Queer Interiors: C.R. Ashbee to Oliver Ford

  • Matt Cook
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Shannon and Ricketts’ contemporary, near neighbour and sometime collaborator, Charles Ashbee (1863–1942) was making his way at the start of the period covered by this book. Interior designer Oliver Ford (1925–1992) died towards the end, just two years before Derek Jarman, my final case study. Ashbee was motivated in his architectural and design work by his romantic socialism and the homosocial comradeship he associated with it. Ford, interior designer to ‘HM the Queen Mother’ (as he always respectfully called her in his diary) had an eye to tradition which endeared him to the establishment and allowed him to endure even after his prosecution for ‘indecency’ with two guardsmen in 1968. These men are connected by their strong ethic of friendship, their professional prominence, and their serious missionary zeal which was aligned with ideas of social or personal and royal service. They each underscored the developing association between queerness and a flair for interior styling, but I argue here that this assodation could mean very different things personally and politically. The chapter is in three distinct parts — looking at the pre-World War I, the interwar, and then the post World War II periods. I look first at Ashbee and in particular his interior work in the late 1890s. Using the interwar ‘amusing’ style and the words and work of designer Ronald Fleming (1896–1968), I then survey the growing queer resonance of modern, stylish, individualised interiors and a shift in awareness about queer lives in the period between Ashbee and Ford’s respective professional practice.


Country Home Interior Designer Interwar Period Dinner Party International Herald Tribune 
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Copyright information

© Matt Cook 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Cook
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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