Interior Decoration in the 1940s

Written by amelia allonsy
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Interior Decoration in the 1940s
Bright floral wallpaper like this was common in 1940s interior decoration. (DTP/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Interior decoration saw little innovation in the early 1940s because World War II lasted until 1945 and such restrictions were put on what could be manufactured. The style was usually muted as a result of people's wartime spirit and limited materials. The post-war 1940s was rife with excitement, patriotism and a boom in new housing construction. Interior decorating style varied depending on taste, but bold patterns, contrasting colours and a limited colour scheme were common.


The use of wallpaper and borders was in full force in the 1940s, particularly in the post-war half of the decade. Wallpaper might be used to accent one wall, or it could be applied to an entire room with subtle furniture and accessories to complement the paper. Any room in the home was fair game for wallpaper, including the bathroom, bedroom, living room or kitchen. Floral prints were widely used in wallpaper and fabrics, but other patterns like stripes, plaid, gingham, polka dots and fruit themes also prevailed. Wallpaper was used to display several characteristics that were common in the post-war 1940s, such as innocence, sentimentality, patriotism, traditionalism, cheer and glamour.

Living Rooms

Living rooms in the 1940s drew from a variety of style inspirations, including early American informal style, 18th-century late Colonial, and American Victorian -- a blend of different styles from throughout the 19th century. Colour schemes became more subdued compared to previous decades; although colours might be bright and cheery, the colour scheme was often limited to just two or three colours. Modern 1940s living rooms featured simple furniture with clean lines; one or two colours were used in punches throughout to accent neutral shades. Living rooms, as well as most rooms throughout the home, often featured an object wall with a bold pattern or print, such as striped wallpaper, a floral sofa or two-toned carpets. Plain or patterned area rugs were commonly used to tie together seating areas or other sections of living rooms.


Kitchens of the 1940s were designed to evoke feelings of cheerfulness and were often bright, sunny spaces. The colour palettes of 1940s kitchens were drawn from a variety of inspirations: the post-war spirit inspired patriotic colour schemes of red, white and blue while others focused on the cheery aspect and went with bright shades of pink, green or yellow in the kitchen. The nation was still preoccupied with worry about germs, vermin and disease, so many kitchen were all white or had white counters and cabinets. White was favoured because dirt could be easily seen against the white backdrop, and determining when a kitchen was clean was easier.


Bathrooms in the 1940s tended to be designed with contrasting colours, usually two colours repeated throughout the room. You might see dark blue or green contrasted with pale pink or light blue paired with maroon. This was also the time period in which coloured bathroom fixtures became popular; pink or lime green toilets, sinks and tubs were all the rage. Other features of the bathroom were often painted to match the shade of the bathroom fixtures, or another colour was used to contrast with the fixture colour. Layers of patterns and textures, from painted floors to patterned curtains and thick bath rugs, were the norm in modern 1940s bathrooms.

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