Remodeling 1930s homes

Updated February 21, 2017

Designing a new look for a house built in the 1930s should include preserving great features of the home specific to that era. Review what you really like about the house in terms of its rooflines, flooring or woodwork. Integrate new materials to complement old cabinetry, real bead board panelling or wide porches. Look at many design options before selecting new materials. Colours and textures of new materials should fit perfectly with the old. Ask a historic preservationist in your area to offer ideas, if possible.

Start with the home's rooflines. Sketch the house from various angles to determine if an addition or new porch is needed. Keep new rooflines in harmony with the pitch and construction design of what's in place. Draw a home that is visually appealing from the kerbside. Create a basic design with landscaping added to give the exact desired outcome. Plan to give the home exterior neutral colouring, such as shades of pale grey, pale yellow or medium taupe.

Design exterior materials by starting at the foundation. Use stacked stones or brick veneer around the home's foundational base. Plan to install an interesting combination of three materials, for example, on the exterior facades. Use this combination, which is popular in today's building designs for homes, to work well with multiple materials used in the 1930s. Install new shingle-type siding, stucco over brick in certain areas, and cedar tongue-and-groove boards in various places.

Remodel the interior rooms to preserve great features. Don't begin the interior revamp, however, until you've addressed insulation and other energy concerns. Install extra insulation in exterior walls and attic areas, but consult with experts for more ideas. Keep old light fixtures and rewire them, for example. Redo plaster walls and add crown moulding. Keep interesting built-in vintage cabinets and add new cabinetry around them. Preserve old wood flooring by cleaning it and installing a wood sealer.

Upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms. Install new fixtures, faucets, countertops and cabinetry that harmonises with colours used in the 1930s. Consult vintage home design books and magazines to see paint colours and flooring colours that were used in that period. For example, revamp the kitchen and bathrooms to reflect certain shades of blue or green used back then. Create tile floor designs that incorporate colours and tile work reminiscent of that era.

Invest in the porch areas and landscaping. Redo old wooden porches and add comfortable furniture. Create places to relax on the porches and in the yard areas, such as a covered patio space. Give the home's exterior a laid-back feeling similar to the less-stressed days of yesteryear. Add porch lighting and landscape lighting that harmonise appropriately with the architecture.


Never begin the remodel of a 1930s home without an energy evaluation by a local expert. You want to make sure you can take care of the energy concerns and do beautifying on the budget you've allocated. Failing to take care of heating and cooling needs might make the home lose great market value if you put it up for sale.

Things You'll Need

  • Sketch pad
  • Stacked stones
  • Brick veneer
  • Siding
  • Stucco material
  • Tongue-and-groove cedar boards
  • Electrical wiring
  • Plaster
  • Crown moulding
  • Cabinets
  • Hardwood floor sealer
  • Kitchen fixtures
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Faucets
  • Countertop materials
  • Tile flooring
  • Exterior lighting
  • Landscaping materials
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About the Author

Judi Light Hopson is a national columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. She is founder of Hopson Global Education and Training and co-author of the college textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress. She holds a degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University, and has been a professional writer for 25 years.