Go Vintage: Decorating Ideas From the 1920s






Photo:  DailyMail.com

It’s hard to believe that the roaring ’20s were in full swing nearly 100 years ago. It was an era full of change, vibrancy and life, and you can infuse your home with those same feelings by evoking some fabulous 1920s home décor ideas, whether you’re going for a full home remodel or are just wanting a refreshing new look.

Overall, a middle-class family in the 1920s would have decorated their home to show as much splendor as they could afford. The living room and dining room would have been the most luxurious, as this is where guests would frequent. Bed rooms would have also been cozy and comfortable. Kitchens and bath rooms were by far the most practical areas of the home, but these too could be embellished with ornate designs and decorations.


photo:  OldHouseOnline.com

Picture Rails

Photography was, by this time, commonplace. Many people could afford a session with a photographer, and more well-to-do families might even have their own camera to experiment with. The best pictures (and paintings) would have been displayed all over the house, including on the walls.

But it was more common to hang picture frames from a rail than to pound a nail into the wall as a hanger. Picture rails are located high up on the walls and have a special clip from which several strings hang down and are tied into the frame as support. The clip can slide back and forth, making it easy to add a new picture; all you have to do is slide the existing pictures to make room for the new one!

For a truly vintage look, don’t try to hide the strings that hold the picture frames. It’s all part and parcel.

Dark Colors

Dark paint colors on the walls were common, but bright accents and plenty of light were common as well. The dark color serves as an ideal background to make other elements in the room stand out, as it doesn’t demand attention.

Dark browns, olive greens, deep blues and deep reds were all common, but an accent wall in a lighter color can help you keep the room bright. Wallpaper was also a common alternative to paint. Most houses had crown molding or other decorative trims, and these would often be white.

Furniture was still mostly wooden during this time period, and dark, rich stains were more popular than light or “natural” looks.  The wood should look smooth and unblemished, so if there are any chips or cracks, you might want to replace or repair your foundation wood, which can be as simple as sanding away the nicks.

Ornate Carvings

Furniture in the average 1920s household was ornate, since it often served as a status symbol. Intricate designs would have featured on tables, chairs, footstools, cabinets, pianos, writing desks, and more.

To bring that look into your own home, choose chairs and tables with legs that have been turned many times over on the lathe to produce round edges and undulating patterns.

Cabinet faces and drawers that have carved inlays. Geometric patterns were just as common during this time period as nature motifs like leaves or flowers.

Carvings didn’t have to be limited to wood. The bathroom and kitchen could also incorporate these lavish patterns, such as part of the outward-facing sink basin.

Shiny Surfaces

Sure, you may not be able to afford a maid, and middle-class families in the 1920s probably couldn’t hire one either, but that wouldn’t stop them from keeping up with the house work. For a full 1920s vintage effect, you’ll need to make everything looked polished and shiny.

That means that the wooden varnish on all furniture should shine bright, as should any brass or nickel-plated fittings, like door knobs or kitchen faucets. Mirrors are also a staple item in any 1920s home, as they help to spread light from the windows, making the room look larger.

In short, when you turn on the lights, the whole room should sparkle!


Photo:  Ellsworth Ford Associates

Extra Chairs Everywhere

As a guest in a 1920s home, you never would have been in want of a place to sit; chairs were everywhere. Get some extra chairs (they don’t even have to be the exact same style of your main dining chairs) to line the wall of the dining room. That way, if a guest drops by, you can swiftly pull up an extra chair and invite him to dinner.

The same goes for hallways and sitting rooms. A home decorated in the style of the 1920s is a cozy home, so if you want to go for the full 1920s theme, you’ll have to throw out your modern idea of flow and spaciousness, and stick a chair anywhere one will fit.

Plush Fabrics

Most chairs, couches and settees from this era are composed of at least half wood, but that doesn’t mean they are uncomfortable or unyielding. In fact, the fabric used to cover furniture more than made up for the inherently stiff nature of wood. The fabric you choose for your chairs or couches, as well as for your rugs, curtains or even bathroom towels, should be plush and soft. This is another feature that people would use during this time period to show off their means, so you can’t have a true 1920s-esque home without some extravagant fabrics incorporated into the design.

Iconic Images of 1920s Tech

Want to really drive home the point that your home is modeled after the 1920s? You don’t have to put up a Great Gatsby movie poster. Instead, you can do what folks from that era did themselves, and use images of iconic 1920s tech. Airplanes, cars and even trains and boats from the roaring 20s make great themes around which to choose purely decorative elements for your home, like statuettes, photos or paintings.

Exotic Influences

With faster modes of transportation came cheaper travel, but still not everyone could afford to go on vacation. That didn’t stop folks from adding exotic touches from far-off places to their home décor, though. Some subtle decorations with giraffe or zebra prints, paintings depicting jungle environments, or tea sets with unusual designs are all extra touches that would make any 1920s homeowner beam with pride.

Guest post by Cathy Habas.  Cathy is a professional writer based in Kentucky. She specializes in writing about home improvement and gardening, which are her main hobbies.

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