Turning Houses into Homes : a History of the Retailing and Consumption of Domestic Furnishings (review)

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Clive Edwards has published widely on the history of furniture design and furnishing, as well as aspects of consumption, business and retailing. Turning Houses into Homes is part of Ashgate's History of Retailing and Consumption series. In seeking to illuminate distribution and reception it promises a reasonably comprehensive understanding of the significance of domestic furnishings across a long period of study from the eighteenth century to the present. The result is certainly ambitious and is characteristic of a researcher who has made a habit of encyclopaedic publications such as an Encyclopaedia of Furniture Materials Trades and Techniques, a Complete Dictionary of Furniture and a forthcoming Encyclopaedia of Furnishing Fabric and Soft Furnishings. Turning Houses into Homes is organised chronologically, with the double focus on retailing and consumption supported throughout the structure. Edwards states first that his work is a contribution to the history of retailing and that 'retailing cannot be understood fully without some analysis of the consumption practices that feed it'. (p. 8) After the introduction, which ranges from the medieval period to the seventeenth century, chapter two, 'The Development of a Consuming Culture' is one of a pair on the eighteenth century treating retail and comfort, and convenience respectively. Two chapters on the nineteenth-century follow, addressing retailing responses to consumer demands and the social significance of domestic consumption. Next are two chapters on the twentieth century - the first on a shift from mass to niche marketing and the second on the consumption of home furnishings. The book therefore deals in sequence, if not in tandem, with the dual concerns of its title and the series to which it belongs. Rather than filling a gap in the literature by supplying an analysis of 'the interaction between retailer and consumer' as the blurb suggests, the framework of the book implies that retailing and consumption are discrete, albeit contingent, entities to be considered sequentially rather than simultaneously.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-522
JournalUrban History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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