Houses in the 1920s change dramatically. The large numbers of people who moved from the country to the city called for new dwelling solutions. And the massive electrification of the cities allowed for new home layouts and interior decoration.
The new public services to the private houses
Electricity had started to become a more common occurrence in the cities already in the last decades of the 1800s when big cities switched from kerosene to electricity for the public illumination.
Slowly, electricity became more available to private houses, and by the 1920s the majority of the urban houses throughout the Western World were electrified. This remained not true for the countryside where the majority of household still lack electricity for at least another decade.
Plumbing also became more common in the 1920s houses. The service had started as a public service as well, initially mostly used to pressurise water for fire hydrants. But throughout the 1800s, it became ever more apparent how the sanitary sewers were essential for public health. New medical theories made it clear that cleanliness and health were closely connected. A great effort then started to make home plumbing a norm. In the 1920s cities, this had largely come true.
The availability of these facilities in a significant number of new houses made their layout and decor very different from only a couple of decades before.
The 1920s bright house
The gas-fueled Victorian houses tended to have many small rooms, easier to air and to isolate in case of fire. Interior decorations tended to be in deep reds, blues, greens and browns to try and conceal the soot from candles and gas lamps.
When electricity became commonplace, houses turned into open spaces where living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens often flowed together. Bright, even pastel colours, became the most popular choice. Electricity allowed more numerous and flexible light sources, thus more freedom in furniture arrangement.
Plumbing and sanitary waste disposal sewers made practical and appealing the consolidation in one room of sink, toilet and bathtub, which were previously placed in different locations inside and outside the house. Bathrooms would normally be small, tiled – therefore easy to keep clean – and the fixtures were white. Only towards the end of the decade, other colours were introduced.In the 1920s, houses went to a huge revolution. Electricity and plumbing allowed new space to emerge #history Click To Tweet
Electricity and plumbing added considerably to the cost of the new houses, so to keep the prices affordable, builders eliminated other rooms that were not necessary. Front parlours and large entrance halls progressively disappeared, normally integrating into the living room. Kitchens also progressively shrunk, allegedly to save housewives unnecessary steps.
Slowly, the houses started to take up the familiar look we know today.
James D. Luts – Lest We Forget, A Short History of Housing in the United States (pdf)
Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002
Perrish, Michael E., Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, 1992