Architecture & Design
I have always been fascinated by architectural history and specialise in design from the 19th and 20th centuries.
I studied for my PhD at the University of Cambridge researching the career of Owen Jones (1809-74), one of the Victorian era’s most under-appreciated designers. Though he trained as an architect, Jones applied his brand of colourful, geometric flat pattern to a huge range of media including furniture, carpets, books, tiles, playing cards, wallpaper and even biscuit wrappers. Today he is best known as author of the design classic The Grammar of Ornament first published in 1856 and still in print. With its bias towards Eastern ornament this book clearly demonstrates Jones’s pioneering respect for Islamic and Indian design. Jones was also responsible for decorating the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and again when it moved to Sydenham, South London in 1854. He was a key figure in the creation of London’s V&A Museum, a fact celebrated by an exhibition there in honour of his bicentenary in 2009 as well as an international conference to which I contributed.
After completing my doctorate I worked as Senior Architectural Adviser to The Victorian Society, the national charity campaigning for our Victorian and Edwardian built heritage. I saw many wonderful buildings during my time with the conservation team and also enjoyed organising conferences and tours to Victorian seaside resorts.
In 2010 I published The Victorian Home, a book that looks at the houses built for the new middle classes of the period, exploring the architectural styles and interior design choices available to people during the 19th century.
My book on Bungalows also seeks to throw new light onto a ubiquitous building type. It tells the story of how wealthy Victorians adopted the Indian-inspired bungalow as a Bohemian type of second home, inspiring a fashion for single-storey dwellings throughout society.
As a big fan of vintage and Mid-Century Modern style I was pleased to have the opportunity to focus on the huge changes that happened in ordinary homes during the post-war period in my book on The 1950s Kitchen. After the austerity of the previous decade colour entered the kitchen via new materials, fitted units, up-to-date gadgets and even through food itself. This was the era when electric appliances first became genuinely affordable, a subject I discuss in the book 100 Years, 100 houses published by the C20 Society.
The Old Convent in East Grinstead is a beautiful Grade I listed building designed in 1865 by George Edmund Street. I was privileged to work with current residents and with the blessing of the Society of St Margaret to tell the story of its creation and the selfless women for whom it was built.
My research was also published in Country Life magazine and was the basis for an exhibition at East Grinstead Museum from May to September 2021.