Crowding the Parlour

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Introduction

Jane Cook, McGill University, 2003

Domestic interiors in post-Confederation eastern Canada teem with activity. Every room of the house seems chaotic, but none more so than the parlour. From floor to ceiling, wall to wall, every nook and cranny appears to be crammed. Permanent detailing in the rooms, from carved archways to panelled walls, marble mantelpieces to plaster ceilings, adds to the busy nature of the interior. The room is wrapped with decorative wallpaper and the floors covered with lively textile rugs. Set against the wall are the piano and music stand, and the étagère holding books and small knick-knacks. Towards the middle of the room, there are Renaissance-style stands and tables, whatnots and bobbin-turned chairs. All surfaces are covered. Mantelshelves hold domed-glass displays, clocks vases and small statuettes. Potted plants rest on Oriental-style bases. The centre table is covered with books, from family scrap albums to the Bible. All these items stimulate the eye, but why is the interior so crowded? Let's take a look at some interiors to see what is there.