Where did the decorating 'phenomenom' begin?

patty_cakesAugust 12, 2012

Was it HGTV as well as other decorating channels ~TLC/Discovery~where it all started? I know I always had 'an interest', but while watching such programs, seemed to have an awakening, or maybe it was an epiphany. I had a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens for years(were there other decorating mags at the time?)then in later years came Traditional Home and House Beautiful. After awhile, magazines didn't seem like enough, so I started buying books 'just for the pictures'~my 'collection' is now 100+ books!

I've 'gone thru' three condos and am now in a house since it all started, with each one honing in on my style to the point where I *think* i've finally 'got it'. I'm very happy in my surroundings and feel my home certainly expresses who I am, but feel I want to keep going down the decorating path.

I've been in my home for four years, have changed very little, and am wondering if there's a time when things should be changed up a bit. Not furniture, but accessories, etc. Is it necessary if you feel you're perfectly happy with the way things are and have been for a number of years? I don't want my home to become stale. ;o)

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I was a teen in the mid-50's and loved to look at my DM's magazines - don't really remember which ones she subscribed to and most had only a bit of home decor but that's what I looked for. By the time I married in the mid-60's there were lots of home decor mags and I've bought a ton of them over the years.

I'm in my 20th house and have had lots of fun 'honing' my style altho can't claim to have 'got it' yet. In fact am in the process of revising it, yet again. Going gradually from overdecorated cottage to something more edited and refined, *maybe*. ;-D

I'm of the opinion that "if it's not broke, don't fix it" so if you are happy with your home it doesn't need to be changed.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 4:57PM
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Although I have always adored decor magazines -- I do believe that one of the many "starts" to this current phenom started with the TV show "This Old House" (before HGTV -- TOH started in 1979) -- which picked up and ran with the huge wave of Renovations and Reclaiming in houses ... and let's not forget Martha Stewart's influence too!

And home and garden decor mags have been around for decades (and we have lost so many of them too!) ...

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 5:15PM
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I don't know about the phenomenon, but my personal interest was piqued by my mother who always has shelter magazine subscriptions and is a talented amateur decorator. I didn't even know that HGTV existed until 2003 when I got extended cable and happened across it. I'm happy that I had the chance to watch many of the earlier HGTV shows in re-runs. If I found the channel today, I wouldn't bother watching it at all.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 5:25PM
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Prehistoric cave paintings?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 5:33PM
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My Mom didn't buy decorating mags, but did seem to buy new furniture in the living room every 7 years or so, and this was back in the '50's~carpeting was sometimes included, or came shortly after it seemed. The bedrooms remained the same for a number of years, as well as the kitchen~no DR.

I think she had the decorating bug, but back then, furniture stores were the only choices.

The real start for me was a bedroom I did as a home-ec project, and remember the excitement of choosing a new wall color, bedding, etc.

I had 4 other homes before the first condo, and although I wallpapered, chose draperies/upholstery from swatches(not too much could be bought in stores), and purchased accessories, I thought of it more as furnishing a home, as 'decorating' was not a word used except by ASID designers. ;o)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 5:39PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Of hand, I would say it was when cheap imported goods became the norm here in the USA. Items that used to be costly, and thus prized, were now a few dollars and while often not as nice looking, were perfectly fine for the price and then as the culture morphed, they became disposable.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 6:58PM
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When I was a little girl about 10 or so playing with my nieces' building blocks. I used them to lay out floor plans. A bunch of floor plans. I still remember the his large orange and hers smalll turquoise Naugahyde rocking easy chairs my 13-year-older sister bought. :)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

And how long have doll houses been around???

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:30PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Interesting point, graywings....I was listening to a podcast talking about cave paintings and dating them, they discovered some were around 40,000 years old and others in the same cave were about 25,000 years old, so people kept coming back to that site and redecorating. Mind boggling to me as I'm sure I'd want to decorate more often than that!


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:32PM
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This Old House gets a lot of credit for educating people about how and what to do and why. It was accessible and fun to watch, and then spawned a whole genre.

