where dining rooms come from

15 Oct

I heard this on NPR the other day, from author Bill Bryson on his interesting-sounding book, The Home:

Before upholstery, there were no dining rooms.

“I never stopped to think about that, but you don’t have dining rooms in your home because at some point in history people suddenly decided they wanted a room dedicated to eating,” Bryson says. “When [upholstered furniture] finally began to happen the late 18th century, guests, when they sat in these chairs, were tending to wipe their fingers on the upholstered furniture.”

“The mistress of the household essentially decreed that it was necessary to put aside a particular room dedicated to the purpose of eating so that they weren’t spilling food and messing up the really good furniture in the living rooms.”

It seems so intuitive to have a space for eating, and I’m fascinated that dining rooms were in fact a class decision (and one made by women!). And who knew all this time TV trays were really bringing us back to our roots??

Read/listen to the full interview


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