Friday, 16 October 2009

Within These Walls #2

Surfing around on Flikr I came across a photo entitled "within these walls" capturing the end of a row of terraced homes in the east end of Newcastle.

Portrayed straight on the rest of the street remains hidden, only this demolished home can be seen, its former home, decoration its former wallpapered and painted walls remain as if it was the last part of its former owners where clinging on. Yet even the wallpaper is peeling away to reveal is layers of life, its former colours, former shades and the tastes of its former owners - its other life. Each room has a different shade of vibrancy, their original fireplaces somewhat covered up, yet the greenest and the sense of how established the grass before the house is, reminds us this hasn't been a home for quite some time.

This image alone reminds me of the importance of the home in our everyday life. Its where we come back to relax, to entertain, to establish and settle our roots. Another post of mine in previous weeks focused upon the role and the importance of the kitchen table in establishing and maintaining the family household. Now I invite you to take a trip around the home. Continuing from the kitchen we venture into the living room.

The living room, additionally termed the lounge, sitting room, parlour or front room depending on your class and your country is often the space for entertaining, relaxing, playing, reading and watching TV, furnished with sofas, rugs, fireplaces. While once the living room may have been the place for family games, playing boardgames, laughing and joking, today numerous elements of "modern technology" which the living room, and sadly to a point - modern life is becoming increasingly focused around most especially - the TV. Rather then playing games, the TV is becoming the entertainment slave, the thing to keep the children out of mischief.

[Unless otherwise stated all images are taken from Life Magazine]

Even the stars relax in their living room as shown within a collection for Life entitled "Olivier & Wife", the partnership between Lawrence Olivier and then wife and Gone with the Wind star Vivien Leigh curled up on their sofa with their pet cat. Taken in London in 1946 by Hans Wild, the pet cat becomes the centre point of the image, highlighting the relaxing, the importance of the living room as a place to sit back.

Mrs Goldwyn stands, cigarette in hand in her living room in 1952 in an image taken by Gjon Mili. The wife of Samuel Goldwyn an American film director dresses elegantly, adorning her pearls as if to entertain the viewers or perhaps awaiting the rival of her guests.

This image most overtly highlights one of my opening points. While in 1954 when this image of the Waidmann's children a girl sitting on the floor perhaps alongside her two brothers, a child watching the TV may have been more strictly controlled with only a certain allowance of hours a day to watch the children orientated programmes. Now the TV is the thing to keep child out of trouble, rather then playing with children, the TV can do it itself but at the risk of children loosing their proper childhood. The living room is becoming the home of the TV.

From left to right sits Princesses Cecille, Marie des Neiges and Marie-Therese, Prince Xavier's daughters sat happy and chatting in the sitting room of their family home of Ligniers France in 1959. Behind them hang Old Master paintings, possibly of their ancestors while they chat on hard back chairs.

Sitting in the living room designed by her father - the architect Eliot Noyes, Derry sits upon the fireplace playing with her accordion in the sunlight cast through the windows. According to the original caption provided by Life Magazine, this image taken by George Silk in 1963, captures in the foreground a vase holding various pretty and delicate shades of pink carnations designed by Pablo Picasso.

Original photograph removed form the internet apparently.

A Tyneside family from North Shields poses for Sirkka Liisa Konttien in May 1981, at according to the clock sat upon the chimney breast at nearly 2:30 in the afternoon. Mother sits, a son on her lap alongside a further three chirpy and smiley yet somewhat regimented children sitting crossed legged on the rugged floor. Only fathers crossed legs appearing out of the right of the frame reveals his presence and one again the TV, while sidelined to the corner of the room will be the entertainment hotspot.

As a space the living room allows families to get together, sadly though often around the tv - that is the draw back of modern life. Yet its uses are many fold, yet maybe they are fading.


  1. I have to say that your blog really is one of my favourites! What a lovely tour of a 1950s home!

  2. Ah thank you! I'm glad you enjoy reading!