Creating the Artful Home:

The Aesthetic Movement


Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement is a richly-illustrated history of an aspect of Victorian design known as the Aesthetic movement, as it unfolded in American homes.



Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement is the first in-depth look at late 19th-century home design and its cultural context.

Average housewives transformed the radical premise of the Aesthetic Movement — art for art’s sake — into lush, nurturing homes.  They believed that artful homes made people better, families happier, and society stronger.  An artistic home was a moral imperative.

As it flowered in America, the Aesthetic movement became not so much a style as a process. The Aesthetic Movement left us a legacy of Queen Anne houses and tidy suburbs, and its influence is now felt as Americans embrace the more-is-more philosophy of home furnishings.

The Aesthetic movement grew out of ideas and the products of English reformers, such as William Morris, and was flamboyantly promoted by Oscar Wilde in an 1882 lecture tour across America. The movement germinated among artists who used opulent color, decorative patterning, and lavish materials simply for the aesthetic effects they could evoke.

Tastemakers rallied—Louis Comfort Tiffany became an interior designer while his father’s firm, Tiffany and Company, produced Japoniste silver. Eastlake furniture invaded fashionable shops like Cottier’s, and Oriental stores appeared in even small towns.  Graphics transmitted the new design overtly through advertising and subtly through products like ubiquitous Staffordshire tableware.

Creating the Artful Home takes a thorough look at household furnishings of the Aesthetic era.  Dozens of never-before-published illustrations, including rare color views of 1880s interiors and exteriors, shed new light on American homes. The Maximalist products and décor of the 21st century are examined in sidebars. The book gives modern homeowners insights into how American houses of the past have shaped our houses today – and how we might create our own artful homes in the future.


See what critics are saying about Creating the Artful Home!


“Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement is, surprisingly, the first close examination of late 19th-century American home design and its culture, offering up details on how the Aesthetic movement left a legacy of houses, developments, and ideas which linger into modern times” – Diane C. Donovan – California Bookwatch

“The aesthetic movement changed the middle class American house and family life in urban areas, integrating family time and encouraging creative pursuits.”  Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement “is a positive reading experience” – Anonymous reader-

“A splendid and very readable book enormously helpful to those wishing to understand Victorian design before 1900″…”Those participating in the “Victorian Revival” in interior design, will find her discussion most helpful in creating rooms with the feel of the period, that are not museums.” – Anonymous reader –

“Your book was such an EXCITING and DELIGHTFUL discovery for me” – Clem Labine, founder of Old House Journal and Traditional Building Magazine

“This in-depth look at late Nineteenth Century American home design within a cultural context explores the lasting influence of the Aesthetic Movement.”– Antiques and the Arts Weekly

“In her intriguing new book, Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement” (Gibbs Smith) Zukowski tells and shows how the movement influenced home lifestyle as much as decorating until the turn of the 20th century” – Rose Bennett Gilbert, “Décor Score”

“Enjoy the ride with Karen Zukowski as she explores the relationship between artfully done homes and better living” – Sharon Wootton, The Olympian

“This is a rare book, one that not only informs us but also make us evaluate our past and the role it plays in our lives today.” – Brian Coleman 19th Century Magazine

“For people who love researching and looking at authentic historic interiors from the late 1800′s, this is a ‘must read’ and a ‘must-keep-on-your-bookshelf-for-future-reference’ book” – Sarah Felix Burns, novelist and blogger

“In “Creating the Artful Home: The Aesthetic Movement” visual-culture historian Karen Zukowski explores the late 1800s, as the Victorian décor gave way to Arts & Crafts home design” – Newsday

“By mixing the practical advice with plenty of period details, Zukowski creates a wonderful book for the home decorator and the history buff.” – Orlando Sentinel

“A splendid and very readable book enormously helpful to those wishing to understand Victorian design before 1900.” – Lillian Leese, Amazon reviewer



Be sure to order today and receive a signed copy from the author!

Creating the Artful Home:

The Aesthetic Movement

by Karen Zukowski
Gibbs Smith, Publishers  2006


(includes shipping and handling)

  1. Beth Goehring’s avatar

    Karen, I’m excited to receive the book which I just ordered. I love the Aesthetic movement (lived for a time on Chiswick Mall in London on the other end of this lovely promenade on the Thames from William Morris’s house). I’m reading a galley of an historical novel called THE VIRGIN CURE by Ami McKay (available in stores end of June) about life among the haves and have-nots in 19th century NYC. It paints a vivid picture of life in the slums, in the upper-middle-class houses, and in the bordellos.


    1. Karen_Zukowski’s avatar

      Thanks for the nice post. I hope my book will make the case that the Aesthetic Movement in America was just as compelling as it was in Britain. The Virgin Cure sounds wonderful — just my ticket!



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