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17 September 2014
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1930s style bedroom


More than 4 million homes were built between 1919 and 1939. People moved to the new suburbs in droves, where they could purchase their dream homes. The introduction of hire purchase meant people could equip their homes with the latest looks.

There are several looks for the home - there was modernism or 'Moderne' with its lack of colour, its clean streamlined shapes and lack of ornamentation. Buildings looked like ocean liners with curved sun-trap windows edged with blue railings and portholes. There were also lots of pseudo-historical styles from mock-Tudor houses with half-timbering to neo-Georgian styles. All could be present in the same street.

stained glass with boat motif

Inside, the art deco style with its striking colours of red, black, and silver, its exoticism and animal prints sits happily alongside reproductions of Tudor furniture with a Moderne chair in leather and tubular steel. The three-piece suite came into use, most homes had plumbed-in kitchens, and three out of four households had a radio.


  • streamlined
  • boxy shapes
  • Bakelite - a type of plastic used for everything from radio casings to telephones and light switches
  • chrome
  • modernism
  • art deco


  • modernism, art deco and Scandinavian design (modern)
  • historical styles such as Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian
  • cinema - 20 million people went every week
  • sun - people loved sunbathing and built flat roofs, pergolas and balconies as sun traps

The names

  • Alvar Aalto - Finnish furniture designer
  • George Nelson - American furniture designer
  • Clarice Cliff - potter
  • Keith Murray - designed ceramics for Wedgwood

At the time

  • 1936 Edward VIII abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson
  • 1936 Spanish Civil War
  • 1937 To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway
  • 1939 The Wizard of Oz
  • 1939 Hitler invades Poland - war breaks out in Europe

Clarice Cliff plate, telephone, Bakelite radio, bay windows

Get the look

  • Floors - lino is practical and hardwearing. A mottled effect will suit nearly all colour schemes.
  • Seating - the three-piece suite is a 1930s invention. Choose a two or three-seat settee with two armchairs. Make sure they are all covered in the same material, such as a moquette (a woollen velvet, furry to the touch) with geometric designs.
  • Armchairs - brown leather armchairs in boxy shapes are both in keeping and timeless classics. Leather only looks better with age.
  • Lighting - lighting was mass-produced from industrial materials such as chrome, glass, opaque and frosted glass. For a modernist look, look for simple globe forms or simple tubes that can be arranged in groups like sculptures.
  • Colour schemes - choose subtle colour schemes such as eau de nil (a pale green), pale blue and pink, buff, beige and coffee.
  • Fireplaces - fireplaces should be tiled in plain tiles - often brown or green with a speckled effect - with a stepped profile typical of art deco.
  • Ceiling - in an art deco-inspired room you could paint the ceiling silver for a stunning effect.
  • Veneer - often used with a layer of a more expensive wood such as oak or an exotic fruitwood stuck or sandwiched onto a cheaper plywood.
  • Display - find a glass-fronted cabinet to display the best china, such as Clarice Cliff or Susie Cooper.
  • Windows - position stained glass in the top panel of front windows, and panels in French windows and doors. Typical designs are galleon ships and sunbursts. Moderne houses don't have the stained glass panels.
  • Bed - choose silky satin eiderdowns to cover the entire bed.

What to invest in

  • glassware by Le Verre Francais, Lalique
  • furniture by Emile Gall√© and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
  • Bakelite radios and telephones
  • ceramics by Graham Sutherland, Frank Brangwyn, Dame Laura Knight
  • Ferdinand Preiss figures
  • vintage perfume bottles

Where to see it

  • Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagan's, Cardiff. Tel: 029 2057 3500
  • Eltham Palace London SE9, former home to the millionaire Courtauld family. Tel: 020 8294 2548
  • Coleton Fishacre, near Kingswear, Devon, a National Trust property. Tel: 01803 752466
  • De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Further reading

  • 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)

Image copyright:
Christopher Dresser textile image Courtesy of The Fine Art Society, London
Spelter figures image courtesy of the Antiques Roadshow finds database
Royal Worcester ewer courtesy of the Antiques Roadshow finds database

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