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Exploring Traditional Internal Door Handles - Edwardian Period


Period door furniture - painted Edwardian cafe scene

Article Topics:

  1. The Edwardian Period

  2. Social Reform & Cultural Change

  3. Technological & Industrial Progress

  4. Edwardian Design Style

  5. Art Nouveau

  6. Edwardian Colour Palette

  7. Furniture Style

  8. Decorative Detail

  9. Edwardian Door Knobs & Handles


The Edwardian period, broadly defined by the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910, saw the development of a variety of distinctive interior design styles. Edwardian design was influenced by a number of factors, that although rooted in the traditional, marked a departure from preceding Victorian era design elements, and door knobs and handles were no exception.

In this article we'll explore Edwardian door knobs and handles, but we’ll begin with an overview of the period, at what was happening in society and how changing times impacted Edwardian design.

The Edwardian Period

A clear product of the Victorian era, the Edwardian period built on the massive social, cultural and technological changes of the previous century.

Social Reform & Cultural Change

With accelerating social reform in the Edwardian era there were efforts to address issues such as child labour and public health. Legislation was passed to improve working conditions and housing for working class people. And famously, Edwardian times saw the rise of the suffragette movement, with women advocating for the right to vote. Leisure and entertainment began to grow too with a flourishing of theatre, music, and literature as the arts and culture became more accessible to a broader audience.

Period door furniture - BW photo of two Edwardian women

There was a shift in attitude with the death of Victoria in 1901. The sombre, mournful aspect of the monarch after the death of Prince Albert affected more than half of Victoria's 63-year reign. With the Edwardian era came a brighter, more optimistic outlook in Britain.

Technological & Industrial Progress

The era saw accelerating industrialisation, with the expansion of manufacturing and the growth of industrial cities across Britain.

There were significant developments in aviation. The Wright brothers' first powered flight in 1903 and the introduction of airships paved the way for the future of aviation. The use of automobiles became more widespread, although they were still relatively expensive and not accessible yet for most people.

Period door furniture article - black Ford Model T

The development of wireless telegraphy improved long-distance communication. Electric power continued to grow during the period, for lighting in particular – electric street lighting became more common in cities. Advances in photography made it more accessible and popular. Kodak introduced the Brownie camera, making photography more affordable for the middle class. And during Edwardian times the standardised mechanical typewriter emerged.   

Edwardian typewriter on desk

Edwardian Design Style

These changes over a relatively short time period influenced every aspect of Edwardian society, and of course design was no exception. Edwardian design was transitional in nature, blending elements of earlier 19th century styles with emerging modern design ideas and principles.

Art Nouveau

We can't talk about Edwardian interior design without first coming to one of its most important influences: the Art Nouveau movement. Art Nouveau straddles the end of the Victorian period and whole of the Edwardian era as part of the Belle Époque in France, which ran from around 1875 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Art Nouveau floral fabric with typical Edwardian period properties

Art Nouveau embraced organic, natural forms, including flowing lines, sinuous curves, floral patterns, botanical motifs and an idealised human form. These characteristics found their way into Edwardian interior design, where they were used in decorative elements for furniture, textiles, wall and floor coverings, fireplaces and hardware fixtures and fittings.

Edwardian Colour Palette

While retaining many Victorian-style colours, the Edwardian colour palette includes lighter tones. Pastel shades such as pale blues, soft pinks, mint greens, and lavender were popular choices. These colours contributed to an overall lighter, airier feel. But the darker shades of the Edwardian era overlapped with typically favoured 19th century colours.

Traditional Edwardian colour palette collection

Furniture Style

Edwardian furniture was often characterised by graceful, curving lines and a departure from the heavier furniture and ‘busier’ furniture arrangements of the previous century. Pieces were lighter in appearance and featured delicate inlays, marquetry, and decorative carving. Upholstered furniture was commonly covered in floral or damask fabrics. Elaborate tapestries and heavy draperies were used to add warmth and richness to Edwardian interiors. These textiles often featured intricate patterns.

Edwardian floral textile - basket weave

As the era marked the transition towards modernity, Edwardian homes began to incorporate modern amenities such as electric lighting and indoor plumbing. This shift began to influence the design and placement of furniture, fixtures and appliances.

