At Home with the World

A new exhibition will show how design influences from distant lands have shaped homes in England over a period spanning four centuries.

At Home with the World, at the Geffrye Museum in London, opens on 20 March 2012 and will reveal just how cosmopolitan our homes have been since the 17th century. 

Coffee pot made from copper designed by Christopher Dresser and made by Benham and Froud c1888
Coffee pot made from copper designed by Christopher Dresser and made by Benham and Froud c1888

The museum, which focuses on the living rooms of the English middle classes from 1600 to the present day, will reinterpret its period rooms, highlighting domestic designs, materials and decorations influenced by a wide range of cultures. 

Ebonised wood occasional table with a hexagonal top and inlaid decoration of mother of pearl made in England c1890
Ebonised wood occasional table with a hexagonal top and inlaid decoration of mother of pearl made in England c1890

In the earlier period, there was an emphasis on Classical design from Ancient Greece and Rome. In the late 19th century, the English middle classes developed a taste for the exotic, so this part of the exhibition will feature the Japanning technique. The 20th century saw an increased interest in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and emerging manufacturing technology.

Glazed porcelain dish made in Fujian China c1700 - 1720
Glazed porcelain dish made in Fujian China c1700 – 1720

The design influences mirrored new social customs, such as tea drinking in the 18th century. To illustrate this, the exhibition will feature early vessels used for tea drinking, such as Chinese porcelain teapots and saucers. These are objects which ‘became completely assimilated into our tea-drinking practice’, says exhibition curator Alex Goddard.

Large circular earthenware dish designed by William de Morgan thought to date from between 1888 and 1911
Large circular earthenware dish designed by William de Morgan thought to date from between 1888 and 1911

At Home with the World is part of Stories of the World, a London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project, where exhibitions across London will explore four aspects of life in the capital through the centuries – home, identity, journeys and place. The theme of identity will feature at the Horniman Museum; journeys at the London Transport Museum; and place at the Museum of London.

Table Chest combined coffee table and chest of drawers designed by Tomoko Azumi in 1995
Table Chest combined coffee table and chest of drawers designed by Tomoko Azumi in 1995

Examining how diverse cultures shaped our personal spaces, At Home with the World will inevitably trigger the question ‘what makes a home’.

Three legged chair designed by Hans Wegner in 1949 and manufactured by Fritz Hansen in Denmark in c1960
Three legged chair designed by Hans Wegner in 1949 and manufactured by Fritz Hansen in Denmark in c1960

At Home with the World runs from 20 March-9 September 2012 at The Geffrye Museum, 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2

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