Much of the 19th century society mores were fraught with symbolism. A house, a life, daily activities, clothes, reading choice, furniture, and the company one keeps says much about a person. Everything had double meaning, nothing was as it seemed on the surface.
Victorians were masters at compartmentalizing their lives and everything in it. They were very Prussian in that way; regimented and restrained. As such, it was simply understood for a man’s work life and home life should never overlap. A wife was instructed not to inquire about her husband’s business or work matters. Her role was to ease his stress from the work day. The Victorians virtually made a Cult of the Home (which stems from the Cult of Innocence). The quintessential Victorian life revolved around the home. The Home was still equated with worldly success. The size of the house, its furnishings, and its location revealed quantities about the family who resides there.
The public and private sphere were further separated. The public rooms were displays of worldly success and took up a considerable amount of space of the home and were closer to the egress. The furnishings in these rooms had to be of good taste.
Taste was not something personal; instead it was something sanctioned by society. Taste, as agreed by society, had moral value, and therefore adherence to what was considered at any one time to be good taste was virtue, while ignoring the taste of the period was a sign of something very wrong.
Every room had its sole function. A bedroom was simply where one slept, it need not be extravagant. Obviously, the wealthy did not apply to this maxim. However, the public and private spaces pulled apart. Receiving rooms, such as the dining room, the drawing room, and the morning room were often on the first two floors of the home. Further up the stairs was the entry to the private spaces, such as the master bedroom and another bedroom. Bathrooms were usually reserved for the landings and the highest rooms of the house were allotted for the children and the servants.
Moderns have moved away from Victorian assumptions regarding the home. I am no different. Diamondleaf Cottage is merely 1,400 square feet. My furnishings are Victorian antiques or replications with some rustic and modern lines thrown in for good measure. However, the colors are bright with touches of metallic and one neutral to ground the whole palette. The cottage is located in “Aldershot,” a town of about 50,000 residents . . . So what does this say about me, eh? What would the Victorians think?