I wanted to re-imagine a particular domestic interior which would be witness to confessions, secrets, and dangerous passions for my first novel. It had to be a middle class London town house, the sort a well-to-do manager in charge of a large, WWI munitions factory might live in. This was to be the room where the central drama of my heroine’s life would play out.
From research, I learned that by the first part of the 20th century, the drawing-room had given way to the sitting room or living room. It was now furnished for everyday use and for comfort. It was much less formal than in previous eras. Electric lights were installed and the fireplace was still a focal point in the room. Furnishings and upholstery complemented each other but didn’t necessarily match. Reproductions of 18th century furniture were all the rage and less fussy wallpapers in light colours became fashionable.
You can find some of the settings and furnishings which inspired me on my Pinterest board, here http://uk.pinterest.com/hughes7584/inspiration-early-twentieth-century-house/
From these emerged my vision of an elegant room, with tall windows leading onto the rear garden (a ‘war patch’ of vegetables mainly replaced flower beds during the first world war). In the mornings, letters and cards would be written sitting at an 18th century reproduction escritoire or table; in the afternoons, visitors might take tea from Wedgwood tea cups; of an evening the room’s ambient lighting would come from one or two art-nouveau inspired lamps and a shellac record of popular songs of the day would be playing on a HMV gramophone.
I was helped in creating the imaginary room by a visit to The Geffrye Museum of the Home www.geffrye-museum.org.uk in East London, where a number of period rooms have been recreated. Attendant mood boards showing soft furnishing and flooring materials provide extra details. There is a small library holding relevant reference books for further study.
Book research is a useful starting point when I am trying to ‘get inside’ a period. Seeing a fully furnished room adds an extra dimension.
Any photographs are the author’s own.