1930s Interiors Weren’t All Black, Gold and Drama

1930s interiors

When you think of Art Deco interiors the first things that come to mind are black lacquer, gold decorative motifs, mirrors, luxurious textiles and lots and lots of drama. It’s a look we all know and love and we’d love to spend time sweeping down amazing sinuous staircases in breathtaking gowns or lounging in lavish boudoirs surrounded by silk, furs and velvets whilst sipping champagne. Classic Hollywood films like The Kiss, starring Greta Garbo, which featured dramatic interiors designed by art director and production designer, Cedric Gibbons (who designed the Oscar award statues), introduced this look to audiences during the 1920s and 30s. Today we’ve seen these type of stunning interiors feature in films like Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day and The Great Gatsby and, like many of you I’m sure, I spend ages analysing and falling in love with every detail.

Miss Pettigrew Entrance

The incredibly dramatic reception of Delysia LaFosse’s apartment in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Eltham dining room doors

The Egyptian inspired dining room doors at Eltham Palace

Having now lived in my new home for just over a year I’ve been spending some time thinking about what I wanted to do in my lounge and am seriously looking at Art Deco in the 1930s for inspiration. I never like to make these sort of decisions straight away but prefer to live with a room for a while to see what feels right for the space.

In my old house the lounge was inspired by the crossover period between the late 1910s and early 1920s and featured colours of the Art Nouveau period, purple, emerald green and peacock, but had details of Art Deco, such as my Cuba sofa from Retro Sofas, my original 1930s gramophone and my reproduction lady-holding-a-globe light, which actually looks original until you pick it up and feel the weight. I’m worried this won’t look right in my new lounge as the light is much different. The old house had huge windows which let a lot of light in, but the new one has small cottage windows, so I need to keep everything as light as possible. Bang goes my dream of black laquer, dark dramatic curtains and mood lighting then!

In desperation I began looking for alternative 1930s Art Deco interiors, understanding that the everyday home of this time would also struggle with this look, but found it really hard to find much other than the usual dark theatrical styles. Until, that is, I stumbled across Patrick Baty’s blog posts 1930s Paint Colours – An Introduction post and The 1930s House. Patrick is the owner of Papers and Paints, a London-based company who are specialists in architectural paint and colour. I came across them when I first moved to my old house and used their paint in my bedroom, it’s really wonderful stuff (if you like good quality paint like me!).

Patrick reminded me of the 1930s love of colours such as mint and apple green, lemon and bright yellow, cornflower blue and multiple hues of orange as well as more neutral colours of stone, ivory and cream. Now they are colours I can get on board with that won’t make my lounge feel dark and small. So, I set to work looking around the internet for images I could use for inspiration and I tell you, it wasn’t easy. Not only is this look dominated by its more dramatic and very popular brother but there aren’t that many colour images of 1930s interiors anywhere.

1930s living room advert

I love the simplicity of this living room, although this wouldn’t work in mine as I have far too much stuff, but it has made me think about storage and how to make things like magazines disappear. I actually also really like the mixture of styles in this with the chairs, rug and fireplace being very obviously Art Deco, but the side table and silhouettes on the wall very reminiscent of the Victorian era. This shows a more realistic view of someone’s home, that they wouldn’t have just got rid of all their old pieces and replaced it with the new, ultra modern style.

The print on the curtains and chairs is classic of this period with a two tone pattern to add texture, depth and interest to the room and gives it a slightly more luxurious feel. I love the blue piping on the chairs but feel you’d always be limited with what to put with them if you changed the colour scheme in the future.

1930s bathroom

This bathroom is from the cusp of the 1920s and 30s from House & Garden magazine and shows a look that is less streamlined than what you would think of as Art Deco. The frills on the curtains and stool as well as the ornate panel around the bath area feel much more country cottage than glamorous city apartment. You certainly wouldn’t see this in Delysia LaFosse’s home!

1930s lounge - Geffrye Museum

This is one of my favourite 1930s interiors and is one of the period rooms set up in the Geffrye Museum in London. You can see more in their 360 view here. The reason I love this particular one is because of the mixture of woods and highlights of mint green. I’d love to find the fabric on the chairs to use for curtains in my lounge, it’s a fabulous geometric design in various shades of mint green and stone. My curtains are what I’m struggling with most, mainly because I have this fabric planted firmly in my mind and I just cannot find anything similar.

