The History Project

Ok, so the History Project wasn't exactly a real project - half the class didn't bother doing it and the other half didn't bother showing up for the presentations.  Either way, I enjoyed this project and thought I'd share it.

Everyone was given an 'era', or a specific 'design style'; and I had to research the "Smoking Room"  - with a focus on Lord Leighton's House located in the Kensington neighborhood of London.  

First of all, can you even believe that people had a room in their home dedicated to smoking?!  Seems utterly absurd - and yet extremely lavish!

"When the Crimean War during the 1850s popularized Turkish tobacco, smoking gained in fashionable popularity but was considered indelicate. After dinner in a large private house, the gentlemen might retreat from the ladies to a smoking room, furnished with velvet curtains and decorated to masculine tastes (wealthy owners would often choose Turkish themes and weapons collections), and replace his tail coat with a comfortable velvet smoking jacket and cap. The velvet was intended to absorb the smoke, to avoid contaminating other rooms and clothes." - Wikipedia

Interestingly, as smoking as gaining popularity - so was Travel.  Around the 1860's, Thomas Cook led mass tourism throughout Europe, before extending organized holidays and tours to Palestine and Egypt. As people were traveling, they were collecting trinkets and souvenirs on their travels.  The smoking room became a place to display these treasures and often these rooms had a Middle Eastern themes to the decor.

Sir Leighton's House was no exception.  He spent time in Turkey, Egypt and Syria, collecting items as he went.  It wasn't until 1873, when he took a trip to Damascus that he found all the stunning blue tiles that now make up the Arab Hall - a.k.a his smoking room!  It took 4 years to complete the project, not to mention an extension to the main house.  Talk about dedication!  

If you're ever in the Kensington neighborhood in London, I highly recommend checking this place.  It's incredible that it's been preserved all this time and it's really something to behold.  For more information, check out their website at:

I think it goes without saying that these rooms were typically for the wealthy.  Those who could afford to travel and buy exotic objects, would also have to get those things home - not to mention dedicating an entire room in your house to your smoking habit.  

What do you think?  Would you have a smoking room in your house?