Architecture and Furnishings

Beard, Geoffrey. Craftsmen and Interior Decoration in England 1660-1820. London: Bloomsbury Books, 1981. This is another of those gorgeously-illustrated coffee table books that you can become completely immersed in, and emerge hours later, blinking and disoriented. The eras covered by the book, the Stuart and Georgian periods, were times of home renovation on a truly epic scale. The land was at peace, money was plentiful, trade and ease of travel brought all sorts of new merchandise to the marketplace, and England’s rising pre-eminence in the financial world brought craftsmen from all over Europe eager to ply their trades for the great landowners. The book was written more for the architectural specialist than the ordinary reader, so you will probably not need quite the level of detail the author provides. There’s a very useful “Select Dictionary of Craftsmen” at the back, so you can find a particular worker to hire for your project.

Davies, Jennifer. The Victorian Kitchen. London, BBC Books, 1990. This book is a companion to a BBC series in the 1980s about the Victorian Kitchen, which is a companion to the BBC series titled “The Victorian Kitchen Garden,” which also has its own book, about which I know nothing. But I know I really, really, really like this book. It is incredibly helpful, and provides all the information you need about the furnishings, operation, and staffing of a Victorian kitchen, whether a duke’s or a shopowner’s. So, how were cream soups made before the blender? It’s here. First primitive ice boxes for keeping things cold, and the steps needed to make ice cream? Check it out. How did you protect the kitchen from the enormous heat put out by the huge range, and what could you use that heat for? It will tell you. Thanks to Courtney Milan, who raised questions about the nuts and bolts of running a Victorian house, which led me to this treasure. Like the Yorke book discussed below, there is careful delineation between the various decades of the long Victorian era. What worked in the late 1830s was certainly not much used by 1900.

Eveleigh, David J. Bogs, Baths & Basins: The Story of Domestic Sanitation. Stroud: Sutton, 2006. I could really have used this book while researching water closets for Eloisa James’s When the Duke Returns. It provides more information than you could possibly use about the contents and technology of British bathrooms, from the Seventeenth through the Twentieth Centuries. There’s quite a bit of technical jargon, and information about the brand names and the leading inventors and innovators in sanitary development. What I found most interesting were the connections between sanitary arrangements, and the moral and philosophical beliefs of the corresponding age.

Girouard, Mark. Life in the English Country House. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978. The subtitle of this work is “A Social and Architectural History,” which explains why I was tempted to list this in both places, as the information is excellent in explaining how the country house developed, based on the needs of the inhabitants. It discusses the evolution of the country estate from medieval times to the beginning of World War II. The illustrations include photographs, drawings, contemporary illustrations, and, my favorite, floor plans.  The author has written a corresponding volume dealing with French country houses. And yes, those were splendid, too, though I think innovations in plumbing lagged a bit behind the Brits.

Kilroy, Roger. The Compleat Loo: A Lavatorial Miscellany. London: V. Gollancz, 1984. This is pretty self-explanatory.  It traces the development of the commode in Britain from Roman times to the Twentieth Century. The illustrations are particularly enlightening. The tone of the writing is irreverent and entertaining. Perfect for bathroom reading.

Parissien, Steven. Regency Style. Washington D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1992. This book is worth it just for the fabulous illustrations. It will provide all the instruction and illustrations necessary to build a Regency house, including the furnishings and the garden. There’s even pages showing wallpaper samples and diagrams of chair backs and legs. In the back, there’s a directory of designers and a glossary. Whereas Summerson is helpful in helping you site your London house, this will help you decide what it looks like. My favorite photo is a full page shot of a Regency era shower bath, complete with tiger skin bathmat.

Summerson, John. Georgian London. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946. This traces the history of architecture, urban planning, and residential and commercial developments during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Need to find a fashionable new neighborhood for your hero to build his house? Need to find some architects to design and some entrepreneurs to finance new buildings? You’ll find it all here.

Yorke, Trevor. Georgian and Regency Houses Explained. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books, 2009. This delightful little book provides lots of information about the how and why and the evolution of Georgian architecture. It’s not a coffee table book–lots of little black-and-white photos, diagrams, maps and drawings. But I’ve found this very useful in trying to furnish a Regency kitchen, as found in an ancient castle. And the cool thing was, when I was in the kitchen in an ancient castle in France, it resembled very much the same kitchen I had described. Success!

Yorke, Trevor. The Victorian House Explained. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books, 2010. This is a companion book to the above book about Regency Houses. Because the Victorian era was so long, the author carefully differentiates between early, middle, and late Victorian houses. I was especially pleased to learn how sanitation increased with architecture styles, as running water and flush toilets gradually made their way into smaller and humbler dwellings. Photos are helpful, but small and black-and-white, but the drawings were excellent.

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