1930s living room - 1 Home Farm Drive, Banbury

This living room is from National Trust’s 1 Home Farm Drive in Banbury, an eighteenth-century stable converted by the 2nd Viscount Bearsted in the 1930s into the holiday home, which you can still stay at today. I really want to go! The feel of it is a bit too dark for what I’m after but the 1930s elements are all there with the gorgeous leather chairs, walnut display cabinet and the streamlined lighting. This is what I want to focus on with mine, getting the pieces looking really authentic so as a whole it all comes together.

1930s house - Black Country Museum

I’m not a fan of orange at all but this interior at the Black Country Living Museum show the influence of nature motifs, such as the sunrise, with its Cubist style wallpaper. As this is the dominant feature of the room everything else is kept rather simple such as the very straight lined sofa, chair, coffee table and fireplace. The picture rail shows the left over features from previous periods, whereas in a lot of 1920s and 30s houses this, along with the chair rail, would’ve been removed to make the room look taller.

1930s Kitchen

This 1930s style kitchen shows the clear influence of the outside with its sunshine yellow and grass green. Health and wellbeing was taken very seriously during the 1930s and spending time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, was very much encouraged. This then filtered into things like interior design where they wanted to create a feeling of being outside, or as Kevin McCloud would put it ‘bringing the outside in’.

I normally wouldn’t think to put these two colours together but they look so bright, fresh and welcoming. I love the small and simple lighting fixture on the ceiling. My ceilings are quite low, what with my house having been built in the 1820s, and something like this would work so much better than the larger, low hanging styles of today.

1930s bedroom

This fabulous bedroom is part of an original 1930s suburban house in Hertfordshire which is used for a film location. The entire house is trapped in the 1930s with every single room being decorated in an authentic style and filled to the rafters with original pieces. If you love this sort of thing it’s worth clicking through to see every room as it really is something to behold.

What I love about the bedroom, and most of the house if I’m honest, is all the stunningly beautiful wood furniture. Each piece has it’s own unique and wonderful qualities in the grain and is something I really want to feature in my lounge. Thankfully, I have gotten to know the lovely couple who run Savoy Art Deco Collectables, I bought a gorgeous 1930s Bakelite Jaz clock from them about a year ago, as I keep bumping into them at vintage fairs I go to. When I saw them at Frome a couple of weeks ago I told them I was looking for a 1930s display cabinet and low and behold they have one! I’m going to look at it this weekend as it’s the perfect size for where I want it to go. I cannot wait to see it!

1930s armchairs

The other thing I’ve become completely obsessed with is Art Deco style occasion chairs that have curved arms in wood. The lounge in my new house is a little bigger than my old one and I have space for a small occasion chair next to the TV and this sort of style would work so well just here. I love the continuous line of wood from the legs all the way through to the chair back and I just want to run my hand over the smooth, shiny surface. However, having searched for just over a year now all of the ones I have found have either been extremely expensive or are in places like Germany (thanks eBay!). This was getting really frustrating and I thought I’d never find one. That was until my hairdresser, who’s also into vintage, told me about a new charity warehouse near me that sells loads of furniture.

Art Deco Style Chair

Art Deco Style Chair

I walked straight in and found this beauty! Yes, the wood needs stripping back, re-staining and finishing with a beautifully shiny varnish and the fabric is not in the best state but it cost £15!!!! I was prepared to pay £250 for one I really wanted but this is just what I was looking for. It’s most likely to be mid-Century rather than 1930s but it has the same gorgeous curved wooden arms and it’s just the right size for the space. I cannot tell you how much I love it!

Loome Fabrics Art Deco Ripples

Of course, I went straight online when I got home in search of the perfect fabric and immediately came across the amazing Loome Fabrics who sell a huge array of Art Deco style curtain and upholstery fabrics. I ordered a whole ton of samples straight away but when they came there was no contest, the Deco Eclectic Deco Ripples in a mint green was exactly the right fabric for this chair. It has everything I love about the 1930s look, a luxurious two-tone chenille finish, the incredibly Art Deco stylised sun design and my new favourite colour mint green.

