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Design History: Edwardian

‘Design History’ is our new blog series – sharing research staff at EWD have undertaken to inform our own projects and for the enjoyment of the world around us. We feel passionately that only by understanding our design heritage, can we successfully design for today. We have condensed our internal reports here and hope you find them enjoyable and informative.


Edwardian architecture is an architectural style popular during the reign of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (1901 to 1910). Architecture up to the year 1914 may also be included in this style.

Edwardian architecture is generally less ornate than high or late Victorian architecture, apart from a subset – used for major buildings – known as Edwardian Baroque architecture.

Notable architects during this time included Edwin Lutyens, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Giles Gilbert Scott. In spite of the popularity of Art Nouveau in Europe, the Edwardian Baroque style of architecture was widely favoured for public structures and was a revival of Christopher Wren–inspired designs of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The change or reversal in taste from the Victorian eclectic styles corresponded with the historical revivals of the period, most prominently earlier Georgian and Neoclassical styles of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Edwardian era or Edwardian period of British history spanned the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended to the start of the First World War. The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 marked the end of the Victorian era. Her son and successor, Edward VII, was already the leader of fashionable elite that set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe. Samuel Hynes described the Edwardian era as a "leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag."

The Liberals returned to power in 1906 and made significant reforms. Below the upper class, the era was marked by significant shifts in politics among sections of society that had largely been excluded from power, such as labourers, servants, and the industrial working class. Women started to play more of a role in politics.

The architectural style popularised during the reign of King Edward VII, the successor of Queen Victoria came to be known as “Edwardian style of Architecture”.

The number of household servant increases in numbers and electricity became a readily available commodity during the Edwardian era. Therefore, people adopted modern style of accommodation. The Edwardian houses were an outcome of this trend.


The Queen Anne style remained in vogue into the early Edwardian period. The influence of the Arts and Crafts movement meant that vernacular traditions remained but new styles were adopted, including a new version of English 18th century classical, in other words neo-Georgian. The wealthier patrons of architects and designers persisted with French classical styles, particularly Louis XVI.

House designs of these first few years of the 20th century exhibited:

  • 'Tudorbethan' style, taking ideas from the Arts and Crafts movement, with rough cast walls, small paned leaded windows, magpie-work and rustic bricks, as well as Jacobean details such as gargoyles, heraldic devices, mullioned windows, studded doors and Dutch gables

  • Neo-Georgian stylewith large bays and sash windows, columns and pilasters

  • Edwardian eclectic style- an evolution of the Victorian terraced, semi-detached or detached house in an Eclectic style with Art Nouveau influences in fireplaces, light fittings, stained glass and door furniture

As in the later part of the Victorian period, it is hard to label most Edwardian houses as being of a single style; they fall into the category of 'Edwardian eclectic', with a mix of styles and ideas. The typical middle or working class home was built by a small builder who would buy a plot of land, build one or two houses and immediately sell them freehold or leasehold to a landlord. This speculative builder built what he liked, was familiar with and could sell easily and profitably.

Writers continued to attack this jumble and looked for a new national style. However, pure Arts and Crafts products were too expensive and not available in sufficient quantity. Many furniture and building products were therefore machine-made, influenced by Arts and Crafts styles. The mock-Tudor, 'Tudorbethan' cottage architectural style appeared from the late 1890s but was scorned by 1910. Needless to say, it persisted, and has continued to the present day. Meanwhile, the battles between the designer camps continued; Art Nouveau - and its Scottish variation - was reviled by Voysey and Walter Crane.

General features to look out for:

  1. Masonry construction including: stamped concrete foundation; stretcher pattern pressed red brick exterior with red-tooled mortar.

  2. Classical Revival-style details such as: unadorned exterior; balanced plan; multi-storey projecting bays on either side of front entry; corbelled metal cornice; enclosed central entry vestibule with transom and sidelights and corbelled pressed metal cornice; regular fenestration; parged segmental arch lintels; transom over rear entries.

  3. Fenestration such as: segmental arch 8-over-1 single-hung wooden-sash windows with multi-light storms; segmental arch fixed windows; tripartite assembly 8-over-1 single-hung wooden-sash windows with multi-light storms; segmental arch 1-over-1 single-hung wooden-sash windows; concrete sills throughout.