But I think the real fuel was the housing boom. People could use their equity to renovate, and the appreciation lulled them into calling their expenditures "investments". Once you'd tricked out the house, then you needed to up the ante on decor, too.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Where? Follow the MONEY! I think the interest has been there for generations. Look at the magazines, Sears catalog etc. It became a hobby when people's discretionary spending money increased. Grand-ma made do or went with out because she couldn't afford anything else. Today we move into perfectly functional, lovely homes and tear out (insert what ever here) top because "they" told us (insert expensive what ever here) was the thing we HAD to have. Back in the day people couldn't, so they didn't. We can so we do.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 2:54PM
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I was raised by a decorator. We never knew what the house would look like when we came home from school! My mother and I spent hours when she wasn't working scouring antique and furniture stores. She had a nose, like 3dogs does, to sniff out a really good chair, etc. We never seemed to go on wild goose chases.

Consequently, I like to change things up, but I don't have my mother's perfect eye.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:39PM
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i don't know when it all began. As a young bride in my first house, I was so into decorating. I wanted my house to look like all the model homes I loved to tour, on my beer budget, lol. I've always enjoyed home decor. My tastes have changed over the years. At 52, I am becoming very comfortable with my choices. Furniture has come and gone. I've built a collection of furniture and art that we love and has lasting appeal to us. Not much has changed here in 12 years. I don't especially like the new decor fads and colors at the moment, but I love reading mags and visiting forums. I think you need to create a home that is your sanctuary, regardless of decor fads of the moment. When I come home from work, or anywhere, I breathe a sigh of relief. I'm surrounded by people I love,pets I love and surroundings that mean something to me. I think that's what it's all about.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:58PM
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I had an interior design instructor who said that it started with Lascaux. ;)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 4:06PM
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I think that the thread of American home decorating began in earnest after the second world war.

American industry needed to beat its swords into ploughshares, the Great Depression was over, and all those young men (and women) who had never been more that 35 miles from home came back from Europe and Asia and North Africa with new eyes and broader minds, after spending intense years with people completely different from the kids they grew up with.

The nation turned its new cohesiveness from the war effort to the creation of new young families and a burgeoning middle class economy.
There was a critical housing shortage, and suburban tracts popped up like cornfields, because for the first time, every young couple wanted a house just for themselves and their coming children. Companies based on the military model (top-down rank and discipline) began to crank out building materials, household appliances, vehicles and home goods like mad. Products imagined during the great design wave of the 30's were now financially possible.

The propaganda machinery became the advertising industry, radio sent the same messages into every household, and magazines like Life and Look and Good Housekeeping were on every coffee table. The Hollywood film industry created the American domestic ideal, and everybody wanted it.

Supply, demand, and an optimistic belief in a stable future and a higher standard of living for everyone started it all.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:22PM
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C.L.Eastlake published his "Hints on Household Taste " in 1868, which set the ball rolling in a big way as wealthy newcomers with no old family pieces to furnish with had to buy all new and wanted to be proper and tasteful. The Aesthetic craze that swept England and the US in the 1870's was unprecedented. People started to obsess over their indoor environment to a never before seen degree.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 7:42PM
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I think I read somewhere that it began with the Industrial Revolution, when people finally had some disposable income.

Recently I think it was the housing boom, all those flip-it shows and all. The idea was to appeal to the masses by decorating it in "neutral" browns and beiges, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, smooth ceilings, brushed nickel hardware and granite counters! They all looked the same.

For me, my mother was very creative, into all kinds of things like braiding rugs, "antiquing" furniture, etc. She rearranged furniture so often that you no longer noticed it, just sensed that something was different.

I like to create accessories from stuff lying around the basement. The furnace had its own little enclosure and I used to decorate it so well that my mom took one of my creations and used it for a Christmas decoration!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:12PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister wrote "the american woman's home" in 1869 which was a how-to for women of the era on dealing with the post civil war plethora of consumer products and was full of decor advice and household hints...

that updated her sister's book Treatise on Domestic Economy which was published in 1841....

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 8:48AM
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Annie, I am unaware of the Stowe sisters' books, and would love to see them.

The post-Civil War south was in very different circumstances, so my cultural memory doesn't involve a plethora of anything! I'll look for them in the library. Thanks for the hint.

I guess I think of everything before mid-20th-century as being advice for the relatively privileged, and that a standard of living for most people that was high enough to include a budget for decorating didn't really exist until then.

Now we all seem to feel pressured to live in places that look like a gazillion dollars....I keep noticing television commercials in which women who look just like the rest of us mop up apple juice and cook Hamburger Helper in a $150,000 kitchen.

Slightly off the point, the one that really drives me round the bend is that throwback in which a husband, a child, and a dog make a really biblical mess, and Mommy cheerfully cleans every bit of it up while they stand and beam at her. Don't even...

