21St Century

This essay will be based upon the difference between Domestic and Spatial roles within a household in the 19th and 21st Century. Victorian style interiors of Homes will be analysed alongside with a Modern 21st century Home. The space in which humans exists within is not one interior at any given time, but two, “the body itself and the container that surrounds it.” (Sidlausklas, 1996). Therefore, defining the house as a “universe for the private citizen.” (Sidlausklas, 1996). The house is seen as a tool to provide security and shelter, whereas the Home is seen as a House with an emotional connection binding a person to it. Many of these emotional connections are created through the role of a Woman/Family in the House. The Home is an Icon, which in the 19th and 20th Century was seen as a vessel for a Woman to provide a suitable environment for her husband and family. (Forty, 1996)

The 21st Century Modern Home chosen reflects a change in Gender Roles and Modern society. The “Woman” of the house moved into the “Mans” house shortly after her divorce – divorce being a modern practice which was barely heard of or accepted in the 19th Century. The house was built to Joes specifications and is still considered his property legally, which is similar to the 19th Century whereby the House was considered a possession of the “Man”, and merely a vessel for the “Woman”. The “Woman” and “Man” live together in the same house, although are not married. Whereas in the 19th Century, a couple would only live together once they have married.

In terms of the Case Study, both the “Woman” and “Man” work within the main business sector. Women working within the business, industrial or agricultural environment was not accepted until 21st Century times. (Carvallaro, 2001) Women in the 20th century were accepted to work in some fields, although their positions had little interaction with Men and were always in a much lower hierarchical position within the workplace. (Spain, 1992) In the 21st Century, it is a lot more accepted for a Woman to not stay

home and look after the children, or even have children for that matter, Woman now have the opportunity to work within the workplace. Although, positions in the workplace still remain fairly similar, whereby “Managers are overwhelmingly Male and Clerical staff members are predominantly Female.” (Spain, 1992) In terms of the case study, the “Woman” works full time as a Sales agent, whereas the “Man” works full time as a Director of a Company, thereby showing similarities of workplace positions within the 21st Century society.

In the 19th Century, the “Woman” and “Man” would not share their living areas. The “Woman” would have a drawing room which the “Man” could enter, although the “Man’s” Room was strictly only for the man and his relaxation time. Refer to Figure 1, whereby access to the Man’s Room is through the “Woman’s” drawing room. (Carvallaro, 2001) Whereas, in the 21st Century, most couples share a living space, called a “Living Room” or “Lounge”. In terms of the case study chosen, both the “Woman” and “Man” share a Living Room, Refer to Figure 2. Although, there is an additional Living Room which the “Man” uses often and is seen as “His Space”, Refer to Figure 3, although the “Woman” and Other members of the family are allowed to use the space as well.


Victorian “Lady’s” Drawing Room and “Man’s Room.”


Case Study Living Room


Case Study “His Space” Additional Living Room

In the 19th and 20th Century, the “Woman” characteristically decorated the house, which was seen as a reflection of herself. A well decorated home meant she was a “good woman”. In Victorian times, cooking, cleaning and looking after the children was assisted by domestic staff. Although, in the 20th century woman was expected to stay home and look after the children, cook, clean and make a suitable environment for their family and the “Man of the House”. (Carvallaro, 2001) In terms of the case study, the “Woman” once moving into the house re-decorated most spaces within the House and created a “Home”, the main Living Room, Refer to Figure 2, was decorated by the “Woman” and possesses artwork created by her and reflects her individual style. This space uses warm colours, harmonious décor, soft fluffy blankets and scatter cushions, which makes the space seem like a “home”.

Whereas, the additional Living Room, Refer to Figure 3, still possess all the existing furniture from the House before the “Woman” moved in, and reflects much more of the “Man” personal style, also possessing an artwork although created by the “Man”. In the 19th Century it was unusual for the “Man” to create artwork as a means of décor for the home unless he was an Artist by trade, whereas it was quite normal for the “Woman” to do so. This space differs to the main Living Room due to the Lack of scatter cushions and harmonious décor, which makes it looks masculine and without a “Woman's touch”.