  4. Additional elements including three-storey hipped-roof verandah with exposed rafters and open balustrade on rear façade.

Key elements in spatial planning:

Porches: Edwardian porches were pretty famed. It was massively important to have a porch on the front of the house during this time.

A porch is a structure which is attached to the doorway or vestibule to form a covered entrance to a building. They may or may not be covered by screens, windows, latticework or light frame walls.

In the Edwardian era, these porches depended on the financial status of the people. The rich had porches made magnificently with rare materials while the poor had little space and materials for porch. But all houses almost always had a porch to surround the main door. There were two kinds of porches chiefly.

They were either inside the front main wall of the building or were protruding. Thus the porch could either have some covering or not. Protruding porches had some roof or wall on their side; this was some sort of structure from the main building that extended to the porch.

This is seen in the porches which have a console bracketed roof and those that have roofs supported on through wood or brick walls or both. Chiefly these are the two forms of protruding porches that you get to see.

In Edwardian porches, you generally find the porch extending around the front main door. There are two ways in which these porches are built. They can either be on the same plane with the main wall or they could be extending out from the house.

If the porch did not stand on the same plane with the main wall, it was protruding; which means it was attached to some structure form the main building, like a roof. Wood frameworks or console brackets or a combination of both was used to hold up the roof of Edwardian porches.

While it was pretty easy for the poor, the rich had lavish porches. Intricate porches can be seen in the rich families of this age. Even if wood was used to make their houses, it was always colored white, Ivory White. This color is a bit different from the bright white that we are used to nowadays. Edwardian porches became a semblance of beauty and magnificence for ages to come.

Bedrooms: The easy availability of gas heating and lighting had a big say in the new Edwardian rooms. Electricity also started being available to the high class people. The lighting designs were hence renovated in a completely new form and even the fireplaces met with considerable changes. Improvised lights made the rooms visual treats. This perhaps was the beginning of the lighting designs we live in today.

Unlike the dark palate of the Victorian era, the Edwardian reign saw a renewed interest in brighter shades. The most fashionable of people started to paint their walls in more pastel colours. Even the furniture started being made in brighter shades. The darker shades of the past generations were cast out of fashion coz the new monarch showed interest in more colourful decorations. The floral pattern replaced the complex patterns of the Victorian era on the wallpapers and furniture.

Gloss paints were another unique entry into Edwardian bedrooms courtesy the developing technology. This development also made the price of plate glass fall to quite a remarkable extend which in turn made it all the more affordable to the not so wealthy class. Large plate glass mirrors started being widely used in decorating bedrooms. One of the favourite spots was the mantelpieces above fireplaces.

Edwardian beds laid major emphasis on comfort and class. Mahogany was used freely for the construction of durable and well carved beds. Iron and brass were amongst the metals frequently used for the same. Designer arched heads and footboards were presented with a modern and fresh touch. Ebony was also used for the inlays at times. Though the double beds started off in the late Victorian era, single beds composed the more used ones in the Edwardian age.

The Edwardian era accompanied significant changes in areas like fashion and art. The Victorian era which preceded the Edwardian era was a time of understated modesty. However, the Edwardian era experimented with various fresh ideas. Both the decorations and furniture of an Edwardian Bedroom was quite bold in its appeal. Also worth mention here is the introduction of the Art Nouveau movement. As part of this movement fireplaces and wallpapers started featuring natural elements and bold figures which included human figures and organic natural life. The Edwardian bedrooms were a good mixture of class and fashion. It was for once not formal and yet elite in its appeal.

Interior design features of Edwardian Houses

Planning: The Edwardian houses constituted of 2 storeys that were partly detached from one another. The rooms in these houses were considerably less in numbers but they were more spacious and airy. Houses had wider frontages so there was often more room for a hall; in larger houses this was even used as a living room. For example it would be furnished with a desk and perhaps even a fireplace.

Interiors: The interiors of an Edwardian house include a big hallway which is laden with a beautiful carpet. Key features also include:

  1. The staircase is really wide.

  2. The walls have paintings hanging from them.

  3. Colours and detailing were lighter than in the late 19th century, looking back to the Georgian era of a century before. The desire for cleanliness continued.

