Why Victorian Decorating Was So Cluttered: Unpacking the Design Trend

Victorian houses were often cluttered due to several cultural and societal factors of the time. Firstly, the Victorians sought to imitate the wealthy elite in the UK and Europe. This meant that they wanted to display their own prosperity and growth through the display of expensive objects. As a result, they filled their homes with various pieces of artwork, furniture, and decorative objects, which later came to be known as bric-a-brac. Additionally, mores of the time emphasized the importance of cleanliness and order, leading people to keep a tight grip on their possessions and accumulate as many as possible. Finally, mass production and globalization made it possible to obtain decorative items easily and rapidly, leading to the rampant accumulation of these objects.
  • The Victorians sought to emulate the wealthy elite in the UK and Europe
  • They wanted to display their own prosperity and growth through the display of expensive objects
  • Mores of the time emphasized the importance of cleanliness and order
  • Mass production and globalization made it easy to obtain decorative objects
  • Rapid accumulation of objects followed, resulting in cluttered homes
  • Despite the cluttered nature of Victorian homes, they remain a fascinating testament to a particular era in history. Today, we can look back on their bric-a-brac collections and appreciate the many different aspects of society that led to their creation. Ultimately, the Victorians’ desire to display their wealth and emulate the aristocracy resulted in an iconic and unique style of home decor that still continues to inspire us today.
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    Victorian Era: Emulating Aristocracy and Displaying Prosperity

    During the Victorian era in Great Britain, society was obsessed with emulating the aristocracy. This was the period when the middle class was growing and wanted to display their social standing. They believed that by filling their homes with expensive artifacts, they could create an illusion of wealth and status. This development coincided with the height of the British Empire, which helped to further the demand for exotic and luxurious items. As a result, the Victorians filled their homes with ornate furniture, elaborate clothing, and a variety of decorative objects.

    The Influence of Globalization on Victorian Decor

    Globalization had a significant impact on the decoration of Victorian homes. With the growth of the British Empire, there was a surge of imported goods from different corners of the world, including Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The most popular imported goods were expensive rugs, porcelain, and textiles that the Victorians prized and displayed in their homes. This demand for exotic goods led to the creation of new trade routes, and soon English merchants were importing goods from all over the world. The increasing availability of these exotic treasures only fueled the desire for more ornate and lavish decor within the home.

    The Emergence of Bric-a-Brac as an Ornamental Trend

    The Victorians were famous for their love of “bric-a-brac”, a term used to describe small, decorative objects typically made of porcelain, glass, or other fragile materials. These objects were often mass-produced and sold inexpensively, allowing even those of modest means to fill their homes with decorative items. Bric-a-brac was so popular that people even collected it as a hobby. The trend was so widespread that manufacturers began catering to the demand by producing more and more decorative items that were of little practical use.
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    Fun Fact: One popular item was the Staffordshire Dog figurine, which was once mass-produced in England and can still be found in many Victorian homes today.

    Victorian Homes: A Reflection of Societal Values and Norms

    Victorian society was rigidly divided along class lines, and the household objects displayed in their homes reflected these values and norms. People associated certain items with particular social classes, and owning such items was seen as a status symbol. For example, one could tell whether a person was wealthy or not by the amount of silver in their home. Middle-class homes were filled with china, cut glass, and silver-plated items, while the upper classes, the aristocracy, would have solid silver in their homes. So, the accumulation of bric-a-brac and other decorative objects became a way of reinforcing social hierarchies.

    The Role of Industrialization in the Proliferation of Decorative Objects

    With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers could now mass-produce decorative objects at a low cost, which ultimately led to consumers being able to purchase items for a fraction of the price. Previously, only the wealthy could afford such ornate decor. The manufacturing of furniture, pottery, and other decorative objects became a booming industry during this period. Many of these manufacturers were small, family-run businesses that could never have survived without the new industrial methods of production.

    Exploring the Various Types of Bric-a-Brac in Victorian Homes

    Victorian homes were filled with bric-a-brac of various types. Some of the most popular decorative objects included:
    • Porcelain figurines
    • Crystal vases
    • Bronze statues
    • Tapestries
    • Ornate frames for paintings and mirrors
    • Embroidered tablecloths and doilies
    • Oil lamps
    • Decanters for serving drinks
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    Victorian homes were known for their lavish decor and ornamental objects, and the trend for bric-a-brac was only a part of the culture. For the Victorians, their homes were a way of displaying their social status and wealth and their taste for exotic objects. The cluttered interiors of these homes were reflective of the society’s values and their admiration for the aristocracy as well as the ongoing effects of industrialization and globalization on consumer tastes.

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