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When Old was New by Gina Conkle

Q: When did keeping up appearances mean making things look old?
A: The 18th century.

We like to feather our nests, reflecting our style and personality. The 18th century family was no different. Toss in England's exploding mercantile wealth, and you have people with money to spend.

If France's 17th century Louis XIV made Versailles a show place of the new and grand, England's 18th century landowners sought old and classical --- all freshly built, of course. What was a popular trend? Feature antiquated, picturesque cottages on one's land. Designers worked judiciously to create homes and gardens of yesteryear. 

False lakes were dug. Broken down abbeys were built. And fake Roman ruins were constructed.

The craze for out-dated things met its match in William Kent. Charged with designing part of Kensington Gardens, he planted dead trees to mimic a Salvatore Rosa landscape. You can't get any older than dead!

The talented Kent worked on landscapes, buildings, and furniture. Ironically, he knew nothing about plants, which hurt some of his garden designs. He reached absurd heights when he designed ladies' birthday gowns, fashioning the garb after architecture's five classical orders. Talk about taking the "Old is the new New" trend a tad too far. 

If planting dead trees doesn't have you shaking your head, this will. Well-to-do country squire, Charles Hamilton of Painshill, hired a hermit to live in an old thatched cottage in the woods. The hermit's duties? Keep his hermitage clean and sit at the door with a book in hand whenever the squire had visitors.

Builder James Malton kept the fad going near the end of the century with his Essay on British Cottage Architecture (1798). He studied cottage architecture and the effects of time on cottages. Malton rebuilt the simple homes for country folk and as retreats for the wealthy intentionally making the new structures look old.

Malton's cottages had uneven walls, unmatching colors and textures outside, and jutting gables and windows lacking symmetry. He gave careful attention to make the new look old and worn out. You might guess his work wouldn't pass muster with modern day building inspectors.

Every era has its quirks and eccentricities. Fashion just rolls that way.
Now it's your turn. What home design fashion trend (in history or modern times) has you shaking your head?

I'm Gina Conkle and I write Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. I love history, books, and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. My passion for castles and old places ---the older and moldier the better--- means interesting family vacations (sometimes).

I'd enjoy connecting with you. Take a look at my website, to learn more about my books.


  1. They really did love all things Roman and Greek and "antique." I will never understand the gold bathroom fixtures so popular in the 80s!

  2. I dislike the large bow windows that were popular in the 1990's. They don't open and look odd.


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