1920s-Style Furniture and Homes


The 1920s were a time of great change: World War I had ended, American women got the right to vote in 1920, people were increasingly moving away from farms and rural life to the cities, and the use of electricity and cars was becoming more widespread. Technology and industrialization affected architecture and interiors, too, with almost all new homes built to include electricity, central heating and a bathroom. Before the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, there was a great sense of prosperity, excitement and new-found freedom, reflected both through simplicity and decadence.

A Home for Everyone

  • Bungalows, formerly considered suitable only as cottages, became a more acceptable form of a house. Older bungalows were fitted with modern conveniences, creating improved living standards and affordable homes. With rooms no longer centered around fireplaces, interior floor plans, regardless of the exterior style of the home, transitioned into more open kitchen, living and dining room areas. These rooms were treated with similar finishes for a more unified look. Some homes featured a breakfast nook in lieu of a dining room. To eliminate clutter, built-ins were prevalent: shelving, sideboards, window seats and china cabinets.

Art Deco

  • Dramatic and glamorous, Art Deco embraced new technologies and exhibited exotic touches and elements from Egypt, Africa and Asia. Shapes were angular and geometric but highly decorated. Colors tended to be cooler, and furniture was characterized by high-gloss finishes, mirrors and bold patterns.

    Start with a polished parquet floor, overlaid with a large geometric patterned rug. Apply silver-leaf to the ceiling and oyster-colored paint on the walls. Buy one-off pieces of furniture rather than sets, opting for strong, clean lines upholstered in solids or geometric prints in shiny fabrics. Stepped profiles are key, as is opulence: ostrich feathers, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and black lacquer mixed with satin and furs.

Arts and Crafts

  • Led by the likes of Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright, American Arts and Crafts homes favored rectilinear, clean lines, perhaps with simple curves or arches. The home was an extension of the natural environment, and furniture focused on durability, functionality, simplicity and quality craftsmanship.

    Natural materials reign: wood, stone, brick, and exposed rafters and beams. Keep woodwork, including built-ins, naturally stained. Paper at least one wall in a large-scale nature-inspired pattern. Handmade wooden furniture is most authentic, perhaps with leather or rush seats. Incorporate warm, earthy colors -- terra cotta, mustard, olive, cream, crimson -- for walls and draperies and decorate with fresh flowers.

Early Modernism

  • Modernism, with its almost austere spaces, bold primary colors, abstractionism and use of materials like fiberglass, plastic, tubular steel and laminated plywood, represented an abrupt departure from the highly ornamented Victorian era.

    Bare concrete or white walls form the backdrop, with moldings and plaster work removed or painted to match. Built-ins remain but do not extend to the ceiling.

    Move flooring seamlessly between rooms with neutral carpeting or quarry tile. Light plays an important role, ideally with glass exterior walls. Alternatively, create a mirror wall. Decorate with modular seating and furniture made of leather, bentwood and steel. Keep accessories to a minimum, opting for a couple of great pieces of bold art or sculpture.

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