Grey Room

Economies of the Interior: Thomas Hope and Interior Decoration

Tim Ainsworth Anstey

Thomas Hope. “Statue Gallery,” plate 1 from Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807.


In the years around 1800, countries and continents had interiors; domestic apartments did not. That is, while the French word intérieure and the English word interior began to be used during the eighteenth century to describe distant geographical spaces, the use of interior as a noun to describe particular rooms within houses—“an interior”—was virtually unknown. Although qualifications and counterexamples could surely be adduced, this article instead pursues a thought experiment. It asks, What becomes perceptible through focus on the shifting semantic field of interior in the wake of the extraordinary geopolitical events circa 1800? Newly highlighting the significance of distant lands for domestic economies in Northern Europe, that post-Revolutionary moment also witnessed key developments in the architectural conception of “interior.”