Design Styles of the 20s

Written by wendie pecharsky
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  • Introduction

    Design Styles of the 20s

    Initially in the 1920s, design styles focused on the past. Colonial Revival architecture was all the rage, as society romanticised the era of America's Revolutionary War. Hallmarks of the Colonial Revival style included brick facades and columns on houses; furniture with clean, symmetrical lines and classical details; modest fashions (high necklines, long hemlines); and muted colour schemes in the home. But starting in 1925, Modernism became the new trend. This design style, which later came to be known as Art Deco, placed the emphasis on simplicity, functionality and efficiency. Lasting well in the 1950s, Art Deco's characteristics include ornate facades and iconic imagery on buildings; furniture of glass, steel and chrome; the use of strong geometric forms on everything from appliances to automobiles; and the use of exotic materials and bold colours in the home.

    The colourful advertisement depicting modern technology originated in the 1920s. ( Images)

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    From 1920 to 1925, the style of many residential structures hearkened back to the era of the American Revolution, known as the Georgian or Colonial era. Colonial Revival houses featured details such as panelled front doors with glass transoms or fanlights above them. White columns often flanked the entryways of Colonial Revival homes, and windows were arranged in symmetrical rows. Beginning in 1925, however, architectural styles took a new turn with the rise of Art Deco. Houses and buildings in this new style became streamlined, with angular geometric patterns such as zigzags, chevrons, sunbursts and pyramid shapes inlaid into facades. The so-called Cottage styles of architecture also took hold during this period. One such style, dubbed Spanish Mission, featured houses with white stucco walls and red tile or flat roofs. Another Cottage style, Tudor, featured brick walls accented with half timbers and tall chimneys that bulged toward the top.

    The Chrysler Building in New York City is a classic example of Art Deco architecture. (Thomas Northcut/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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    Interior Design

    In the early '20s, wood furniture was very popular, as were wood floors, doors and window frames. Oriental rugs were the norm for living and dining rooms. Interior colours tended to be muted and patterns feminine. Painted finishes and cabinetry were light coloured and very traditional. By the mid-20s, however, the most popular furniture was made of leather, glass and steel. Shiny fabrics, mirrors and mirrored tiles were predominant, along with the use of stylised images of aeroplanes, cars, cruise liners and skyscrapers for wall decor. Built-in furniture, such as bookcases, sideboards, china cabinets and window seats reduced the amount of free-standing furniture, allowing small bungalow-type houses to feel cosy rather than cluttered. Bold colours such as silver, black and chrome were trendy.

    Oriental rugs were common decorative elements in the 1920s home. (Siri Stafford/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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    After World War I, fashions for women gradually became less constricting. The long skirts and binding corsets women had worn for centuries were replaced with dresses with loosefitting waistlines and hemlines that reached to the mid-calf. High-heeled shoes came in to style to flatter women's newly exposed ankles and legs. The use of exotic furs became prevalent, and women's coats were often adorned with an animal's tail, head and paws. Cloche hats became popular as women bobbed their hair. The handbag became a necessity, as pockets disappeared from women's apparel.

    The loose silhouettes and shorter hemlines of the '20s gave women more freedom of movement. (Brooke/Kirby/Valueline/Getty Images)

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    Decorative Arts

    French jewellery designer Rene Lalique and Russian-born fashion and stage designer Romain de Tirtoff (who called himself Erté after the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T.) are among the designers whose work had great influence on the decorative arts of the 1920s. Lalique's glass designs, inspired by American designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, featured flowing lines and subtle unusual colours. Erté is best remembered for the fashion illustrations he contributed to "Harper's Bazaar" for 22 years and the extravagant stage sets he designed for the Folies-Bergere in Paris. His work exhibits the geometric lines, bold colours and highly stylised images that were characteristic of the Art Deco movement. In the home, the glamorous world of Hollywood filtered through to design. Cocktail cabinets and smoking paraphernalia became highly fashionable. In addition, animal skins, ivory, mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell, as well as all things Egyptian were used frequently for decorative objects, a nod to the rise in travel to that region as well as to the Orient.

    Decorative objects exhibited the clean, simple lines of the 1920s Art Deco period. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

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