In the 19th Century, “the middle class to define itself through their possessions…affirming their stature and identity.” (Sidlauskas, 1996) In the 21st century possessions are still used as the defining agent of stature and identity. Possessions aren’t as important to identity as they were in the 19th Century, although still play a major role in society. In terms of the case study, possessions reflecting culture and identity are used, Refer to Figure 4. Although, these possessions are not a focal point of the home and only affirm identity in the background rather than in the 19th century whereby they would be in the foreground. In terms of the case study, both the “Woman’s” and “Man’s” heritage can be depicted within these objects. The use of the Gaelic Cross reflects the “Man’s” identity of being Irish and Catholic, whereas the African Woman reflects the Woman’s identity of being proudly South African. Other objects such as candles and pictures in frames reflect their identity as a couple, whereby both are highly spiritual and put a lot of emphasis on friendships and memories.


Case Study Shelving showing Possessions.

Bedrooms in the 19th and 20th Century reflected a lot of feminine décor. In the 19th Century, “The axis between Femininity and Nature” was prominent, with the inclusions of flowers and plant life in spaces to reflect femininity. (Kinchin, 1996) This can be seen in Figure 5, whereby nature inspired wallpaper and décor is used, thereby reflecting quite a feminine space. Whereas, in the 21st century, it is preferred to have a much more gender-neutral space when sharing a bedroom, refer to Figure 6. “The colouring of rooms should be an echo of their uses… Light colours are the most suitable for bedrooms.” (Kinchin, 1996) In terms of the Case study, the Main Bedroom which is used by both the “Woman” and “Man” uses simple decoration and neutral colours. Forms of furniture can be seen to be masculine, although contrasting to the feminine flower artwork allows for a balance between genders and the space becomes neutral. The use of light colours such as white allows for a simple bedroom, which is suitable for relaxation and restoration, Refer to Figure 6. Whereas, the 19th Century bedroom uses much more intense tones of green and therefore can be quite distracting. 21st Century spaces are still decorated by the “Woman”, although possess gender balance in comparison to the highly feminine 19th Century Bedroom.


19th Century Bedroom


Case Study showing Main Bedroom

The 19th and 20th Century Bathroom was simple, lacked excessive decoration and limited vanity and storage space, therefore was often solely to be used for its purpose, Refer to Figure 7. In the 19th Century, the “Woman” and “Man” may have had separate bathrooms due to the emphasis on the “Man” having personal private space. Woman in the 19th and 20th Century used their dressers within their bedrooms to do their hair and make-up. Whereas, in the 21st Century the bathroom nearest to the Main Bedroom or the En-Suite Bathroom is used by both parties. In terms of the case study, both the “Woman” and “Man” use the bathroom, although the “Woman” uses it much more, such as to do her make-up and hair. Both parties have equal vanity and cupboard space, although the “Woman” uses it much more than the “Man”. The bathroom possesses decoration such as the chandelier, which was chosen by the “Woman” of the house, and which adds a feminine touch to the space, Refer to Figure 8.


19th Century Bathroom


Case Study Main Bedroom En-Suite Bathroom

In conclusion, the 21st Century shows significant changes within the equality and gender roles in comparison to the 19th Century. Although, Woman do still have a major role within the Home from a cooking, cleaning and decorating. Men do also participate within the cooking and decorating of the household in comparison to the 19th Century. The need for possessions to affirm identity is not as important in 21st Century society as it was in the 19th Century, although 21st Century society still possess these objects in some part of their home to reflect their individual identity, although as fully individual persons, such as objects for the “Woman” and the “Man”. The spaces within a home have become much more “gender neutral”, in terms of less overly feminine décor much like in the 19th Century. 21st Century homes possess much more “open space” and less “private space”, such as the sharing of bathrooms and living areas.