Miniview: Geffrye Museum – a designer’s resource

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    My partner wanted to look at the Eco-Home exhibition, a show in the temporary exhibition space of the Geffrye Museum in Kingsland Road, east London, so we took a trip back in time to Hackney. I was shocked how long it had been since my last visit to this lovely museum, and delighted to see how Lottery money had enabled a terrific extension, well designed and integrated, to the 18th Century Almshouses that make up the main part of the Museum.The Geffrye Museum opened in 1914. The London County Council had been persuaded by leading members of the Arts and Crafts movement to convert the 18th century buildings into a museum related to the local furniture industry. Its purpose was to provide a reference collection of furniture of a ‘fine standard of technical and artistic excellence’ to educate and inspire the local workforce. Of course much of the surrounding industry has gone replaced by the ephemera of 21st century life, service industries, markets that are tourist attractions and restaurants.

    The Geffrye Museum shows the changing style of English domestic interiors from 1600 to the present day. Its focus is on the urban middle classes, a relatively prosperous sector of society, not as rich as the landed gentry and aristocracy, but wealthy enough to have a comfortable town house with good quality furniture and possessions. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they would typically have been merchants, financiers, doctors and lawyers. By the 19th century, as the middle classes expanded, they would have included people engaged in business and manufacturing, and now of course it’s everyone, as those who are working class become richer and the wealthy move to Monaco.

    Daniel Fountain / 05.02.2010

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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