  4. As gas and then electric light became more widespread, walls could be lighter as they did not get so dirty and looked better in the brighter light.

  5. Decorative patterns were less complex; both wallpaper and curtain designs were more plain.

  6. The underlying themes of buildings and interior design of the Edwardian era were for expensive simplicity and sunshine and air.


Edwardian colour schemes were lighter still than those of the 1880s and 1890s.

  1. Doors, skirtings, ceilings, panelling and picture rails were often painted using the new bright white enamel paint.

  2. Colours were quieter, carrying on the trends established by the Arts and Crafts movement, and helping achieve the Edwardian ideals of freshness and light.

  3. Houses in the Georgian revival style were decorated in appropriate colours, typically pale blues, greens and greys.

  4. Although the main areas of walls and woodwork were generally painted or papered in pastel shades, ornaments and details were highlighted in strong colours, for example, black woodwork might have had gold or silver gilding to emphasise details.

  5. In the hall, typical colours were greens, blues, terracottas and dark gold.

  6. The dining room continued to be in the richest hues of all the rooms. For example, red and gold with yellow and white ceilings, and a cream cornice

  7. The drawing room might have had pale blues, with stencilled or painted rush and grass designs. It was often repainted every year. Other typical colours were lavender, rose-pink, pale lime green, buttery yellow, soft cream and off-white.

  8. Outside, the windows were in a dark colour but marked out in white. Roughcast on the upper floors was left plain or whitewashed. Magpie-work was in black on white or un-painted render.

  9. The period saw a revival of Georgian styles, supported by Lutyens. This was manifested in pale creams, pastels, quiet greens and blues, although Lutyens himself preferred stronger colours including black, strong greens and reds

Furniture: To go with the eclectic nature of the architecture of the time, the furniture available was an eclectic mix, and many homes will have mixed the styles too. Some furniture was mediaeval in style, heavy and in dark woods. Arts and Crafts-influenced furniture was lighter and simple in design. The organic forms from the Art Nouveau vocabulary appeared on other furniture. Then there were pieces taking their inspiration from French and English 18th century designs:

  1. Much of the furniture was light, elegant and delicate.

  2. The materials used included pale woods such as oak, walnut, and cherry, and also wicker, cane and bamboo. Inlays were used to add decoration.

  3. Furniture was sometimes painted in soft colours or with highlights in gilt.

  4. Armchairs and sofas were still well stuffed but with loose covers in flowery chintz.

  5. Edwardian rooms, although less crowded, were still cluttered.


Edwardian windows render that lightness to the architecture.

  1. In many Edwardian houses, windows were larger than those of preceding eras because large glass panes were cheaper.

  2. Stained glass was sometimes used, particularly for the upper lights in casement windows.

  3. However, particularly in Tudorbethan houses, small porch and inglenook windows were sometimes added. Greater use was made of casement windows, with leaded lights, sometimes also stained.

  4. Though the entire idea of stained glass started in the Victorian era, Edwardian era continued on those lines. The stained glass of this era is of brighter color and more of pastel shades than black and brown or any somber one.

  5. Colourful motifs were popularized across England and designs were mainly of gardens or designs of flowers using soothing colors like blue, yellow in both primrose and chrome, light leafy green and their tints and shades.

  6. Edwardian Sash windows are two section windows which slide one over the other. It works on a system of pulleys and is balanced by weights on either side. These usually have wooden panes and are more distinctive from other designs. These have an upper decorative pane which is more than one in number. A part of this is fixed and other one slide. This allows more light.

  7. The changing of Buildings ACT in UK regulated creating windows in exterior walls so as a resulted the windows in Edwardian era were mainly in bays. Edwardian windows sprout from the main structure. It has an elegant look about it. The view is vast from these windows, facilitates better ventilation. It has comfortable window sills which serve as seats and these windows being the way they are designed serve as nothing less than a balcony. These windows are supported by brick or wooden external supports. These supports are painted in white.

Doors: Edwardian terraced houses had front doors not greatly different from those of the late 19th century although colours differed.

