New Histories of the Professionalisation of Interior Design

Grace Lees-Maffei (University of Hertfordshire, UK) and Els De Vos (UAntwerp)

Tuesday October 17th - 19:15h

The starting point for this talk is Lees-Maffei’s 2008 Journal of Design History introductory article on professionalisation as a focus in interior design history. What has changed in the 15 years since it was published? Lees-Maffei will extend the discussion of professionalisation in interior design through reference to new work in the field, from Miranda Garrett’s study of gender and professionalism in late nineteenth century Britain, to the broader study of professionalisation in design in the last century, and particularly fashion design and industrial design, by Leah Armstrong and others. What can these latter studies of the processes of professionalisation in neighbouring sub-fields of design bring to knowledge and understanding of the processes of professionalisation in interior design specifically? 

Lees-Maffei will consider, in addition, work which responds to and contributes to the decolonisation of design new through the crafting of new national histories, such as Catriona Quinn’s work on the Australian interior design profession. Finally, Lees-Maffei will build on wider currents in design history and subjectivity (Fallan and Lees-Maffei 2015) to examine new directions in interior design history informed by sensory history (John Potvin, Marie-Eve Marchand and Benoit Beaulieu, eds. 2023), including her own new work on touch in interior design history. She will ask how the processes of professionalisation accommodate subjectivity, diversity, the senses and the emotions.

Short bio Grace Lees-Maffei

Professor Dr Grace Lees-Maffei MA(RCA) FRHistS FRSA FHEA is Full Professor of Design History and Director of DHeritage, the Professional Doctorate in Heritage, at the University of Hertfordshire (UK) and Chair of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Design History. She researches the history of design in relation to mediation, domesticity, heritage, national identity and globalization. She is author of Design at Home: Domestic Advice Books in Britain and the USA since 1945 and co-author of Reading Graphic Design. She edited Writing Design and Iconic Designs, and co-edited Made in Italy and Designing Worlds, Design Heritage, and The Design History Reader.

Professionalization of interior architecture in Europe by Els De Vos

In her lecture, Els De Vos will present the project for ECIA, the European Council of Interior Architects, about the degree of professionalization of the discipline of interior architecture across several European countries. This research is a subproject of the European funded ECIA-BCSP project: Building on connections for a stronger profession. Making use of the definition of professionalization as it is defined by Grace Lees-Maffei, she will discuss several aspects of the professionalization process, ranging from education, professional organisations and legislation. Topics as nomenclature, recognition, interdisciplinarity, gender and diversity will be explored.

Professor Dr. Els De Vos is chair of the Interior Architecture program at the University of Antwerp. Her research focuses on housing, interior architecture, residential culture, gender, diversity and public space in the second half of the 20th century. She obtained a PhD on the architectural, social and gender-differentiated mediation of housing in Flanders in the 1960s-1970s (published in 2012). She has co-edited several books, published in several journals and curated several exhibitions, most recently Female Symbols and Urban Space (Brussels 2020-21). She is currently a working group leader in the COST Action on European Middle Class Mass Housing.