Interior Bowers The Dormant Wilderness of Nineteenth-Century Boudoirs

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Mark Taylor
Julieanna Preston


I know a rural bedroom with a paper representing a trellis and Noisette roses climbing over it; the carpet is shades of green without any pattern, and has only a narrow border of Noisette roses; the bouquets, powdered on the chintzs, match, and outside the window a spreading bush of the same dear old-fashioned rose blooms three parts of the year. That is a bower indeed, as well as a bedroom (Barker, 1878, p. 11).

In Bedroom and Boudoir (1878) Lady Barker describes a number of bedrooms and boudoirs furnished with ornamental linings derived from the natural landscape. As the most private, internal and intimate interior spaces in the Victorian home, such spaces are likened to bowers - clearings in the forest, retreats or nests. Surrounded by surfaces composed of vegetal patterns and colours, the boudoir shows signs of reclaiming vestiges of the outside, not as the manicured garden or the cultivated landscape, but as foreign wilderness.

Barker’s remarks critique the notion of the interior as tectonically distinct from the exterior. In contrast, the room is shown to be derivative of the exterior through its use of ornament, furnishings and linings.

This paper examines the relationship between boudoir and bower as established by Lady Barker. It then traces the physical description through theoretical positions of the time on the relation of ornament and nature, in order to position the boudoir as an interior space of decorative and tactile envelopment.

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How to Cite
Taylor, Mark, and Julieanna Preston. 2024. “Interior Bowers: The Dormant Wilderness of Nineteenth-Century Boudoirs”. idea journal 6 (1):73-83.
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