Skirting boards: a history

Skirting boards are a common sight in UK and worldwide homes. We are so used to seeing them, and they have become such part and parcel of our rooms and design process, that we have forgotten how these features originated in the first place! In this article we take a step back in time and look at the history of skirting boards.

Skirting Boards In The Victorian Era

Back in Victorian times it was common to see skirting boards, picture rails and dado rails appear in houses. Whilst all have survived to present day, the latter two are now seen significantly less than skirting boards. This proves the first point – the longevity and popularity of these items. Therefore the question becomes what is it about skirting boards that have allowed them to stand the test of time?

The answer is probably the vast purposive use for skirting, which has changed over the years from an item of functionality to an item of feature. Of course, there has and will still always be elements of both in any usage.

Generally, the original function of skirting boards was to deal with issues such as:

  1. Forming a ‘protective barrier’ to walls to stop furniture and other items damaging those walls.
  2. Inhibiting damp and ‘rising damp’ on the walls, when damp proof work was unheard of.
  3. To help hide untidy finishes of plaster at the bottom of the walls (when processes were not as advanced as they are today.

This said, even the Victorians were keen on the idea of skirting boards as a feature also, and tended to showcase rooms with bolder and bigger skirting profiles if they could afford it and desired to do so. Some of these deep skirting boards are still evident today in period and Victorian built homes.

As the 20th century dawned and progressed, the purposive need for skirting boards slowly started to diminish as new inventions and ideas came to solve such problems as mentioned. This didn’t mean the demise of the skirting board however, it just meant a new era was arriving when skirting boards would have much more aesthetic and enhancing uses.

Today skirting boards are present everywhere and have become an essential part when designing a room. It is also to be noted that other designs and features have been born based on the concept of skirting boards, so it is arguable that skirting is a futuristic as well as a past and present concept. skirting now comes in a range of sizes, shapes and styles and people have used their design skills to come up with very fancy and elaborate ideas.

It would seem that the UK skirting boards have exceeded the test of time!

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