Fin-de-Siècle Britain saw many new styles and innovations in the architecture of houses. Some of these new designs were visual whilst others were more practical. A mishmash of styles were created by a number of different architects in an attempt to redefine British architecture, but they would effectively only give the period a sense of chaos. Throughout it all, however, there were common trends which emerged such as the use of new technologies to make homes more affordable and to raise living standards.
Technologies such as electricity and better plumbing were new to the period and gave houses a new set of features which their predecessors never had. Electrical lighting became a standard for upper-middle class houses as early as the Late Victorian period, but had become common for the rest of the middle class by the Edwardian era. Indoor plumbing gave rise to the use of bathrooms and stationary bathtubs as well as indoor water closets. Other technologies directly affected the home, but were not a part of it.
The ability to mass produce wallpaper, glass, rounded wooden balustrades and other decorative items meant that homes became more decorative than they had in the past. The average person could now afford to wallpaper every room in the house to their liking whilst windows became more ornate with the ability to cheaply produce geometric patterns in the glass as well as stained-glass windows. Staircases in the average middle class home could now be much fancier with carved balustrades and decorative railings. All of these were used to the owner’s advantage to show off the family’s social and financial standing in the community. Of course all of these Fin-de-Siècle trends had their exceptions. Not all buildings were built following them, but enough were to be able to define the era’s architecture by them.
Architecture in the Fin-de-Siécle found itself in a similar situation to just about everything in the period. It was at a crossroads between the old and the new as technology continued to develop at an ever-increasing, exponential rate which would see the twentieth century advance like never before. Houses reflected this mixture between the old and the new in that many elements and values of the home remained from the High Victorian era, but obvious signs of change had already begun to take place in every aspect. The Fin-de-Siècle house, therefore, is a very important milestone in the evolution of British housing.
This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.
The full bibliography is located on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page.