VICTORIAN ERA: Impressions and Privacy

During the Victorian Era many new technologies and methods were developing allowing for more people to have access to fine furnishings. With several specializations developing in furniture design house plans changed to allow for more rooms, because people could now afford to fill them. Like “Ames” said, much of the design of the front of the house was based on first impressions. Houses developed to allow the host family to keep their guests in the front entertaining rooms and have their private living quarters hidden from view upstairs.


Many houses had what was called a front hall where guest were first received, here much consideration was given to the furnishings. The larger and more expensive your hallstand and other furnishings, the higher your social standing would seem to the guest who enter your house. The Victorians perfected the concept of controlling the first impression.

What guests had access to was changing, the family now had some control over what other people thought when they came to visit. These new ideas on the importance of first impressions allowed for the development in the concept of privacy. Rooms could now be entered independently, you no longer had to travel through one room to the next, invading the privacy of the occupants along the way. Families could now afford for everyone to have their own bedrooms were they could go to escape in quite. They were no longer forced to all sleep in the same room.

Having visitors became a more common occurrence. As privacy became more of a need then a luxury, designers started to incorporate it into their programming. Dumbwaiters were developed so waiters wouldn’t interrupt a private conversation, back staircases were added so the servants could move around undetected to perform their duties. Victorians at the time were very concerned with what others thought of them and didn’t want to be seem as poor or unable to afford the luxuries. People would sometimes splurge to decorate their front halls and parlors more elaborately then the rest of their houses. You might even say some people still do this today when they buy a fancy sports car they only use for work, or buy designer clothing with large obvious labels to show others what they can afford.

Was the development of privacy a much needed development or was it one of the main contribution factors to the deterioration of family structure? And did this obsession with first impressions stimulate consumerism or was it the other way around, and how can these values be seen in todays culture?