Abstract

Advice books in the first half of the nineteenth century offered homemakers instructions for creating the ideal home. The problem for the design historian is to ascertain with what results the homemaker mediated these instructions. This article suggests using lists of house contents, which survive in a variety of forms,and adopting a qualitative approach to their analysis Evidence for a number of middle-class homes is used to explore the variations The symbolic value of individual objects and their role within the material culture of the home is examined-in particular, the use of textiles to articulate the practical and symbolic functions of living rooms Although all the examples followed the general tendencies of the period as described in advice books, they also showed distinct differences according to social status,age sex and occupation A qualitative approach to the evedence permits exploration of the differencesbetween homes and the possible social and cultural meaning that they conveyed.

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