One room where we will definitely not be following 1930s design is the kitchen. I have been suprised how similar some of our modern design is to 1930s design in most rooms of the house, including the bathroom. But the kitchen is very different. It's amazing how much technology and modern convenience has developed in seventy-odd years. Go back to the early thirties and in the average semi you would have found a rather pokey kitchen, with a deep sink, nothing so glamorous as fitted units, a cool larder and probably a small gas cooker, as shown in this picture from MoDA.
In the inter-war years a battle for our homes was raging between the gas and electricity suppliers. Electricity was considered to be a clean, hygenic and efficient new technology and had already won the battle for lighting the home. However, the electricity supply fluctuated between AC and DC in different areas. This made people reluctant to buy big expensive items that were electric, which they potentially couldn't take with them if they moved to a different area. As a result, people tended to buy smaller electrical items: toasters, kettles, hair dryers, clocks, vacuum-cleaners.
A new invention, the thermostat, decided the battle for cooking. Ridiculous as it may sound, seventy years ago you couldn't just bang something in the oven and forget about it. Instead, you had to make regular checks that your oven was giving you a constant heat. The invention of the thermostat for gas ovens meant that the gas flame became the power of choice for cooking.
Your average semi-detached suburban home probably wouldn't have had a fridge. They were just too expensive. Instead the home would have had a cool, north facing larder for food storage. Both electric and gas fridges were produced and, although gas fridges were quiet and efficient (see the advert from MoDA ), electric ones seem to have won out in the long run.
Before the first World War domestic service was common and most middle class Victorian families employed at least one servant. After the War, the growing middle classes could not afford quite the same lifestyle. Most 1930s suburban houses were not designed or built with servants in mind and your average 1930s housewife had to adopt the idea of the 'servantless home' that popular women's magazines were promoting. The idea was that wives had to do the work themselves, with the aid of appliances such as the vacuum-cleaner and electric iron. Science and technology were seen as the 'saviour of the housewife' and 'the key to an effortless domestic future'. (Chuh.) This was reflected in the marketing and branding of the day:
Some [appliances] were given names that referred directly to them as wageless servants, such as the Atmos 'Housemaid', which could wash dishes and wash, press and iron clothes as well as vacuum-clean.
The 1930s Home, Greg Stevenson, 2005.
The kitchen in our house was extended and knocked through sometime in the 1950s (we think) and again in the 1980s, but you can still see where the small kitchen would have existed at the back of the house next to the dining room. We're lucky enough to be having a new fitted kitchen, new cooker (gas and electric!), new fridge-freezer and a new dishwasher and we're aiming for a fairly cosy, retro-farmhouse kind of look. Here are the Smeg fridge and cooker that we've opted for and before and after pictures of the kitchen will be in a gallery soon.
PS. By now some of you may have spotted the inspiration for my new look 'Bleg'!