When it comes to home design, including ceilings, styles and materials have come and gone throughout the modern era. One decade that marked a shift in culture, both stylistically and economically, was the 1930s, and this can even be seen through the various types of ceiling mouldings found in architecture during this period.
The tin ceiling was a fixture in many homes and apartments throughout the U.S. in the 1930s. Although most of these ceilings were built in the previous few decades, when the trend had reached its peak in popularity, they continued to be common nonetheless. The tin ceiling was a result of the industrial revolution, during which affordable metals were mass produced and homeowners were able to have tin tiles embossed with prefabricated designs and used for detailed ceiling mouldings. This was a luxury that, in the previous century, had only been available to those wealthy enough to have an artisan carve or mould tiles specifically for them.
Glass design became popular in the 1930s, particularly through the art deco movement, which defined much of the decade's style. Although, in most cases, glass was used on a smaller scale, such as in lamp shades or other decorative pieces, it also found its way onto ceilings. Unlike tin, the use of glass as ceiling material was reserved for either wealthy homeowners or in important buildings. For instance, the Buffalo City Hall, built in 1932, features a grand ceiling in the interior entrance way, which is made up of coloured glass panes moulded together to form a giant sun and, not coincidentally, serves to let in as much light as possible.
Although people nowadays may correctly react to the use of asbestos in ceilings as a dangerous idea, its harmful effects were still unknown in the earlier part of the 20th century. What people did know about asbestos was that it was an effective material for insulation, and so it was put to use in many ceilings across the country. Asbestos fibres were simply mixed with cement or textured paints, which were then used as the basis for ceiling moulds. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this material was common in ceiling construction from the 1930s through the 1950s, which means that older homes should be checked to ensure against any health risks caused by the material.
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