ABSTRACT

This chapter discusses a diverse and broadly ranging swath of society whose sole distinction was to employ one or more servants–the home functioned as a primary site of negotiation and ultimately stabilization of many of the contradictions inherent in everyday life. The contradictions include status within and between class divisions, differing gender roles, and distinctions between labor and leisure, public life and domesticity, and moderation and excess. The chapter considers the tensions–gendered and otherwise–that inform the impulses toward choice and conformity in middle-class decor as well as the contradictions between private and personalized spaces, especially when furnished with the products of mass-produced, rather than handcrafted industry. The proper furnishing of a house is as much a fine art as painting, and if rules do not come by an intuitive faculty, they may be acquired. As house furnishing was professionalized, the need for conformity and regulation increased, but even within this new culture, there were occasional detractors.