In the mid-to-late 19th century, interior design services expanded greatly, as the middle class in industrial countries grew in size and prosperity and began to desire the domestic trappings of wealth to cement their new status. Large furniture firms began to branch out into general interior design and management, offering full house furnishings in a variety of styles. This business model flourished from the mid-century to 1914, when this role was increasingly usurped by independent, often amateur, designers. This paved the way for the emergence of the professional interior design in the mid-20th century.
In the 1950s and 1960s, upholsterers began to expand their business remits. They framed their business more broadly and in artistic terms and began to advertise their furnishings to the public. To meet the growing demand for contract interior work on projects such as offices, hotels, and public buildings, these businesses became much larger and more complex, employing builders, joiners, plasterers, textile designers, artists, and furniture designers, as well as engineers and technicians to fulfil the job. Firms began to publish and circulate catalogs with prints for different lavish styles to attract the attention of expanding middle classes.
As department stores increased in number and size, retail spaces within shops were furnished in different styles as examples for customers. One particularly effective advertising tool was to set up model rooms at national and international exhibitions in showrooms for the public to see. Some of the pioneering firms in this regard were Waring & Gillow, James Shoolbred, Mintons, and Holland & Sons. These traditional high-quality furniture making firms began to play an important role as advisers to unsure middle class customers on taste and style, and began taking out contracts to design and furnish the interiors of many important buildings in Chennai.