Furnishings

What furniture and fittings would you have found in the dining room of Victorian and Edwardian houses; the furnishings?

Victorian furniture was intended to be elegant but comfortable and solid. It was mainly made from dark, heavy woods like mahogany and oak. The furniture was fairly substantial and generally masculine in appearance. Empire, Gothic and Renaissance Revival styles in mahogany, walnut and rosewood were popular. Later, influenced by the Aesthetic Movement and Japanese styles, furniture was lighter, in oak or walnut, with mother-of-pearl inlays.

The dining room had a large central table, either square, circular or rectangular. Because tables were covered, the tops were plain. The table was surrounded by upright chairs. The 'carver', a bigger chair with arms, was for the man of the family, who carved the roast at meal times. The chairs often had leather upholstery as this was easy to clean. Surplus chairs were placed around the edge of the room.

There was usually an elaborate floral arrangement in the centre of the table.

After the table and chairs, the most important piece of furniture was the sideboard. It had a mirror, shelves, drawers and cupboards. The woodwork was often embellished with carved decorations. At dinner parties most dishes were placed on the sideboard and served from there by servants. An alternative was the chiffonier, a low cupboard.

Above the fireplace was an ornamental mantelpiece cluttered with ornaments, candlesticks and plates. Near the fireplace was a coal scuttle and a poker, shovel and tongs for picking up hot coals. When the fire was unlit, an ornamental fire-screen was placed across the front of the fireplace.

Favourite Victorian ornaments were rounded glass cases containing imitation plants, wax figures and even animals. Hunting trophies were displayed in some homes.

The pictures on the walls were hung in large, heavy frames. Satin and lace curtains hung at the windows. Many Victorians liked to have a large plant such as an aspidistra in a pot close to the window.