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Horror Vacui

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but the psychological counterpart of that physics notion is horror vacui, the abject fear experienced by some when they find themselves in large, empty spaces. It has been said—tongue in cheek—that Victorians suffered as a culture from horror vacui, unsatisfied until every surface was textured, molded, trimmed or patterned; until the majority of the visual spectrum had been exploited; until the maximum number of materials were juxtaposed and contrasted with one another. If the Victorians had been inclined to venerate exemplars, Frank Furness would have been their saint. I must confess to offering a prayer in his direction now and again.

Our friend Reed Malm puts it this way: “Too much is not enough.”

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In the 1880s and ’90s, interiors such as these would have been de rigueur. And while my own tastes aren’t repulsed by the visual clutter of such a living space—and this is in sepia; imagine how much “worse” it would be in color!—I have to admit some relief that the Reformist movements of the Progressive Era simplified the excesses of post-Civil War America.

I’ve tried again and again, without success, to invite interior designers into the Agincourt sandbox. Apparently there are other, more seductive pursuits before them.

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