February 03, 2006

1930s design

We've recently moved into a new house. New to us that is, because it was built in 1932. While we were house hunting, our ideal was a Victorian or Edwardian house because we like the style, history and architecture. Then we found this; a standard 1930s three bed semi which has had all its original features stripped and replaced with hideous fake beams and flowery borders sometime in the 1980s. Three things clinched the deal. First, the short distance to work for both of us and then the fantastic views front and back (we're surrounded by fields). Finally, I did a nifty side-step in my mind (as us females are want to do) from liking Victorian to seeing the potential in 1930s design.

Before we signed on the dotted line I did some research into 1930s architecture and design, as it was an era that I didn't really know much about. Did art deco last long enough to influence the 1930s? Was it common in the average home? What sort of furniture did people have? What were the fashionable colours and materials? I was intrigued to find a lot of design and style ideas that I hadn't really considered before.

It made me realise how common place and reproduced Victorian 'style' has become. Walk into any of the big DIY chainstores and you'll no doubt find a repro Victorian fireplace. In fact, I bet a lot of peole are ripping out their original 1930s fireplaces and replacing them with reproduced Victorian ones. A quick search round our local antique and reclamation places proved that 1930s furniture and features aren't that common. 1930s style began to seem just that little bit different.

Conversely, it was amazing to see how much of our modern furniture design and decor is influenced by 1930s styling. Leather and chrome? 1930s. Wood bent into curved frames? 1930s. Streamlined shapes? 1930s. Solid oak floors? 1930s. Looking at photographs of original 1930s furniture, it's wierd how modern it looks. Take these chairs for example, for each pair the one on the left is a modern design available from Ikea, the one on the right is a 1930s original.

2006 chair1930s chair2006 chair1930s chair

Suddenly, 1930s design went from being a vague concept to an interesting proposition and owning a 1930s house, missing its original features, became an exciting challenge. We don't intend to slavishly follow 1930s design in every room, but we do aim to bring some life back into the house with a nod to 1930s design here and there.


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  1. John Pratt

    I am in the process of buying a 1930s semi–detached house where nothing has been removed or altered since it was built. This will actaully pose some problems as the kitchen will need to be extended for re–sale but I don't really want to spoil to overall feel of the place.

    Overall, I think it's fair to say that my partner and I love the house and I'm really excited by researching the design and start collecting…We're total babes in the wood on all of this but I've already bought a cracked but pretty bakelite radio for 25 quid…I'm trying to restrain myself and not tempt fate just in case the purchase of the house falls through. I'd be gutted.

    20 May 2006, 11:38

  2. Catherine

    I have a 1930s oak veneered sideboard and bureau to go – ASAP! It's heavy, with a kind of "flower" around each of the knobs. They are more curved than some of the remaining 1930s style oak furniture. I also have an Edwardian dropleaf settee and Mr & Mrs chairs (covered in blue fabric), also to good homes. But they have to go fast . . . we're leaving on Friday, 30 June. You'd have to collect; we're near Tamworth, in Staffordshire.

    Catherine

    26 Jun 2006, 09:14

  3. peg

    Hi:
    Pleased to find your site, as I, too, have just bought a 1937 very small house in an historic neighborhood. I would love some direction on desgn and decorating. So much character in the house; orginal hardware, arched doorways, parquet floors, and a fireplace (which currently has a pellet stove and which I intend to replace with a gas insert). I’ll check back here for more advice. thanks. Peg

    01 Sep 2006, 12:35

  4. Elaine Brown

    Hi
    How’s it going? Just about to sign on the dotted line for similar house. Lookes like it hasn’t been touched since the 30s

    15 Oct 2006, 17:41

  5. Bob

    Your project sounds familiar – i hope that it has been going well since feb. I am going through similar refurbishment of 1932 semi (since last aug). i am not recreating a strict 30;s look but aiming for a sleeker modern interpretation of the period. (eg in the kitchen we are mixing period colours and curves – but with sleek modern appliances and solid areas of colour rather than symerical pattterns). What we have not found is many decent reference books or articles. I can find plenty on mid century modernism but little on the preceding years. You obviously have found some source reference and if you have any recomendations i (and other readers i am sure) would love to know what they are.

    02 Nov 2006, 21:40

  6. steve

    good luck with the project… i love this era.. i’m a big art deco fan & the styles blend in with most contemporary settings!

    01 Dec 2006, 08:36

  7. Jill Ayles

    Fingers crossed for our family as we hope to move very soon into a 1930s semi. It still has the original kitchen,bathroom, lino, picture rails etc. We have a large Edwardian home at present but are down-sizing. Like you I have been looking for inspiration as we would like to keep the house as original as possible but still suited to 2007. Have you any other useful info or any good books you could suggest?
    Many thanks.

    19 Jan 2007, 18:22

  8. Pat

    I just bought a Tudor cape built in 1939. I would love to get some help on decorating. The house is in great shape, hardwood floors, original plaster walls. There is a lot of green in the house—the original green tiled bathroom, etc. I am at a loss as to what to do in the living room. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    28 Jan 2007, 01:26

  9. Megan

    Me too—it’s our first home and we are going to move in in about 2 months! We are looking for furniture, and leaning towards a mix of mid-century danish design and various contemporary stuff. I would love some other ideas/resources. Any book suggestions?

    10 Jun 2007, 21:17

  10. Philip

    We have just had our offer accepted on a mid-thirties semi. The living room has an oak fire-surround and flecked tiles around a molded arched fire-typical of the period? It seems however to have throwbacks to earlier styles as the house has a single story square flat-roofed bay and an gable roof with tiles. Anyway, try these books for inspiration, everyone. I agree that the bentwood furniture would suit a thirties house and look at www.bricksandbrass.co.uk for more suggestions

    Decorative Art in the 30s and 40s by Charlotte and Peter Fiell (Taschen)
    20s and 30s Style by Michael Horsham (Grange Books)
    Antiques Checklist: Art Deco by Judith and Martin Miller
    The 1930s Home by Greg Stevenson (Shire)
    Thirtiestyle and Little Palaces (Middlesex University Press)

    25 Nov 2007, 15:24


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