Large Edwardian dining room wood panelling

Decorative Details

Attention to detail is key. Intricate mouldings, wainscoting, and decorative panelling were hallmarks of Edwardian interior design. These architectural elements added depth and visual interest to walls and ceilings. Replacing carpet with ceramic tiling in geometric designs and polished floors with Persian rugs became popular, and remain popular today.

Edwardian inspired geometric design floor tiles

Edwardian homes often had decorative fireplaces serving as a focal point in living rooms and bedrooms. They traditionally featured Art Nouveau-style tiling with ornate surrounds and mantels. Contemporary fireplaces often echo the Edwardian style.

Contemporary Edwardian-style fireplace

Edwardian Door Knobs & Handles

Let's take a look at some Edwardian period door furniture designs and finishes. While there is an overlap with Victorian door knobs, there is a firm Edwardian style. Perhaps the most typical Edwardian door knobs are fluted and ringed designs.

Antique brass ringed Edwardian door knob - natural dark wood antique door

The Beehive

The beehive door knob design was popularised in the later 19th century, and remained to the fore in the Edwardian era. The tight, precision reeding creates a distinctive look, as well as providing an appealing texture and grip.

Edwardian period door knobs - brass beehive design

Beehive Edwardian door knobs would have typically been in brass, bronze or pewter, in natural, nickel plated or oil-rubbed ebonised finishes.

Beehive door knob pair - ebonised black

Fluted Wood

Fluted wood door knobs became popular during Edwardian times, often paired with solid brass or nickel roses. Finishes are typically natural wood or darker stains.

Edwardian period door knob - fluted wood - black stain - antique brass rose

Ringed Door Knobs

Ringed door knob designs from the Edwardian era take cues from the later 19th century, but are a little more creative in their variety. There are many types of ringed door knobs. They can differ in knob shape: cushion, mushroom, bun etc., with the rings being either reeded or fluted — a reeded knob's rings are raised ridges, while fluted rings are grooves made in the knob material.

Traditional door furniture - ringed mortice door knobs - antique brass

On ringed door knobs, reeding can produce an appealing stepped pattern, as seen in the ringed mushroom Edwardian-style knob pair pictured below in a pewter finish.

Edwardian door knobs pair - ringed mushroom knob on rose - antique pewter

Oval Door Knobs

The oval door knob is a classic 19th century design that continued to be popular during the Edwardian era. The elegantly simple oval knob shape is perhaps timeless, with different finishes suggesting an era or harmonising with a particular interior design style.

Period door furniture - small oval designed - antique brass

For example, the oval knob in polished brass would suit more traditional interiors, while brushed nickel or matte black would be a better fit for contemporary interior designs.

Swirl & Flower Knobs

Edwardian period door furniture - brass door knobs - swirl knob design

More decorative door knobs such as swirl and flower designs emerged during Edwardian times. The flower motif and the organic swirl fluting chimes with the Art Nouveau sensibilities that helped define the Edwardian era.

Edwardian period door furniture - brass flower door knob on white door - antique door handles Edwardian geometric glass door knob with bronze flower centre design

Lever Door Handles

Unlike door knobs, Edwardian door handles generally continued in the Victorian style. The period scroll lever kept the elegant 19th century wave shape.

Edwardian-style door handles - large backplate - door handle elegant lever

The Edwardian aesthetic did however favour longer lever handle backplates for interior doors, with stepped edging being a typical Edwardian design element.

Edwardian door handles - Victorian scroll lever on Edwardian-style backplate - polished brass

Final Thoughts

Traditional door furniture, such as door knobs, handles, even knockers and letterboxes, come in and out of fashion. But the design foundations laid down and popularised during the Edwardian, Georgian and Victorian eras informs much of today's interior design styles.

Putting a contemporary twist on traditional interior design elements can create something fresh. Blending the traditional and contemporary develops a sense of history and tradition, yet playing with that orthodoxy allows new and interesting ideas to come through. Carefully chosen knobs and handles can be the perfect finishing touch to a space. Browse the Edwadian Collection for inspiration.  

Contemporary Edwardian-style sitting room

You can explore more traditional door furniture in these in-depth Georgian and Victorian companion articles. Also, why not check out the latest Hiatt Hardware Timeless Interiors report to explore top interior design trends across the globe?

Whether you're a DIYer, tradesperson or interior designer, choose from a wide range of traditional door handles and knobs, in a variety of traditional and contemporary finishes, at Hiatt Hardware.