  1. The door was painted in a variety of browns and greens, with the panels often in a lighter shade or the mouldings were in a contrasting colour.

  2. Glass was typically leaded and stained with designs showing Art Nouveau elements. Door furniture was brass.

  3. Houses with Tudor and Jacobean influences had a varnished door, glass was leaded but obscured more often than stained, and door furniture was in black iron.

  4. Internal doors reflected the styles of the front door. In the terraced house, finger plates had Art Nouveau designs.

  5. Increased use was made of glazed panels.

  6. Where panels were of wood they might be papered with a relief paper.


  1. Edwardian flooring was on mortar or concrete, or else over wooden joists. The flooring itself was of wooden floorboards, tiles or parquet. Floor coverings were rugs or carpets, and linoleum.

  2. Like people in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Edwardians preferred rugs which could be taken outside and beaten. Rugs and loose carpets were from Turkey and India and in subdued colours. However, the grandest houses began to have fitted carpets once again.

  3. Plain or decorative encaustic tiles were popular around fireplaces, in halls, kitchens, bathrooms, porches and toilets, and even on garden paths. Designs were more plain and some colours were more pale than in Victorian floors.

  4. Parquet flooring in oak or walnut appeared (wood blocks on concrete), particularly in the more cottage styled of houses.

  5. Some houses had linoleum patterned with stone and mosaic designs.

Ceilings: Tudor bethan styles of houses sometimes repeated the wood paneling used on the walls onto the ceiling. Alternatively, wood or plaster beams were used.

  1. In terraced houses, kits of parts made complex patterns in plaster feasible. A relief paper might be used instead or in combination with plaster mouldings

Walls: Edwardian houses used wallpaper, paint and wood paneling. Stenciling was very popular.

  1. Wall-coverings in most Edwardian homes were of paper. This was made in Britain or imported from France.

  2. Decorative designs were florals to match fabrics used for curtains and furniture, as well as Art Nouveau designs.

  3. Relief paper, such as Lincrusta, was still used in the hall, on the landing and on the staircase.

  4. Through mechanisation, wallpaper was now considerably cheaper and it was therefore used in more homes and for more rooms. However, paint was still common in smaller bedrooms, the bathroom, kitchen and scullery.

  5. The Edwardian era saw extensive use of stencilling, particularly on the frieze. An alternative was the pictorial wallpaper.

  6. In Tudor and Jacobean-style homes, wood panelling was popular, for example in the hall and dining room.

Heating and lighting: Edwardian fireplaces reflected the styles of the houses; terraced houses had register grates with Art Nouveau designs on the cast iron and tiles. Fire surrounds were in marble in the larger rooms of grander houses, slate in others, and cast iron and wood in the rest.

  1. In Tudor, Georgian and Jacobean revival homes, fireplaces in the hall, drawing and dining rooms were sometimes huge and open, perhaps in the form of an ingle-nook. The surround was in stone or heavily ornamented wood. The over-mantel was sometimes a continuation of this, with a mirror incorporated.

  2. By the end of the Edwardian era, gas appliances were beginning to appear in kitchens, but the range was still the usual method for cooking and heating water.

  3. Electric light began to appear in cities before 1910, but a house might have had just one light in the drawing room and another in the dining room. The fitting used was typically a standard lamp.

Fabric: The Edwardian period saw a major revival of chintz. This is a printed, multi-coloured fabric with a glazed finish. The term derives from a 17th century fabric imported from India. Chintzes were teamed with matching floral papers. Other fabrics were often luxurious, for example satins, silks, and lace. Covered furniture and curtains were further decorated with fringes and tassels. Fabric designs from the late 19th century from companies such as Liberty & Co were popular. These included Japanese and Indian designs on silk, as well as fluid Art Nouveau patterns. These designs came from people such as Christopher Dresser, Walter Crane, Lindsay Butterfield, Voysey, the Silver Studio, and, after 1900, Harry Napper.

Furniture covered in chintz fabric

Curtains: Edwardian window treatments, including curtaining, reflected the desire for light. However, the three-element treatment persisted for rooms visible from the road; curtains, lace and blinds. Less public rooms would have just the curtains or the curtains and blinds only.

