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200 × 150 × 15 mm
240 pages
100 illustrations
01 May 2008
  • £22.50

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The Modern Interior Penny Sparke

Through the impact of shops like Habitat and IKEA, and of the countless glossy magazines, books and catalogues that focus on the concept of ‘interior design’, we have all become familiar with the idea of our homes and public interiors containing items of modern furniture and decor. Yet design historian and critic Penny Sparke shows that, unlike designed buildings and artefacts, the fixed idea of the ‘modern interior’ has only ever been an abstract and idealized concept, promoted through exhibitions, retail contexts and the mass media, and that it rarely exists in an absolute form.

The Modern Interior provides a persuasive account of the forces, conflicts and debates that have underpinned the emergence of something we now effortlessly refer to as the 'modern interior'. Offering fascinating and eloquent insights into the work of international designers including C. R. Mackintosh, Adolf Loos, Josef Frank, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Lilly Reich, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Philippe Starck, and Charles and Ray Eames, Sparke focuses on the realities as well as concepts of the modern interior, whether in the hands of professional decorators and designers, or in those of its amateur inhabitants. By doing so, she deftly unravels the shift from Victorian to modern style, and demonstrates that the easy transition to the modern interior so frequently portrayed is little more than a mythology.

The Modern Interior is essential reading for all students of modern design, architecture and culture, as well as anyone interested in why the interior spaces we inhabit look the way they do.

‘The visual reticence of this little book . . . undersells the expansiveness, diversity and materiality of its subject . . . The Modern Interior presents a compelling argument to consider interiors outside the home, just as it charts the complex interplay between public and private in all interiors, domestic and otherwise. This persuasive book is a well-crafted and engaging read’ — Times Higher Education

‘a perceptive and thought-provoking reflection on the transitory nature of modern life’ — TLS

‘. . . an engaging and colourful potted history of the modern interior from the 1900s through to the present day.’ — RIBA Journal

‘In using examples of design from around the world, including the US, Scandinavia, UK, France, Germany and Italy, The Modern Interior offers some real insight into why the interior environments we inhabit look the way they do.’ — Designer Magazine

‘Fascinating reading for anyone interested in the theory, and practice, of design’ — House & Garden

‘Set to interest design enthusiasts and those with a curiosity for the history of home trends, this compelling title describes the transition from Victorian to avant-garde style. Illustrations of furniture from across the globe shed new light on the emergence of what has become known as the "modern interior".’ — Essential Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Magazine

The Modern Interior makes its argument clearly and forcefully with illustrations that effectively illuminate the narrative. Penny Sparke has here focused largely on a coherent interior, tracking it mainly through the built or written work of professional architects, designers, decorators and critics her book raises the interesting question of how this story played out on the ground, in the multitudinous everyday interiors of ordinary consumers.’ — Journal of Design History

‘[Sparkes] compact study traces the impact of popular concepts of private space on public space design and of public space design theory on the design of private interiors, revealing the complex meaning of the modern interior. Recommended.’ — Choice

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Penny Sparke is Pro Vice-Chancellor in the Arts at Kingston University. Her books include As Long as It’s Pink: The Sexual Politics of Taste (1995), An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Rev. Ed. 2004), and Elsie De Wolfe: The Birth of Modern Decoration (2005).

   Part 1: Inside Out
1   The Private Interior
2   The New Interior
3   The Mass-consumed Interior
4   The Fashionable Interior
5   The Decorative Interior
Part 2: Outside In
6   The Public Interior
7   The Rational Interior
8   The Mass-produced Interior
9   The Abstract Interior
10 The Designed Interior
Photo Acknowledgements