Review of The Modern Interior, Penny Sparke

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The visual reticence of this little book, 20 x 15 cm, with a grey cover showing a black-and-white photograph, undersells the expansiveness, diversity and materiality of its subject. The title is equally spare, giving no hint of argument or approach and suggesting, by omission, a definitive account. Indeed, The Modern Interior is puffed as “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 inclusiveness is justified: Penny Sparke’s work is often used by those outside design history to understand the meanings of designed objects and spaces, from ruched curtains to car bodies. The Modern Interior is essential reading for its demonstration of the stylistic and functional heterogeneity of its subject. Extending far beyond the Modern Movement, Sparke defines the modern interior as “the inside location of people’s experiences of, and negotiations with, modern life”. Arguing that during industrialisation, public and private spheres have been characterised by instability rather than separation, Sparke writes usefully on the ways in which the domestic interior infiltrated the public sphere in the second half of the 19th century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51
Number of pages1
JournalTimes Higher Education
Issue number1,868
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2008


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