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Kind Edward VII’s ascension to the throne in 1901 and his subsequent reign until 1910 marked a new period in architecture and interior design.  However, there are differing views as to when the Edwardian period ends.  For some, the period is extended up to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912; for others it extends to the start of World War I in 1914, and then there are those who take it to the end of hostilities with Germany in 1918, or the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

The period was quite a significant departure from the Victorian era.  When we think of Edwardian architecture, we think of freshness and of light - stepping out from the dark, heavy shadows of the Victorian era, into a breath of fresh air.

Architectural Style

Following the ornate, cluttered, close-knit architecture of the Victorian period, people were crying out for a simpler, less formal approach.  Many were eager to escape the densely populated, industrial cities and so the rise of the suburbs began.

In many ways, Edwardian style was one of revival; it borrowed from preceding eras, but always with an underlying theme based on simplicity, space and light.  As families moved away from industrialised centres and the use of gas and electricity became more widespread, emphasis was on big spaces and as much light as possible.  Edwardian houses, which tended to be tall and thin, were built along relatively straight streets.

Rooms for servants became less common, leaving more space for larger halls and big, airy rooms. The design of homes - quite literally - opened up.

Edwardian design literally shone a light on the properties of that day with a colour scheme of pastel colours, floral patterns, feminine designs and bamboo/wicker furniture, drawing influences from the art noveau and the arts and crafts movements.

Edwardian sash window

Sash windows (popular in Georgian architecture) enjoyed a comeback; often the upper section would be divided with glazing bars and the lower one was left as a single pane, with the aim of letting more light in.  This gave a suitably rustic appearance whilst the clear pane below allowed an unobstructed view.  By the early 1900s, side hinged casement windows became increasingly popular, with openings along the top filled with floral patterns in coloured glass.

Key Characteristics

  • Red bricks but also pebbledash or roughcast walls
  • Half-timbered exteriors (for grander houses) with spaces filled by brick or plaster
  • Georgian influenced sash and bay windows
  • Multi-paned leaded windows
  • Electric lighting
  • Roofs generally steep pitched with gable ends
  • Chimneys often sited halfway down the slope of roof, directly above fireplaces
  • Porches and balconies edged with timber railings and fretwork patterns
  • Art Nouveau influences in fire places, light fittings, stained glass and door furniture
  • Elegantly carved wooded porches
  • Polished wooden floors
  • Light decorative style

Furniture

Edwardian furniture came in a range of styles including baroque, rococo and empire, the wing chair was typical of that period.  Bamboo and wicker furniture were also popular during the Edwardian period, while chintz and damasks in pale colours were common upholstery choices.

Walls

Both floral and striped wallpaper were popular during the Edwardian period.  There were a wide range of floral wallpapers on offer during the Edwardian era including lilac, roses, wisteria and sweet peas often framed by trellising, bows and ribbons for an added decorative touch.  Striped wallpaper could veer from subtle candy stripes to more opulent combinations such as gold damask and white.

Floors

Wooden floorboards stained in oak-coloured varnish were common in Edwardian homes.  Bricks or red quarry tiles were also used in those areas needing flooring with more durability.

Lighting

Electric lighting was just starting to creep into homes in wealthier parts of Edwardian society and ceiling roses would be used to disguise the wiring needed for light fittings.

Wall lights, table lights and standard lamps would normally feature fabric lampshades with frills and tassels, while Tiffany lamps or reclining female bronze figures were also in-keeping with an Edwardian style.

What Next?

As with dates defining the Edwardian period, there is some debate about what followed.  For many, what followed is referred to as The 1920s and the Inter-War Period and into modern day.

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