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New Zealanders at Home - 1814 to 1914

Media release 30.11.01
New Zealanders at Home

Remember that sunflower wallpaper of the 1970s? Well at least one New Zealand family had it on their walls in the 1870s. And the cane furniture so popular during the past ten years was gracing New Zealand homes from the 1880s.

A new book, New Zealanders at Home by Anna Petersen, gives us a guided tour through New Zealand houses between 1814 and 1914. It is the first visual history of this country's domestic interiors, as seen through contemporary photographs, drawings and paintings. There are pictures on almost every page, with extended captions. The book is divided into four periods of twenty-five years, each with an introduction.

The book takes the reader through a variety of houses, from whare interiors through the homes of missionaries and settlers to the turn-of-the-century villas of Auckland and twentieth-century bungalows of suburban Christchurch. Among the pictures are several showing the homes of well-known New Zealanders including Governor George Grey, Samuel Butler, William Larnach, John Logan Campbell and Maggie Makereti Papakura.

Every kind of image is presented, from quick sketches in personal correspondence to staged photographs of sophisticated French Empire drawing rooms. The pictures reveal much about how people lived in a great variety of homes: rich and poor; Maori and Pakeha, rural and urban. The author shows cultural influences going two ways: Maori adopted European building styles and furniture, while Pakeha incorporated Maori designs and used Maori names for their houses.

The changes in domestic life over a century are dramatically evident. There are developments in technology, as open fires give way to coal ranges for cooking, and piped water is introduced. What people filled their houses with also changed over time, from the bare essentials in the early pictures, to imported clutter at the end of the nineteenth century, and spareness again with the bungalow.

With the development of an urban middle class, fashion became important, with rooms being decorated rather than simply functional. The Aesthetic Movement, Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau swept through. Chinese fans, draped mantels, elaborate vases, statues and clocks, cane furniture, and Japanese screens proliferated in succession.

New Zealanders at Home will especially appeal to people interested in design, collectibles, or social history, but the universal language of pictures and the fascinating detail of domestic life make it accessible to anyone.


CONTENTS: Part 1: Signs of Higher Life, 1814-1840 (Plates 1-7) Part 2: The Measure of Progress, 1840-1865 (Plates 8-20) Part 3: The Value of Culture, 1865-1890 (Plates 21-42) Part 4: The New Zealand Domestic Interior 1890-1914 (Plates 43-76)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr Anna Petersen is a graduate of the University of Otago, and assistant curator, pictorial collections (photographs) at the Hocken Library. She lives in Dunedin with her husband and two daughters. Author contacts: Anna Petersen can be contacted directly by telephone on: 03 479 8870 (mornings) or 03 477 9381 (afternoons).

ABOUT THE BOOK New Zealanders at Home A Cultural History of Domestic Interiors, 1814-1914 Anna Petersen 172 pages, ISBN 1 877276 14 6, published November 2001, $49.95

CONTACT For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact Philippa Jamieson, University of Otago Press, tel. (03) 479 9094, fax (03) 479 8385, email:

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