The Daily Mail newspaper sponsored the Ideal Home Exhibition (from 1908). These shows provide an insight into popular taste and aspiration across all facets of domestic design and organisation in Britain.
The first exhibition, held in 1908 at the Olympia exhibition complex in London, drew 160,000 visitors to see a display of show houses and labour-saving equipment and was followed by three more displays in 1910, 1912, and 1913 before the First World War. The Omega Workshops, a firm influenced by the Fauvists and Cubists in France and the Wiener Werkstätte in Austria, supplied an avant-garde chamber.
Between the Wars
Even though the Ideal Home Exhibitions were interrupted by the First World War, their popularity grew significantly in tandem with the British housebuilding boom of the 1920s and 1930s—even during the early 1930s depression, attendance was close to 700,000.
Housing types for various income brackets were displayed alongside all kinds of new appliances and ideas about domestic planning and management from 1920 to 1939 (on a larger scale from 1923 with the opening of an extension to Olympia). It was held annually from 1920 to 1939 (on a larger scale from 1923 with the opening of an extension to Olympia). The Modernist House of the Future, equipped with underfloor heating, pneumatic furniture, disposable (cardboard) ‘crockery,’ and a garage hangar for an ‘aerocar,’ was a popular magnet in the 1928 exhibition.
Post World War II
The shows returned in 1947 after World War II, albeit they took on a more commercial tone with the leasing of stands to generate revenue. To broaden its impact, the Council of Industrial Design (COID, see Design Council) took part in a series of Ideal Home Exhibitions to engage the public in how design can help society. In 1948, it spent £250 on a designer to outfit the Ministry of Health’s Aluminium House. The following year, it spent another £250 on five designers to furnish and equip the Ministry of Health’s terraced houses for a successful Four Ways of Living display operation.
Following WWII, attendance at Ideal Home Exhibitions remained high, demonstrating persistent public interest in home design: in 1951, 1,135,102 people attended, 1,128,123 in 1965, and 879,564 in 1975. However, the rise in the number of Do-It-Yourself superstores and home furnishing and decorating periodicals and the growing impact of television provided alternative channels for the public interest. Despite this, the displays drew a large number of visitors. For example, a segment named ‘Science Comes Home’ was included in the first postwar exhibition in 1947 to demonstrate how technological and scientific achievements made during the war years might be implemented at home.
Another House of the Future was shown in 1956. This mass-produced house, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson and including built-in appliances and equipment, attempted to reflect mechanised living in the 1980s. A remote-controlled radio television and controls for raising and lowering floor portions to create coffee or dining tables were included in the living area. A dishwasher that also disposed of all waste, a sink with a waste disposal unit, and a microwave oven were among the kitchen’s other amenities, which featured an electrostatic dust collector that could work on its own.
In the decades that followed, technologically focused displays remained popular. In 1965, the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition introduced its design award scheme, the Blue Riband, to coincide with the many other design prizes created in the 1950s and 1960s. The goal was to encourage British and international firms to display innovative goods at the show. The latter were eligible if they were first introduced to the British market within the previous twelve months and demonstrated a novel concept or significant improvement to an existing design. The Ideal Home Exhibitions were taken over by Angex, a separate company founded by the Daily Mail in 1975. Earl’s Court, London, hosted the exhibitions from 1979 forwards.
Change of Hands
For the first time in its history, the show was sold in 2008. The show, now owned by multi-award-winning media company Media 10, looks forwards to the twenty-first century, bringing the latest innovations, brightest ideas, and most inspiration (and, of course, fantastic shopping) to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who continue to enjoy the industry’s largest and best home show – the Ideal Home Show!
Alliance, H. O., & Magazine, G. H. (n.d.). Homepage. Ideal Home Show. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.idealhomeshow.co.uk/welcome.
Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.