A Touch of Arts n Crafts With a Bit of Art Deco…
Chances are if you’ve caught a few episodes of Poirot on TV you’ll be familiar with the design of the clothes, cars and buildings from the 1930’s. Simple smooth straight lines define the art deco period but many homes designed in the late 20’s, early 30’s had the influence of the arts and craft movement from the turn of the century and also the beginnings of modernism too.
The first World War took a terrible toll on the country and the loss of lives reduced not just the the need for building new houses but also the number of skilled workers to build them. But by the start of the second World War there had been a 50% increase in the total number of homes in Britain in just a 20 year period. It jumped from eight million in 1919 to over 12 million by 1939 mostly being built around established towns as suburbs in rural developments.
The Classic Look and Features
The trend from the 1920’s onwards was for owning a house rather than renting as the government encouraged the population to be more self supporting. Popular terraces gave way to semi detached homes and the mock Tudor or cottage style took hold partly due to the arts and craft movement. Children will often ask the question about the flat roofs on art deco houses as most other houses have pitched roofs. There is some debate as to whether this is purely a design feature with no definite reason behind it but a popular myth with some supporting truth was that sunbathing was all the rage in the 1930’s. It was said that the flat roofs allowed the ladies to strip off in privacy and catch some rays although this may just have been grandad’s wishful thinking. Regarding the other trends in architecture of the time one can see the influence of mass production and the mass adoption of concrete rather than just bricks and mortar as a build material.
Windows and Doors – Good design never goes out of fashion…
Glass panels were seen in front doors but they had patterns created by enamelling, sand blasting or simple etching and glass staining was common too. Inside the 1930’s door style is still seen today and is popular because of the combination of vertical panels and the single head height square one at the top. Good design never goes out of fashion they say.
As technology developed cheaper ways of making large panes of flawless glass, the windows became a prominent feature of the front of the house. Large bay windows with angled sides began popping up everywhere and some used the bay window across two floors really improving the lighting inside. Before double glazing and central heating became standardised in the UK, 1930’s houses were seen as very cold homes to live in because so much heat was lost through the abundance of large glass windows.
The lasting legacy of art deco can be seen expressed in fashion, architecture, culture and even our doors. The end of the 1920’s, early 1930’s were seen as a golden age for design, enjoyment and leisure. The dourness of a reflective grieving post war Britain faded, drowned out by the clamour of the new fangled ‘wireless’.
Images courtesy of sxc.hu