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The Great Indoors: At home in the modern British house Hardcover – 2 Jan 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846681839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846681837
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 376,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Fascinating. A joyful portrait of how we live -- in all our eccentric glory. You'll never look at wallpaper in the same way again. (Matt Rudd)

The Great Indoors is an entertaining and welcome addition to a neglected field of social history. (Susan Flockhart Sunday Herald)

There is a great deal to be enjoyed in this book... a sprightly guide through the vicissitudes of the past 40 years in the British home. (Lucy Lethbridge The Observer 2014-01-05)

Brilliantly entertaining and rigorously researched book, Highmore explores our recent domestic past and asks what it says about the way we live now. (Kathryn Hughes Mail on Sunday 2014-01-05)

Thought-provoking little book. (Marcus Berkman Daily Mail 2014-01-09)

Entertaining and informative. (Alwyn Turner Daily Telegraph 2014-01-11)

Good solid stuff. (Rebecca Armstrong Independent on Sunday 2014-01-12)

The author... is a revelation. He is constantly informative, psychologically nuanced and charming. He's succeeded where so many others have failed. This is the book that amateur home anthropologists have been waiting for: a book that treats the evolution of home decoration and style with the ambition it deserves. (Alan de Botton The TImes 2014-01-11)

Highmore breezily picks our locks, throws open all our rooms, rifles through everything we've ever owned, and tells the story of our lives. (Iain Finlayson Saga 2014-02-01)

Highmore takes a captivatingly nosy look around the British home, exploring the roles played by such revolutionary instruments of social change as the duvet and the serving hatch. His range of reference is invigoratingly eclectic. (New Statesman 2014-03-06)

Book Description

A field guide to the private life of the family home in the twentieth century: a social, cultural and personal history.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ben Highmore, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex, has written a book that is both informative and witty, and it comes to you highly recommended. He has described how our modern British house has evolved, from the late 19th century to the 21st century, from having a front parlour and/or dining room, kept for high days and holidays, a place to show off our very best furniture and ornaments, to the modern room designed for living in on a daily basis, even what we call this room ... drawing room, sitting room or lounge. He examines why things are as they are ... why is the telephone generally to be found in the hall? Why is the freezer generally found in the garage? Much of his research has been courtesy of the archives of Mass Observation in which many men and women from all walks of life have described their homes in detail, right down to the items displayed on their mantelpieces.
As I have an interest in social history of this kind I must confess I have not learned very much from it that I didn't know, but I have found it has reinforced what I already knew or believed to be the case. Furthermore, it has been written in a very witty style - not that witty it would irritate, but in a pleasingly witty style that often brought a smile to my face. In fact, it reads as entertainingly as a novel. Highly recommended
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author wears his learning lightly and the results of extensive research are communicated in a witty and interesting way. I did feel that the book flagged a little towards the end with the sections on attics, cellars and gardens being less interesting than the previous chapters. I would have preferred more historical perspective on the uses of the principle rooms. Having said that, the book can be recommended as a thoroughly good read for anyone interested in the subject and the author's tendency to raise interesting and unexpected analogies and connections is a delight.
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By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
British author Ben Highmore has written a book that "housing nerds" will love. What's a "housing nerd", you might ask? It's all of us who love looking at old books of house plans and who wonder how did the residents of these houses "live". What did they use the rooms for? How did/does anyone manage to exist in a bedroom without an en-suite bath? Out houses, what???

"The Great Indoors: At Home in the Modern British House", really starts "modern" at the beginning of the 20th century. He examines how houses and their uses "evolved" with the addition of rooms. How were rooms used 100 years ago and how are they used nowadays? One of his most interesting points is the use of the duvet in British bedrooms. Originally imported from France, they were looked upon as "suspicious", until their sheer comfort and ease of use - no more top sheets and blankets to deal with - overcame fear of the "foreign". Now, almost 80% of British beds are made with duvets, rather than sheets and blankets. Highmore's fascinating book is filled with these details of how our modern lives have evolved within the four walls of our homes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great idea for a book - a historical/socialogical examination of the house and its various parts - was a great idea. It starts well and the early chapters are fascinating and illuminating. Unfortunately the author appears to run out of interesting content by the middle of the book and it becomes a bit of a drag from thereon in.

I also found his writing style to be annoying with the inclusion of too much padding and some unfunny little jokes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I were British and over 60, I would rate this book much lower because I would already know most of what's in it. But as an American who has an interest in housing both as a hobby and as an historian, I found the book interesting and very readable. I was actually quite shocked to learn how deficient so much of British housing was until recent years, and even in the 21st century when a flat in Clapham with one bedroom and it's too small for a regular double bed is on the market for over 300 pounds. Obviously it's the result of old stock in housing not found in the former colonies. The most fascinating aspect of the book was learning of the existence of the Mass Observation survey begun in 1937, which is quoted extensively in the book.

But I will admit that even as an American (and over the age of 60), I found I was familiar with most of the contents of the book. I know why phones used to be in the hall, the effect of the decline of servants in the use of houses, changes in the child's bedroom from a place to sleep shared with siblings to a private bed-sit, the effect of demographic changes in the use of houses, and more. So if you have lived through all of this and aren't a fan of housing programs on TV, you may well be disappointed. But the book is a good read and I enjoyed it from start to finish so I gave it 4 stars with caveats.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is quite interesting and written in an amusing way. However, anyone over a certain age will not find anything new about how we use (and used) our homes. It darted around chronologically a at times and does not really venture into the 21st century, so is already out of date.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book as it took you through the years of changes to present day, from TV to tablets and coal fire to solar panels (we have both!). Now, so true that the dining room must earn its keep and has multiple uses. How many of us eat off a tray on our laps in front of the TV? For me I prefer the dining table, but will snack in front of the TV. I remember the telephone in the hall with a dial and we had to share a 'party line'. Even decor is complex as to whether you live in a modern house but with traditional tastes or a Victorian house with modern or shabby chic design ideas. I still remember my parents patterned everything......wallpaper, curtains, suite and carpet. Ornaments were plentiful and each had a sentimental story. Of course central heating changed the way rooms were used and quite rightly being sent to your room now, is more of a pleasure than a punishment. How we live and used to live is often so different in each individual house that it would make interesting and enlightening ongoing conversation.
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