The Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition and suburban modernity, 1908-51

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the ways in which the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition educated and entertained the public in the first half of the twentieth century by promoting a modern way of life, helping to establish a commercial culture of homemaking. By exploring the ways in which the Exhibition represented popular conceptions of the ‘modern’ within their social and historical contexts, the thesis challenges the dominance of Modernist aesthetics and values on writing on design, architecture and consumption. Chapter one explores the unease felt by a particular group of writers towards the Ideal Home Exhibition, which it locates in relation to a wider intellectual condemnation of modernity and suburbia. Chapter two looks at the founding of the Exhibition by the Daily Mail in 1908. Chapter three analyses how the Daily Mail and the Exhibition constructed an ‘ideal audience’ and why the idea of an ‘ideal home’ was so appealing. Chapter four looks at the ways in which ideas about ‘labour-saving’, which were part of a concern with national efficiency that drew on the doctrines of scientific management, have constructed the ‘ideal home’ as a site of change and experimentation. Chapter five explores how the ‘Tudorbethan’ semi and the popular appropriation of the Modern Movement in the Exhibition represented tensions between the longings for the past and aspirations for the future. Chapter six investigates the representation of non-English peoples and places and the display of Empire in the Exhibition. Chapter seven looks at how the Exhibition addressed the question of the ‘house that women want’, focusing on the actual participation of women in the Exhibition, as ‘natural’ experts and paid professionals. Chapter eight makes some conclusions on the ways in which the audience’s experience of ‘suburban modernity’ in the Exhibition was dependent on the interaction of the themes outlined in the earlier chapters. The thesis ends with a review of the past, present and future of the Ideal Home Exhibition.
Date of Award1995
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of East London
SupervisorMica Nava (Supervisor) & Sally Alexander (Supervisor)


  • Design
  • Design history
  • History of design
  • exhibitions
  • suburbia
  • modernity
  • Ideal Home Exhibition
  • Ideal Home Show
  • domestic design
  • product design
  • British design
  • interior design
  • housing

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