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Late 1600s, early 1700s, as soon as there was a reasonable audience of women readers.

The Athenian Mercury (1691-?), The Tatler (1709-?) and The Spectator (1711-?): all of these titles generated 'sister' publications for women.

By the early 1800s, publications like Godey's Lady's Book and the rest were publishing decort tips, plates showing interiors and what was trendy or outdated.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 2:13PM
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I would like to have permission to add some perspective to those times and beg you to:

remember these woman could read the books and had a voice in the decor but were not allowed to vote or own the property, have custody of the kids or have a bank account.

This didn't happen until the Suffragists fought long and hard and picketed in front of Woodrow Wilson's White House and then were sent to prison and brutally treated and finally on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was passed.
Yes, woman have only been allowed to vote for 90 years. That cuts into my mother's time and her mother as well.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 4:15PM
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Ellie, women did own property in European countries back in medieval times.

Women of a certain class could also read, if they were lucky enough to have parents who taught them. I'm going back to at least 1400.

As far as the current decorating phenomenom goes, it's been around forever, except it's become more social because of HGTV and message boards.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:15AM
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I also failed to mention in my off topic rant that the equal rights amendment
Has still not been ratified.

Here in Northern Virginia there is excitement over an effort called Turning Point to honor the -American Suferagists who, like Susan B Anthony, were tortured for their work. There will be a national park here. Their story has been done by Ken Burns..
It is a fascinating story of educated women who gave their life both here and in England for the right to vote.

Sorry Oakleyoak, I know nothing about medieval times. But would like to know more always.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:55AM
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Where did the decorating phenomenon begin?
Long ago the space ships arrived. Up until this point existing human life survived in any dwelling that provided protection against the elements and threats. Due to the fact that the visitors had already previously started improving human intelligence through DNA manipulation soon a somewhat safer and more beautiful life was set, jointly created and adapted by humans. For a long time men and women equally held important positions within the family units and tribes. Man was valued for his strength and women for reproduction and her superior mind. Decorating first came from utilitarian pieces for the dwelling and evolved from there. Time went on...as everyday life became safer man had a hard time adapting and decided to declare war against women. Around that time certain organized beliefs and teachings swept over the land. Men forced their physical strength over woman and put them on the back shelf of importance although acknowledging their necessity. Out of boredom of the daily repetition and lack of control in every other area of her life women found some stimulation in making the nest beautiful. Dwelling decor at that point took another big leap. Man then came along and took all of her ideas and made money off of it. Today things are coming around full circle.
The End.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:12AM
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Oh, lovely! Thank you, jterrilynn.

But please don't say "The End."
Write us a projection for the future.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Lol, here ya go bronwynsmom!


Full circle but into the future...men and women are working together again as equals. However, Man has long lost his reliance on physical strength as a means of power; women are no longer expected nor do some want or know how to create a nest. Except for a handful of rebel eccentrics decorating becomes utilitarian or paint by number ordering. Artists starve and everything is gray. Less is more is the way.

A large part (but not all) of the decorating decline has direct ties with the further bleared defining lines of the family unit which continues on a downward spiral into delinquency. Others are shamed out of decorating with words like "materialistic" thrown around like the "F" bomb.

In the future the government steps in and requires mandatory child rearing classes for males and females in high school. They must also take a parenting aptitude test. One must make a certain score in order to graduate. These numbers are kept in an international data base. Things improve on the home front down the road.

Through trial and error new defining lines are established. Dwelling harmony again becomes fashionable. Home decorating and art and all that is glorious come back in full force and shape. With the input from both sexes, furniture and form as well as quality workmanship takes on a whole new life. The world is a washed and swathed in beautiful color again. Everyone has a laminate table designed by some guy named "pal".
Life is good.
The end.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:11PM
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I'll have what she's drinking. Bravo!!!!!
Pass the hat. I love it.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:24PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

B, it's a free ebook now.

Here is a link that might be useful: American woman's home....

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:43AM
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Ellie45, lol...no, no drink. My imagination is normally on the kooky side.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:34AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

So DH and I went to Montgomery Place today and it was most interesting to see how decorated they made their home even back in the 1700s...the home was in one family for 4 generations and each of the downstairs rooms reflects the style of one of those generations...interesting to see how the scientific and technological changes as well as cultural beliefs impacted the decor as well as the landscaping.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 12:55AM
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