In my essay I will be arguing to what extent has the 21st Century home evolved? Looking closely at the active role males and females play within the household. I will be using a case study to support my outlook on the topic of discussion. I have chosen three rooms within the home to discuss and analyse, the main bedroom, the kitchen as well as the sun lounge and the connected lounge.
The case study chosen is a household in Bedfordview, Johannesburg. Three people live within the space, Joanne (wife), Andreas (husband) as well as Zandele (daughter), who all share the same public spaces. The owner of the home is Joanne who has a fulltime job owning her own company; she has also solely decorated the home and private areas within the house, as well as cooks and cleans for her and her family. She spends most of her time in the kitchen as well as the lounge. Andreas does not work but rather has side hobbies such as car racing, he spends most of his time staying at home looking after the house while Joanne is out. He prefers to spend his day in the sun lounge watching sport. Zandele spends most of her time at home in her bedroom doing homework and relaxing, or in the lounge.
In the book titled “The Gendered Object” Kinchin, J (1996), argues that In the 19th century home, the private spaces within the middle-class sector, was understood as feminine territory, women would stay at home and look after the house while the men went out and earned a living to support him and his household. The men’s domain consisted of the hall, library, smoking room and the billiards room, which was noticeably more masculine within the space. The areas such as the morning room, music room as well as the bedroom was perceived as the feminine sphere of influence, consisting of decorative and delicate features which are contrasted in the more masculine rooms, consisting of dark and heavy elements such as dark timber and other materials. (Kinchin, 1996).
Looking at the kitchen in the 21st century home, the design and layout of the space is gender neutral but leans more towards a masculine design, which is noticed when looking at the clean and sharp lines of the counter tops and built in cabinets. The colour of the space is more masculine, consisting of plain and simple tones such as greys and whites. This is heavily contrasted with the 19th century home. Marian Roberts, (1990) argues that the Victorian and Edwardian homes of the 19th century were designed in such a way that the heavy housework chores such as cooking and cleaning were restricted to the back of the house and at the front of the house was the grandest room, the parlour room into which the visitors were welcomed. (Roberts, 1990). In the 21st century home, the kitchen has now been a tool in which people use to entertain their guests, placing the kitchen central to the home, normally open planned and attached to the dinning room, as seen in figure one.
Figure One: 21st Century Kitchen
Looking at the 19th century kitchen one will notice that the kitchen was larger in size and had a scullery attached to it, housing the food as well as cleaning products. Females of the 19th century spent a large amount of time cooking and preparing food therefor the space was larger compared to the 20th century kitchen. The materials used within the 19th century comprised of a large amount of timber such as timber countertops and work surfaces. The kitchens also had a lot of ornamentation and china displayed throughout the space. Where as the 21st century kitchen has clean-cut lines with little to no ornamentation as well as a very minimalized design. (Wigley, 1992).
Figure Two: 19th Century Kitchen
Looking at the living room one will notice the decoration and ornamentation within the space is still very much feminine. The plants, mirrors as well as the colour of the couches and cushions have a feminine feel and atmosphere attached to the space. Joanne’s personality as well as fashion sense is modern and put together, which is displayed in her interior spaces. The large use of glass and neutral tones represent her as a person as well as the organic shapes of the mirrors on walls are still seen as feminine. The lounge displays a large amount of decoration, therefor the space can till be seen as having a large amount of feminine characteristics attached to it. Comparing the lounge and the sun lounge one will notice that the sun has little to no ornamentation as this space was used by Andreas during the day and hardly used by Joanne. The space has more of a masculine feel towards it, displaying clean-cut lines with dark tones of grey on the walls.
Comparing the modern day lounge to the 19th century lounge. Marian Roberts, (1990) suggests that the 19th century lounge was considered one of the grandest rooms within the home, welcoming all guests into the space to socialize and entertain. This space was one of the biggest rooms within the home and displayed a large amount of ornamentation and decoration within the extravagant space. (Roberts, 1990). Domestic interiors were understood by the public as fundamentally feminine spaces and was seen as just like a women beautifies herself, she beautifies her home, which is evident in figure five. (Houze, 2002:3). Beverly Gorden, (1996) argues that the interior spaces within the homes of the 19th century were identified completely with the personalities of the women at the time, and were treated as the same thing. She also suggests that women of today are still relatable to their interiors and a large amount of their personality is shown through their interior spaces, which is evident within figure three
And four. (Gorden, 1996).
Figure Three: 19th Century Lounge
Figure Four: 21st Century Lounge
Figure Five: 21st century Sun Lounge
Beverly Gordon, (1996) argues that males still dominate the architectural profession and many men are largely interested with the exterior shell rather than the interior shell, this is displayed within the 21st century architecture and design, the exterior of the building tends to be sharp, clean lines which demonstrates the masculinity and form of a male whereas the interior tends to be more ornamentation or display feminine colours and patterns which link closely to her personality. (Gorden, 1996).
Figure Six: Exterior of Case Study
Finally looking at the 21st century main bedroom, one will notice that the space is gender neutral with a few feminine elements present. The space is shared equally between Joanne and Andreas therefor the space displays both personalities in the design and decoration of the space. The feminine aspects that are present within the space include the patterns, large mirrors, plants as well as the ornamentation displayed on the dressing table. The masculine elements displayed within the space includes the dark grey tones of the wall colour, the simple and ordered layout of the space as well as the lack of large amounts of ornamentation within the space.
Figure Seven: 21st Century Main Bedroom
Looking at the 19th century bedroom one will notice the large amount of ornamentation as well as patterned upholstery in the space, the room was considered a feminine space where ladies of the time would spend a large amount of their time in the space, getting dressed and ready for the day. There were masculine materials used, such as dark and heavy timber bed frames and cupboards but had organic shapes and motives carved into them. The wallpaper as well as the colours used were popular to the feminine aesthetics of the time. Peter McNeil, (2013) suggests that In the 19th century the only place for a women was in the home and therefor they would spend a large amount of time beautifying and dressing their homes, which is why most spaces within the house displayed feminine aesthetics such as patterned upholstery and wallpaper, it was an extension of their personalities, which is still evident today, no matter how much one spends in a space, one tends to dress their home according to their social class and personality. (McNeil, 2013)
Figure Eight: 19th Century Main Bedroom
By comparing the chosen case study to the 19th century home one will notice that there are still some aspects that have remained the same, such as the women of the house still designs and decorates the spaces within her home, the chosen designs implemented as well as decoration and ornamentation of each room can still be seen as an extension of the women’s personality with regards to the way she dresses herself. Women of today spend less time at home but rather go out and work, in this chosen case study the male figure stays at home and looks after the house yet he has no active role in decorating or designing the space. Therefor some aspects are still traditional but the interior of a house is still predominantly a feminine realm.
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