  1. The curtains were in plain designs, for example straight from the ceiling to the floor, with a tie-back and a box pelmet. Fabrics were in simple patterns, for example chintz in an off-white with a floral design. Other fabrics were damask, silk and muslin.

  2. Curtains were hung on simple brass poles.

  3. Lace curtains were still used, but perhaps for the lower half of a sash window only.

  4. Blinds were in cloth or wood, in linoleum, roller and Venetian styles. Sometimes they were of a disposable 'Japanese' paper.

Full-length curtains on Edwardian windows


1. CITY HALL, CAPETOWN: Cape Town City Hall is a large Edwardian building in Cape Town city centre which was built in 1905. It is located on the Grand Parade to the west of the Castle and is built from honey-coloured limestone imported from Bath in England.


Connaught Apartments is valued as an impressive Edwardian era apartment building. Built in 1913, Connaught Apartments is an example of the dense, rectangular, and cubic apartment blocks that were typical of the Edwardian era, which provided housing alternatives in a rapidly period of urbanization. Apartment blocks were a significant development of residential architecture in the Edwardian period, and suited people and families in transition who could not afford or did not want a single family home. As the variety of economies grew and people moved to the city in search of work, the demand for suitable housing also increased. The influx of people resulted in the development of neighbourhoods outside the downtown core. Three and four storey apartment blocks, such as Connaught Apartments, were built to accommodate this growing workforce as they provided high-density residences in close proximity to the downtown core. Connaught Apartments is also valued as an elegant and highly crafted example of a Classical Revival-style apartment building designed by architects, Harrison & Pouton. Its three-storey massing, rectangular form, and pressed red brick exterior with tooled red mortar reflect the clean, unadorned aesthetic of this architectural style in the Edwardian period. The simplicity of Edwardian era architecture is in juxtaposition to the ornate and busy architectural detailing of the earlier Victorian period. Classical Revival architecture provided simple, balanced designs, straight rooflines, clean ornamentation, and, above all, maintenance-free elements. Connaught Apartments’ architectural detailing is limited to the building’s front façade and is characterised by its corbelled pressed metal cornice, simplified but similar corbelled pressed metal cornice at the front entry, triple assembly windows, plain sills and lintels, and dual multistorey projecting bays on either side of the entry. The building’s numerous single assembly windows on the side and rear façades provide an abundance of light to penetrate interior spaces. A substantial three-storey verandah at the rear of the building provided tenants with access to outdoor space as well as a secondary means of egress. The scale and quality of construction materials of the Connaught Apartments reflects the optimism and assumed economic stability of the Edwardian era, prior to the outbreak of the First World War.

Connaught Apartments in the early 1910s. The name was changed to Hycroft Apartments by owner Harry Veiner, proprietor of Hycroft Potteries, in the mid-1970s.

3. MANDARIN ORIENTAL HYDE PARK, LONDONis a five-star hotel, located in the Knightsbridge district of London, owned and managed by Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. Housed in a historic, Edwardian-style building, the hotel originally opened its doors to the public in 1902 as the Hyde Park Hotel and in 1996 the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group purchased the property and conducted a full renovation, consequently re-opening in May 2000.


Although there was a national building boom at the turn of the century, Cambridge had little Edwardian stock built in this period. There are a few isolated pockets of Edwardian houses on the edges of Cambridge, such as Hills Road, Newnham, Great Shelford and the Castle area.

Newnham College, Cambridge

5. THE OLD GRANARY, CAMBRIDGE: Another classical example of Edwardian Architecture is this prominent building we are all well versed on!

The Old Granary is a Grade II listed building with its main entrance on Silver Street and an internal entrance from the College garden. The building has extraordinary character: built in the early nineteenth century, it has been remodeled from its beginnings as a functional granary, becoming residential accommodation at the end of that century. It was also part of the Darwin residence from the time of Professor Sir George Darwin onwards.

Its appearance from the outside is matched inside with rooms of varying sizes and many original features. There are superb views of the Mill Pond from many of the bedrooms.

Research by Manjiri Kulkarni, Associate.

References: 21


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