1930s Design: Eclectic and Comfortable

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The design style of the 1930s did not necessarily reflect the financial hardships following 1929 stock market crash. In fact, home design during this decade remained inspired by 1920s’ Art Deco, but also had a few features of its own as technology improved and new materials entered the market. However, a sense of restraint appeared in color choices and furniture styles. The 1930s saw the rise of radio, the first television, the first teabag and the invention of the electric razor.

1930s decor kitchen

A 1930s-style retro kitchen (image: retro renovation)

1930s design: the basics

In the 1930s, comfort at home was essential. The fireplace and the radio were at the centre of family life. Thus, the living room became more important. It was in the 1930s that the first 3-piece furniture set was invented: a 3-seater, a 2-seater and the armchair. Colors were still the muted pastels of the 1920s, but walls were also covered in floral wallpaper. Wood flooring was now covered in hard-wearing linoleum.

Furniture styles became a bit more eclectic, mixing the geometrical Art Deco with more organic elements. A typical Art Deco, stepped fireplace with long, low and streamlined pastel sofas was not unheard of. Add to this a few mismatched rugs throughout the room, and you would have a typical 1930s living room.

1930s design in your home

If you want to bring the cool retro effect of the 1930s home in your own, you can follow these few tips and ideas.

In the kitchen, a vinyl flooring is a must. Easy to clean and hardwearing, vinyl is the modern counterpart to linoleum. Choose a lino-style pattern inspired from the 1930s for the best effect. Brass or chrome faucets, porcelain sinks and minimalist, neutral-colored furniture will also give a retro style to your kitchen. The color scheme is light, with pale green being a popular shade for kitchen walls.

The 1930s bathroom remained pure white to give a sense of health and cleanliness. A retro sink and bathtub (a bath on feet is best) along with a small round mirror will finish the look.

The bedroom became a bit more conservative in the 1930s, but luxurious fabrics were still popular. Silky and satiny fabrics gave the room a bit of shine, while pendant lamps provided the lighting. The 1930s bedroom could even have a bit of an Asian flair with a screen and some china for decoration. It featured colors like aqua, pink, peach and baby blue.

The living room was definitely the center of attention. Drapes with large floral patterns, pole lamps with beaded fringes and many small, circular mirrors made the living room a refuge from the hardships of the economy. There, families listened to their favorite radio shows and records–if you find a great retro wooden radio, it’s the perfect accessory for a retro living room. The style is less geometrical and more eclectic, but light is still important, so many lamps and mirrors are a must. The pastel colors of the bedroom here are accented by dark neutrals.

1930s accessories

If you just want to bring a touch of the 1930s to your home, you only need to change a few accessories and items. Here are a few ideas.

If you’re not afraid of the kitsch, you can find beaded lampshades in antique stores or make your own. This type of lampshade was definitely a 30s thing. Add some matching fringed cushions, and you’re in business.

In the living room, big and bold floral patterns on cushions and drapes will give it an instant retro feel. However, keep the colors in the pastel range; bright floral patterns are more reminiscent of the 1960s.

Stack your heirloom brass pots in a corner of your kitchen counter for a nice touch of retro. Brass is actually in right now, so you’re likely to find brass items in home decor stores.

Stained glass was popular in the 30s. Hang a beautiful stained glass piece in your hallway for a great retro touch.

If you only have one type of item to add to your home, let it be mirrors. Instead of the big, geometrical mirrors of the 1920s, focus on smaller and circular mirrors for a 1930s look. Mirrors with a bit of stained glass or colored tiling around them work especially well.

The 1930s was definitely an interesting period. How do you reflect this time in your home decor? Share your ideas and tips with us!


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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.