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Bedroom Styles of the 1930s

Daniel R. Mueller

Bedrooms of the 1930s often had a classy earthy tone and were notable for their geometric designs and simple aesthetic. The prevalence of a simple aesthetic in the 1930's was due to both period art influences and to economic factors like improved large-scale production of household goods such as furniture.

Art deco makes use of earthtones and crisp lines.

For some, design sensibilities were not a priority because, the 1930s, often referred to as the Dirty 30s, were a time of financial upheaval and personal hardship. For those displaced by the events of the 1930s, any bedroom they were lucky enough to have would likely have a spartan decor rather than any specific style.

1930s Era Bedroom Color Schemes

In the homes of middle and upper class citizens, somber colors were the look of the era. Earthtones, such as coffee browns and cool creams, dominated much of the design aesthetic with flashes of color reserved for smaller intricate items with the overall intent being to draw the viewer's eye. The 1930s bedroom color schemes made significant use of light and shadow to give added depth of character. By the 1930s, electric home features, such as lighting fixtures, became widely available to the middle classes, and their design became refined to the point where lighting was more readily integrated into home decor. The overall effect was a dark and moody but cozy look. Bedspreads and upholstery generally matched the somber color schemes of the other aspects of the room, although deep, rich reds were also favorite choices for fabric in the era.

Synthetic Decor in the 1930s

Furniture of the 1930s was still largely composed of quality hardwoods as well as spring and cotton stuffed upholstery. In a bedroom setting, this would generally mean hardwood constructed bed frames and side tables, dressers and makeup stands -- all in deep rich hues. Synthetic fibers, such as plastic derivatives, were becoming more and more commonplace by the 1930s. Specific products, such as polystyrene and acrylic resin, had just hit the market, meaning that some plastic objects which would in modern design be considered rather gaudy, such as acrylic lamps, might then have been status items or otherwise considered quality furniture. Polyethylene, one of the more durable and most common modern classic materials, was not yet invented; so when designing a period specific 1930s bedroom, take into account which synthetic materials existed at the time.

Art Deco: An Evolution of Art Nouveau and English Design Sensibility

Art Deco evolved from two separate schools of influence. The first is the Victorian stylings of the English, and the second was the Art Nouveau movement that originated in France. The Victorian style, when deconstructed to its simplest aspects, chiefly values a balance of comfort and ornate craftsmanship. By contrast, the Art Nouveau furniture introduced by the French was highly ornate, sometimes to a level of impracticality, although it also demonstrated a high degree of sculpture-like craftsmanship in woodcarving, such as the common leaf designs of the style. Art Deco, by contrast, removed many of the frivolous, ornate aspects from both older styles while keeping the clean shapes and the comfortable practicality. In part, the demand for decorative and artistic furniture was driven by a strong American middle class in 1925 when the Art Deco style was formally announced by the French Exposition Internationale; these consumers sought to emulate the more expensive furniture available to the wealthy. While the design sensibility originated as a mimicry of other styles, it eventually evolved into a more widespread and distinctive style.

Industrial Drives Behind Art Deco

As much as the furniture and design industries in the 1930s tried to popularize the image of Art Deco, it was fundamentally a style based upon convenient mass production. The simplistic mass production processes of the time made highly ornate work an extremely expensive proposition; therefore, an aesthetic of simplicity was not only a matter of style but a matter of cost consideration and good business practice. For instance, it takes far longer to carve a single ornate sofa than it does to simply saw and sand it for a clean, geometric look. The same design consideration applied to much of the interior design and furniture industry at the time, which gave rise to a host of simple, clean lined and practical items found in the 1930s bedroom.