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum. Layers once again.  Can you figure out how many layers she is wearing?

Come back next week for another look at Steampunk and Victoriana. How are those layers being translated? Are we heading for another Victoriana or will we stop before it goes overboard? It may be too late!

Steam Punk, Victoriana, and the Golden Section

Steam Punk, Victoriana, and the Golden Section

Nineteenth Century Victoriana was funky, like Steampunk is funky. Some call Steampunk Victorian science fiction. The terminology, Steampunk, is a 20th century invention. It is Victoriana revisited in exaggerated form. It is neo-Victoriana.

Previously, I talked about the effects of the Industrial Revolution’s machine-made products. If you wanted to appear rich, acquisition of machine-made products was protocol. The products were usually poorly designed, over-designed, and multi-faceted.  Classical, good design in past centuries was based on the golden section, also known as the golden ratio or the golden rectangle.

According to Wikipedia, at least since the Renaissance, many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio—especially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratio—believing this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing.

The golden section is a line segment divided according to the golden ratio: The total length a + b is to the length of the longer segment a as the length of a is to the length of the shorter segment b.

 

 

In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. The golden ratio is an irrational mathematical constant, approximately 1.6180339887. (Source:  http://britton.disted.camosun.bc.ca/goldslide/gold37.jpg)

Mathematicians have studied the golden ratio because of its unique and interesting properties. The golden ratio is also used in the analysis of financial markets, in strategies such as Fibonacci retracement. The Fibonacci numbers appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit spouts of a pineapple, the flowering of artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone.

If you can decipher what this all means, you can look at the human face and see the proportional regularity. Jennifer Lopez is considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Imagine? Check out the relationship of her facial proportions using the formula above.

“Without mathematics we have no art.” Pacioli 15th century mathematician. (Source: Wikipedia)

What I am trying to impress on you is what beauty means, what beauty is, what beauty does. When we surround ourselves with well-proportioned spaces, objects, fashion, and yes, even people of beauty, as defined by the golden section, we feel up-lifted.  We don’t know why, we just feel good, and we want some.

So what about this Victoriana and Steampunk? The two iconic inventions come from similar elks, the 19th century invention of the steam engine, steam power, and history.

Lamps to look like prop planes, clocks stuck into Empire State Building objects.  Gears, a symbol of Steampunk.

The image of this clock is strangely kitsch, meaning tacky, made-fun-of, typical of Steampunk. Victoriana was seriously tacky, Steampunk is seriously fun. Steampunk makes fun of the seriousness of invention. (Source: Clock from Brenda Lewis, attorney and writer, Milford, CT)

 

Can you find the golden section in Renoir’s The Boating Party? Hint: it happens twice. (Source: Gail Ingis’ collection of images)

 

 

Victoriana: Can you find the golden section in this Victorian chair? Hint: the “a” section is out-of-scale to “b.” Is there a golden section? (Source: 19th-Century American Furniture and Other Decorative Arts. Figure 127)

 

 

We have talked more about what Steampunk and Victoriana are not. They are not the golden section. Next week we will talk more about what Steampunk and Victoriana are. In the meantime, see if you can use the information here and above to discover beauty. Hint: use trace paper. (The illustration to the left is a woodcut from De divina proportione illustrating the golden ratio as applied to the human face. Source: Wikipedia)

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