Fireplace styles in the 1930s aptly managed to capture the ever changing moods and situations of a world caught between two wars. Where the previous decade had been one of a more or less constant decadence, the '30s were a time of transition and embraced several designs. The simple Craftsman ethic gave way to the still streamlined, yet slightly glitzy Art Deco style. Other fireplaces with involved tiled designs celebrated a European flair. The decade finished in a more austere place than where it had started and the fireplaces kept pace with this social adjustment.
Although the Craftsman era was winding down as the 1930s were dawning, it deserves mention as an important fireplace style of the time. Marked by broad horizontal planes and warm natural tones, the Craftsman fireplace was often flanked by plain bookshelves or simple carved pillar designs. Tiled fireplace surrounds were a common embellishment on the Craftsman look, as long as the tiles were in earthy hues of browns, beiges and grays.
Art Deco Fireplaces
Art Deco fireplaces shared angularity with their Craftsman predecessors, but not much else. The bold Deco-styled fireplace expressed itself comfortably in various media, such as tile and limestone or cement. Arrestingly rectangular, the Deco fireplace could incorporate elements such as pastel-hued tiles, glass panels or accents of chrome to show distinctive styling while retaining its signature simplicity, sleekness and symmetry.
In addition to the Art Deco influence, 1930s fireplaces were also tiled in the warm colors of the California Art tile movement, which was born out of the Spanish Revival and Mission styles. Whereas a tiled fireplace in the Deco style may bear black and white or soft pinks and greens, California art-inspired fireplaces incorporated earth tones as well as vibrant colors. These fireplaces captured the beauty of the Old World with their intricate, scrolling Moorish designs. Unfortunately, the onset of the Depression stifled the booming Californian art tile industry.
Some enterprising homeowners fashioned hiding places in their wood paneled fireplaces, much like earlier parson's cupboards, to stow precious spirits during Prohibition. Prohibition mercifully ended in 1933, but the nation's woes were not over. The 1930s witnessed the end of a decadent era fueled partly by the taboo on drink. Although mass production of household decor had made Art Deco objects accessible to more than the wealthy by the 1930s, as the Depression deepened, not everyone had fanciful fireplaces. Oftentimes rendered in plain wood, Depression-Era fireplaces provided the primary source of warmth in many households.
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