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Brimming with amusing anecdotes and absorbing trivia, this captivating collection is a treasure trove of curiosities.
With tales from the kitchen, the bedroom, and every room in between, these pages expose how napkins got their start as lumps of dough in ancient Greece, why forks were once seen as immoral tools of the devil, and how Plato devised one of the earliest alarm clocks using rocks and water—plus so much more.
• A charming gift for anyone who loves history, design, or décor
• Readers discover tales from every nook and cranny of a home.
• Entries feature historical details from locations all over the world, including Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.
As a design historian and former managing editor of Design*Sponge, author Amy Azzarito has crafted an engaging, whimsical history of the household objects you’ve never thought twice about.
The result is a fascinating book filled with tidbits from a wide range of cultures and places about the history of domestic luxury.
• Filled with lovely illustrations by Alice Pattullo
• Perfect as a housewarming or wedding gift, or for anyone who adores interior design, trivia, history, and unique facts
• Great for those who enjoyed The Greatest Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy by Rick Beyer, An Uncommon History of Common Things by Bethanne Patrick and John Thompson, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
From the Publisher
This is a book about things.
The things that fill our homes say a great deal about who we are, as well as what we are and whom we value.
Every domestic object—the desk you write at, the chair you’re sitting on, the lamp that lights the room—not only has a personal history but also a secret history with roots in the past.
The Elements of a Home looks for the highlights in objects’ lives as they evolved to become the things that are familiar to us today, and reveals the fascinating stories behind more than 60 everyday household objects and furnishings.
Discover the complex, colorful, and often surprising story of the domestic objects with which we furnish our homes.
The cocktail shaker is not just the iconic symbol of a cocktail party; it also provides the soundtrack. Each clink of ice accompanies an escalation in the festivities. It’s the sound of author Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles, who shook to the tempo of foxtrots for their Manhattans, with a two-step for a dry martini. It brings to mind James Bond and his beverage of choice: a “very strong and very cold and very well-made” Vesper martini, named for Bond girl Vesper Lynd. (Three measures gin, one measure vodka, and one-half measure Kina Lillet, shaken, not stirred.) It’s the accompaniment to the indulgent three-martini lunch, epitomized by television’s most famous ad executives, Don Draper and Roger Sterling.
Chess is one of the oldest board games to have survived to the present day. Our modern version is directly descended from a Hindu game called chaturanga (the Sanskrit term for four limbs and also the name of that push-up yoga pose). Developed in 500 c.e., it was played by four opponents. Each player would cast dice to determine the movement of each of the pieces (all male figures). Eventually, the game lost two players and the dice, making it a challenge of intellect rather than luck. In that form, it spread from India to Persia. When the Arabs conquered Persia in the seventh century, they discovered and fell in love with the game; a century later, they brought chess with them when they invaded southern Europe
Long before Magellan’s expedition circumnavigated the Earth, definitively proving it was round, the ancient Greeks had spherical models of the Earth and the heavens. In fact, both Plato and Aristotle were convinced that the Earth was round. Just look to the sculpture galleries at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which houses a seven-foot-tall figure known as the Farnese Atlas. Dating to 150 c.e., it’s a Roman copy of a Greek statue from the Hellenistic period, and depicts a muscled man who bends on one knee under the weight of the heavens. The celestial orb on his shoulders is the oldest spherical map in existence.
Though the rocking chair was born in America, it was a German-Austrian furniture maker who gave it some European sophistication and polish. After seeing metal rockers at the showstopping London exhibition of modern industrial technology and design in 1851, Michael Thonet created a sinuous wood version. To do so, he invented a process that used steam to bend solid wood, enabling curved chair backs and legs. Thirty years before Henry Ford, he created an assembly line to produce his chairs. Rockers had not been popular in Europe, but Thonet’s bentwood version changed that.