Rediscovering Interior Design and Furniture in Cambridge

CEO Khai Intela
Edwardian architecture in Cambridge is not just a thing of the past; it holds a significant place in design history. By understanding and appreciating the design heritage of this era, we can better appreciate the...

Edwardian architecture in Cambridge is not just a thing of the past; it holds a significant place in design history. By understanding and appreciating the design heritage of this era, we can better appreciate the beauty and intricacies of contemporary designs. From the architecture to the furniture and interior design, Edwardian style continues to inspire and influence today's design trends.

Background

Edwardian architecture, popular during the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910, left a lasting impact on the architectural landscape of the United Kingdom. Known for its less ornate and more refined style compared to the Victorian era, Edwardian architecture still captivates with its elegance and sophistication.

Notable architects such as Edwin Lutyens, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Giles Gilbert Scott played a pivotal role in shaping the Edwardian Baroque style. This architectural style, a revival of Christopher Wren-inspired designs, was favored for public structures and influenced by Georgian and Neoclassical styles.

The Edwardian era marked a transition from the Victorian era, with significant social and political changes. As the Liberals returned to power, reforms were implemented, and women began to play a more active role in society and politics. The era was characterized by a leisurely lifestyle, where fashion and art from continental Europe influenced the elite.

Characteristics

The Edwardian era brought new design elements and styles into the spotlight. The Queen Anne style continued to be popular, with influences from the Arts and Crafts movement. The wealthier patrons embraced French classical styles, particularly Louis XVI.

House designs during this period showcased the following characteristics:

  • Tudorbethan style: Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, this style incorporated rough cast walls, small paned leaded windows, Jacobean details, and Dutch gables.
  • Neo-Georgian style: With its large bays, sash windows, and columns, this style captured the essence of English 18th-century classical design.
  • Edwardian eclectic style: This style evolved from the Victorian terraced, semi-detached, or detached houses, incorporating Art Nouveau influences in fireplaces, light fittings, stained glass, and door furniture.

Edwardian houses were often a blend of different styles and ideas, reflecting the preferences of the builders and the demand of the buyers. The middle and working-class homes were constructed by small builders who focused on profitability and what was familiar and easily sellable.

Interior Design Features

The interior design of Edwardian houses was characterized by spaciousness, elegance, and bright colors. The availability of gas heating, lighting, and electricity brought significant changes to the design and ambiance of the rooms.

1. Porches: Edwardian porches were an essential feature of houses during this time. Whether attached to the main wall or protruding, porches served as covered entrances and added a touch of grandeur. Intricate designs and elaborate structures adorned the porches of the affluent, while simpler versions suited the less wealthy.

Edwardian Porch

2. Bedrooms: Edwardian bedrooms deviated from the dark and heavy designs of the Victorian era. The availability of gas heating and lighting, as well as the introduction of electricity, brought about a transformation in lighting and fireplace designs. Brighter shades and floral patterns replaced the somber hues and complex patterns of the past. Mahogany, iron, and brass were popular materials for beds, while ebony added a touch of sophistication through inlays. The combination of class and fashion made Edwardian bedrooms truly unique.

Edwardian Bedroom

3. Planning: Edwardian houses featured spacious rooms and wider frontages, allowing for larger halls and living spaces. The internal layouts were carefully planned to provide comfort and convenience. The use of wide staircases, painted walls, and paintings hanging from them added elegance and character to these homes.

4. Furniture: The furniture of the Edwardian era was an eclectic mix, showcasing a blend of styles and ideas. Furniture was light, elegant, and delicate, often made from pale woods such as oak, walnut, and cherry. Inlays and decorative details added a touch of sophistication. Edwardian rooms, while less cluttered than their Victorian counterparts, still had a certain level of intricacy.

5. Windows: Larger windows became popular during the Edwardian era, thanks to the availability of cheaper large glass panes. Stained glass, often showcasing Art Nouveau elements, added a touch of color and elegance to the windows. Edwardian sash windows, with their distinctive appearance, added a unique architectural element to the houses. The changing regulations influenced the design of exterior walls, resulting in the use of bay windows. These windows not only provided ample natural light but also served as comfortable seats.

Edwardian Windows

6. Doors: Edwardian doors, while not greatly different from those of the late 19th century, featured their own unique charm. Painted in various shades of browns and greens, the doors often had contrasting panels or moldings. Leaded and stained glass with Art Nouveau designs added a touch of elegance, while door furniture made of brass added a classic touch.

Edwardian Doors

7. Flooring: Edwardian flooring featured a variety of options. Wooden floorboards, tiles, and parquet were popular choices. Rugs, carpets, and linoleum covered the floors, adding warmth and comfort to the living spaces. Encaustic tiles, with their decorative and plain designs, were used in areas such as fireplaces, halls, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Edwardian Flooring

8. Ceilings: Edwardian ceilings featured various designs, depending on the architectural style and personal preferences. Wooden panelling, plaster mouldings, or relief papers added texture and elegance to the ceiling. The simplicity and maintenance-free nature of the Edwardian era were reflected in the clean and unadorned aesthetic of the ceilings.

9. Walls: Edwardian houses embraced the use of wallpapers, paint, and wood panelling. Wallpapers made in Britain or imported from France adorned the walls, offering decorative designs in floral patterns and Art Nouveau motifs. Relief papers, such as Lincrusta, added texture to the halls, landings, and staircases. Wood panelling, especially in houses with Tudor and Jacobean influences, added a touch of grandeur.

10. Fabrics: Chintz, a printed fabric with a glazed finish, saw a major revival during the Edwardian period. Luxurious fabrics such as satins, silks, and lace were also popular, adding elegance to covered furniture and curtains. Patterns and designs ranged from Japanese and Indian influences to fluid Art Nouveau patterns.

Edwardian Fabrics

The examples of Edwardian architecture in Cambridge and around the world continue to inspire designers and architects today. From the Cape Town City Hall to the Connaught Apartments in Alberta and the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, these buildings reflect the elegance and grandeur of the Edwardian era.

Example 1: Cape Town City Hall

Example 2: Connaught Apartments

Example 3: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London

While Edwardian architecture may not dominate the streets of Cambridge, pockets of Edwardian houses can still be found in areas like Hills Road, Newnham, Great Shelford, and the Castle area. These houses carry the charm and character of the Edwardian era, showcasing the unique blend of styles and influences that make them timeless.

Example 4: Edwardian Houses in Cambridge

Example 5: The Old Granary, Cambridge

As we delve into the world of Edwardian architecture and interior design, it becomes clear that its influence on contemporary design trends is undeniable. By understanding the history and characteristics of this era, we can appreciate and incorporate its elegance, sophistication, and unique features into our own designs. Edwardian style continues to captivate and inspire, making it a significant part of design history.

Research by Manjiri Kulkarni, Associate. Meet our team here.

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