Ideal Home Exhibitions

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(established 1908)

Sponsored by the Daily Mail newspaper, these exhibitions provide an insight into popular taste and aspiration across all aspects of domestic design and organization in Britain. The first exhibition of 1908, held at the Olympia exhibition complex in London, attracted 160,000 visitors to a display of show houses and labour‐saving equipment and was followed by three further shows before the First World War in 1910, 1912, and 1913. The latter included an avant‐garde room furnished by the Omega Workshops, a company that was influenced by the Fauvists and Cubists in France and the Wiener Werkstätte in Austria. Although the First World War interrupted the sequence of the Ideal Home Exhibitions, their popularity increased considerably alongside the British house‐building boom of the 1920s and 1930s—even in the slump of the early 1930s attendances were close to 700,000. Held annually from 1920 to 1939 (on a larger scale from 1923 with the opening of an extension to Olympia), housing types for a variety of income brackets were displayed alongside all kinds of new appliances and ideas about domestic planning and management. Futuristic ideas were also a popular magnet, as in the 1928 exhibition where the Modernist House of the Future was equipped with underfloor heating, pneumatic furniture, disposable (cardboard) ‘crockery’, and a garage‐hangar for an ‘aerocar’. After the Second World War, the exhibitions resumed in 1947 although they took on a more commercial air with the leasing of stands to generate income. The Council of Industrial Design (COID, see Design Council), hoping to extend its influence to a wider audience, sought to interest the public in the ways in which design could benefit society by participating in a number of Ideal Home Exhibitions. In 1948 it commissioned a designer to furnish the Ministry of Health's Aluminium House on a budget of £250 and, in the following year, commissioned five designers to furnish and equip the Ministry of Health's terraced houses for a Four Ways of Living exhibition that proved popular with the public. Attendances at Ideal Home Exhibitions after the Second World War continued at a significant level, showing the enduring popular interest in domestic design: in 1951 there were 1,135,102 visitors, in 1965, 1,128,123, and in 1975, 879,564. However, the increasingly widespread influence of television and the growth in the number of Do‐It‐Yourself superstores and home furnishing and decorating magazines provided alternative outlets for public interest. Nonetheless, the exhibitions continued to attract public interest. For example, in the first post‐war exhibition of 1947 there was a section entitled ‘Science Comes Home’ that sought to show the ways in which technological and scientific advances made in the war years could be applied to the home. In 1956 another House of the Future was displayed. Designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, this mass‐produced house with its built‐in appliances and equipment sought to portray automated living in the 1980s. The living room featured a remote‐controlled radio‐television and controls for raising and lowering sections of the floor to become coffee or dining tables. The kitchen had a dishwasher that also disposed of all waste, a sink with waste‐disposal unit, and a microwave oven; other equipment included an electrostatic dust collector that could operate on its own. In the following decades technologically oriented displays continued to attract attention. To parallel the many other design awards that were being instituted in the 1950s and 1960s, in 1965 the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition brought in its own design award scheme, the Blue Riband. The aim was to encourage British and foreign manufacturers to introduce new products at the exhibition. The latter qualified if they had been launched on the British market within the previous twelve months and presented a new idea or major development to an existing design. In 1975 the Daily Mail established a separate company, Angex, to take on the responsibility for the Ideal Home Exhibitions. From 1979 onwards the exhibitions were held at Earl's Court, London.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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