Having spent time reading Patrick Baty’s blog posts, and researching 1930s interiors that are different to the dark and dramatic ones we’re all familiar with, I have decided exactly what I want to do in my lounge. My dad is going to replace my old Ikea bookshelf with built in shelving on one side of the fireplace so I can store all of my books in one place (I currently have the overspilling ones on my stairs) which will help to declutter the room. The other side of the fireplace will have my new walnut display cabinet in it. However, I also want to purchase a small side table to go next to the sofa, a coffee table to replace the old flea market, and rather damaged, blanket box and something for my TV to go on. God knows what though! I know it’s going to take time to find just the right ones, and afford to buy them all, but I’m determined to do this now.

I’m going to use mint green as my main focus colour (weirdly, and completely unconsciously, I chose this colour for my bedroom too but mixed it with pink) but am very tempted to add cornflower blue too as it’s such a lovely colour. I’ll paint the walls a light stone colour to keep the light in the room but I am still struggling as to what to do with the curtains. Any suggestions will be gratefully received, so would any recommendations of fabric shops who stock any 1930s style fabrics.

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

12 Comments

  1. How exciting, I can’t wait to see what you do! We’re two years in to doing up our 1930s house and it’s slooooow going. Sigh. Some of those images you’ve shared also appear in ‘The 1930s House’ book by Ian Rock, which we got from our local library. Brilliant book, covers all aspects of interiors, I’d highly recommend it. My husband doesn’t like the gold and black type of interior look (I think the 1980’s spoiled it when they brought back a bit of that kind of Deco!) so we’ve got a mix of Deco touches with rustic and traditional. Good luck with it all x

    • I’ve been looking at books on Amazon and couldn’t decide on which one was best to get so thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely check that one out. x

  2. Really, really fantastic post and bevy of beautiful images. It’s awesome to see someone delve into the topic of the breadth of decor styles and colourways that were popular during the 1930s. When I think of that era, I do see the iconic palettes, but I also quickly picture of the vintage homes inhabited by some of my elderly neighbours when I was little, many of which were still decked out like the 30s – 50s, and the abundance of warm woods, earth tones, and linoleum floors that defined those of the 1930s.

    Thanks again for a top-notch post!

    ♥ Jessica

    • Thank you Jessica! Hmm, not sure I’ll go as far as replacing the carpet with lino but will definitely be doing that in my bathroom. I’m doing exactly the same look in the bathroom as I did in the old house with black and white tiled lino flooring, Art Deco style white brick tiles with a line of black in the middle and everything else crisp white. Although that’ll be way off in the future once I can afford it! x

  3. Chair of WIN. It’s worth checking out your local British Heart Foundation furniture shop if you have one – ours regularly gets lovely things in. They’d need a bit of work, but you’d be paying far less than dealer prices.

    Your house is going to look amazing. Aaaah, you give me such lifestyle envy! Amazing clothes AND amazing house! I’ve got some bits on colour schemes and furniture in 1930s books at home, it’s fascinating how colour usage has changed.

    • It is amazing how the colours used back over the 20th Century have changed so much. The colours of the 1930s, and how they put them together, are ones you never see in modern homes. That’s probably why it’s so hard to find fabrics in these colours! x

  4. After reading this and looking at all these fabulous interiors it turns out that I want 1930’s decor too!! All your plans sound very exciting and I think your room is just going to look wonderful. I loved the 1930’s lounge at the Geffrye Museum, I’m sure I have a postcard of it if you want it. I’ve only been to Eltham Palace once but loved it and I think they have opened up more of it since then so a return trip is needed!

  5. What an interesting blog – yes its very interesting to see the range of subtle colours that actually were popular in the Deco days, rather than just the monochrome stereotype of that period. Thank you very much for mentioning our fabric website – here at Loome Fabrics we are constantly looking out for new Art Deco fabrics and we are thrilled that you love the Deco Ripples in mint green. By the way, we can always print the fabric for your curtains as a bespoke commission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.