Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France

The visual culture of a new profession

By Anca I. Lasc

Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5158-2
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £31.00
  • Published Date: December 2020
  • BIC Category: HOUSE & HOME / Decorating, HISTORY / Social History, HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century, Interior Design, Decor & Style Guides, HISTORY / Europe / France, History, Humanities / Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, Interior design, decor & style guides, European history, Architecture: interior design, Humanities / European history, Professional Interior Design, ARCHITECTURE / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945), 19th century, c 1800 to c 1899, ARCHITECTURE / Interior Design / General, France
  • Series: Studies in Design and Material Culture


This book explores the beginnings of the interior design profession in nineteenth-century France. Drawing on a wealth of visual sources, from collecting and advice manuals to pattern books and department store catalogues, it demonstrates how new forms of print media were used to 'sell' the idea of the unified interior as a total work of art, enabling the profession of interior designer to take shape. In observing the dependence of the trades on the artistic and public visual appeal of their work, Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France establishes crucial links between the fields of art history, material and visual culture, and design history.


'Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France provides a detailed and authoritative study of the ways in which collectors, advice writers, architects, upholsterers and cabinetmakers, decorators and other trades, theatre designers, and workers in the new department stores functioned as proto-interior designers. They bridged today's professional borders to orchestrate the historicist or otherwise themed spaces in which everyday life in France was played out in the second half of the nineteenth century. Lasc provides a valuable study of the development and professionalisation of interior design in nineteenth-century France which expands and complements the Anglo-American focus of much existing work. She does this through a comprehensive examination of a wealth of primary and secondary sources, and by rethinking assumptions about gender, historicism and modernism and the interplay of a number of professions in interior design practice and mediation.'
Grace Lees-Maffei, Professor of Design History, University of Hertfordshire

'Framed against the background of widespread economic and social change following the French Revolution, Anca Lasc's Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France is a convincing and well-documented contribution to the history of the interior design profession in France. It mines a rich but little-examined array of print resources to construct a detailed history of the domestic interior, while also offering a novel interpretation of the origins of l'art nouveau that challenges prevailing views of the dichotomy between historicism and modernity."
David Raizman, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

'Abundantly illustrated with seventy-one original, black-and-white figures photographed by the author, the book makes an important contribution to the study of nineteenth-century French design. The realm of visual sources is broad, from decorating manuals to watercolours, yet the accumulation of figures interspersed in the book teases out the striking coherence of the corpus.'
Catherine Girard, Journal of Design History, Volume. 32, Issue 2, May 2019

'Anca Lasc's massively researched and clearly presented investigation constitutes a vital chapter in the history of this kind of design.'
Stefan Muthesius, Nineteenth-Century French Studies

'brings to light an impressive number of understudied source materials on French design ... a useful reference for those interested in connections between the work of professional domestic designers and other print images of interiors, such as those found in mass-circulating fashion plates and photographs. It should also appeal to scholars of literature seeking historical context for the interiors that figure prominently in works by certain literary authors of the period'
Heidi Brevik-Zander, H-France Review Vol 19 (2019) no 287

'joins some of the most intriguing and ambitious contemporary writing on nineteenth-century design by pointing to the ways in which developments in design, its expression, and its practice were very often mediated quite outside of the practice of design itself.'
Alexandra Fraser (2019), Design and Culture, 11:2, 245-247

'Lasc recounts a very detailed history of a profession through its literature and visual culture. This history, especially her detailing of the intertwined nature of art and decoration throughout the nineteenth century, allows us to understand better the history of design and where design, the decorator, and the interior as a space of art, were at the end of the nineteenth century.'
Emily Davis Winthrop, H-France Review Vol 19 (2019) no 286


1 The collector as taste advisor and interior decorator: popular advice manuals and the orchestration of the private interior
2 The inventor of interiors: old professions in search of a name
3 Private home, artistic stage: the circulation and display of interior dreamscapes
4 The image of furniture: department stores and the trade in interior decoration designs
5 Beautiful disorder, exception to the rule: the development of a new design aesthetic
Epilogue: the presentness of historicism: the Musée centennal du mobilier and the legacy of proto-interior designers


Anca I. Lasc is Associate Professor of History of Art and Design at Pratt Institute, USA

Interior decorating in nineteenth-century France

By Anca I. Lasc

Paperback £31.00 / $45.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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