How does an English home in the 1600s compare to one from the 1900s?
Step inside homes of middle class Londoners over four centuries in this spectacular virtual tour.
You will be taken on a historical journey transporting you to experience family life in several different eras.
Get ready to immerse yourself in 11 living rooms over a period of 400 years at the Geffrye Museum.
Through the interactive virtual tour (below), provided by GoCompare, explore a parlour in 1965, a drawing room in 1830 and a living room in 1935.
1. A hall in the City of London in 1630
In the early 1600s a hall was the main living space where a family would spend most of their time. It was used as a dining space and as a reception room for guests and visitors. The hall was a relatively public space, whereas chambers were used when more privacy was needed.
2. A parlour in Soho in 1695
The Great Fire in 1666 destroyed most London homes and with the rebuild came new fashions. The main living space in the new houses was called a parlour, the largest room of the house, normally located on the first floor with windows overlooking the street. Sash windows came into fashion after the fire.
A more private room than the hall in the beginning of the 1600s – the parlour was reserved for the family and their guests. It was important for the middling classes to be able to entertain their guests in a suitable manner as this showed style, good taste and status. New items in the middle-class homes were clocks and mirrors that were called "glasses" or "looking glasses".
3. A parlour in Covent Garden in 1745
In the eighteenth century a typical urban English townhouse changed very little. The parlour was the main living space and reception room for the guests. A set of chairs and a folding table for dining were the core pieces of furniture in the room.
At the time, fashionable hot drinks such as chocolate, coffee and tea, were introduced to wealthy urban elite. The crockery sets for consuming these drinks were still somewhat of a luxury but very much sought-after.
4. A parlour in 1790
The late eighteenth century saw changes in the decorative style of the main living room. The wooden panelled walls were history, as the middle-class wanted flat walls with wallpaper or paint.
The choice of colour was white, for both panels and windows. The living room was to look light and neat.
Many chose to have a carpet as it had become more affordable when the manufacturing had moved from overseas to England and Scotland. The fitted cast-iron stove grate was a more efficient way to heat the house than the old free-standing models. Porcelain and glassware were used to decorate the room.
5. A drawing room in Clapham in 1830
The term "withdrawing room" was first used by upper classes to describe a room where people withdrew after having dinner. As the use of the term spread, it was later shortened to drawing room.
In the day, the drawing room was used by the lady of the house and her guests. The family would also use the room for a variety of activities, such as reading, sketching and playing games or musical instruments. In the evenings the diners would retire to drawing room that was beautifully lit with candles.
Interior decoration was introduced in 1807. It typically consisted of a circular centre table surrounded with upholstered sofas and chairs, accompanied with smaller tables used for writing, sewing and sketching. The drawing room was decorative space with comfortable seating and a number of textiles.
6. A Victorian drawing room in 1870
The Victorian living room in the nineteenth century moved to the ground floor. It was a haven of comfort and looked after by the lady of the house.
A Victorian drawing room typically had deep-buttoned upholstery, voluminous curtains, fitted carpeting, embellished furniture and plenty of pictures and decorative items.
The fireplace was the centrepiece, with a mantelpiece for display of ornaments and an overmantel mirror. The drawing room still served as the main reception area of the house but by this time it wasn’t the only room used for this purpose as many middle-class families had houses with a morning room, a parlour and a study.
A writing table and a "whatnot" – a small high three-tiered stand used for displaying items – were new additions to the living room furniture.
7. An aesthetic drawing room in 1890
The 1890s saw a reaction against mainstream Victorian taste; it came to be known as the Aesthetic Movement. The Aesthetic movement favoured a more pure and simple style rather than the Victorian style with excessive decorations. People were inspired by articles and published manuals on how to create an 'artistic' interior.
8. A drawing room in 1910 (Edwardian suburban house)
Many Edwardian suburban houses would have a living hall with a fireplace and some furniture, with doors and stairs giving access to all parts of the house.
In this house the room is small and furnished comfortably for family use, rather than showcasing the family’s status and taste to visitors. The increasing use of terms living room and sitting room reflected this change.
Sunlight and fresh air were seen important, and often the drawing room would have French windows opening to the garden. In comparison to Victorian home, the Edwardian style was moderate with less pattern and lighter, more muted colours with fewer pieces of furniture.
9. A living room in 1935
With the start of the 20th century came something new and exciting, the urban flat. At the time, a suburban townhouse would often be cheaper but a flat had little or no maintenance and offered convenience and a modern lifestyle. Flats were preferred especially by well-off couples with no children.
The architectural style was either modernist or neo-Georgian. The interior was minimalist, with pale colours and only a few pieces of furniture. Compact chairs and settees were low and large, offering comfort for the residents.
Fireplaces were still common even though many flats had central heating. City dwellers would listen to radio or gramophone in the evening.
10. A living room in 1965
New townhouses were modernist in style. Open-plan was preferable over small rooms. Walls and ceiling were often white, and wooden parquet floor would be covered with a patterned rug.
Lack of space encouraged creative storage solutions. With the 60s came television in the home. It competed with the fireplace to claim focus of the room.
Low coffee tables came with the TV: it was designed to offer a good view of the television and to provide a surface for magazines, drinks and snacks.
11. A loft-style apartment in 1998
The loft-style building phenomena in London was popular in the 1970s and 80s, following in the steps of New York city. Old warehouses were converted into apartments. Clerkenwell and Shoreditch were among the first areas where commercial buildings were redeveloped into flats.
Loft apartments played with industrial aesthetics, showing the building elements and hard, plain surfaces.
Open-plan apartments had only a few carefully selected pieces of furniture, either mid-twentieth century classics or contemporary design icons. Space – either real or illusionary – was the defining feature of the apartment.
Furniture was often organised in its own groups to create a feeling of different rooms in a single space. Lofts appealed especially to wealthy young professionals, to so-called Yuppies as well as Dinkys (double income no kids yet).