Miles Lewis, Style and character in Edwardian architecture
Style and character in Edwardian architecture
Interview with Miles Lewis
Filmed by Tribal Media
Contributor: Heritage Victoria
What house is that? Interactive, created by Heritage Victoria.
In this film, Miles Lewis discusses some of the interior and exterior qualities of Edwardian houses and what differentiates them from other styles.
Click Here to learn more about Edwardian architecture.
Miles Lewis is an architectural historian and Professor in the faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning at the University of Melbourne. He is editor of Architectura (London and New York 2008) and author of Victorian Primitive, Don John of Balaclava, The Essential Maldon, Two Hundred Years of Concrete in Australia, Victorian Churches, Melbourne: the City’s History, Suburban Backlash and numerous articles and papers on architectural and building history, urban conservation, urban renewal and housing policy. Miles is Vice-President of the Comite International d’Architecture Vernaculaire.
In the 1890s, there was more a specific influence from the English Queen Anne and medieval or revival styles, so you began to get gable ends finished like half-timbered buildings - that is, with straps running vertically in the gable end of the building.
And that is applied to single-storey houses, whereas in Britain it mostly applied to two-storeyed houses.
And so you get a rather distinctive form of asymmetrical, slightly medieval red-brick building design in the 1890s, which is what we normally think of as being Edwardian - although, as I say, it appears about ten years earlier - and that persists through until about World War I.
In internal terms, Edwardian houses tend to be, as on the outside, less elaborate.They tend to have more Art Nouveau character.
They tend to have wallpapers which are... often quite sombre in colour, but often involving rich, dark greens and so on. A lot of varnished timberwork.
The designs being... involving more diagonals in plan, provided things like hall seats on the angle. You get elaborate ventilating centre flowers, because you have now almost universal gas lighting until the electricity takes over, and they require ventilation above them.
You often have a picture rail, well below the ceiling height, which was the fashion of the time, often in stained timber.
Usually, the flooring is still... Almost always the flooring is still in carpets and linos which have borders, so the concept of a wall-to-wall finish is still not really common at all. Even linos have their own border around the edge, like a carpet.
And runners run upstairs, and steps with a border along the edge, and don't go right to the side of the stairs. And the surrounding area might be varnished heavily or indeed painted in a black or Japan colour.
In the Edwardian period, you tend to have a lot of use of sconce fittings, that is, bracket lights on the wall - partly because, until electricity comes in, it still was inconvenient to light gas at the centre of the room, although there were pneumatic switches developed which could do this, and they were used in the more elaborate houses.
The light fittings tend to have glasses, which have colours of graded pink and violet colours in them. The suspension fittings... some are made of brass - there was an arts and craft influence - and you get elaborate brass fittings, and they carry on into the early electrical designs as well.
The fashion for natural materials - arts and crafts and so on - gave rise too, at first, Japan black timberwork around fireplaces and then naturally finished timber taking over from marble.
Well, in the Edwardian period, the fireplace often has a timber surround of a somewhat Art Nouveau character, and is often tiled, and, very commonly, you have a complete tiled recess and the fire's made on a hob, an iron hob, standing within the fireplace. And so you find these totally clean, crisp tiles because the fire was isolated from it, as opposed to the Victorian fireplace.