It has now been 100 years since the start of the Roaring '20s when flappers danced in Great Gatsby. Prohibition was still a decade away. As for housing styles, it's fun to compare today's homes to those a century ago, dresses above their knees, jazz began permeating the night club scene with insane rhythms, and men dressed like the Great Gatsby. Prohibition was still a decade away. As for housing styles, it's fun to compare today's homes to those a century ago.
Back East, in places like Quincy, MA, "streetcar suburbs" were growing quickly, containing American Foursquares, Dutch Colonials, and "Quincy Capes" that were built alongside multi-family homes. House and Hammer's Jon Gorey, who lives in that area, says 1920s floor plans seemed to be made for entertaining and boasted 12-ft ceilings throughout. "The downstairs rooms are almost always connected all the way around in a circular flow pattern — which, any child can tell you, is perfect for racing around in circles. Instead of doors between rooms, there are often wide, cased openings. And when every room opens into another, and another, it helps to relieve any claustrophobic inklings you might otherwise get in a small house."
Homes in the wild west were built with different building materials than those used in colder climates. As historians note, the Los Angeles of the 1920s was roaring like it never had before. Hollywood was in its infancy and the "Go West, young man" mentality had people from all over the country dreaming of a different life. Realtor David Lubell, who specializes in selling historic Los Angeles homes, says that Mediterranean architecture began dominating southern California, derived from styles of the Iberian and Italian peninsulas. "Of course, the climate in southern California makes this a sensible outcome, but the story is more complex than just the weather," says Lubell. "More than two centuries of Spanish-Mexican settlement also had a tremendous influence on the stylistic choices in Los Angeles. The indigenous peoples use of adobe mixed with the Spanish Colonial forms set the foundation for a different kind of architecture than in the rest of the United States." This is, of course, even more prevalent in parts of the American Southwest.
This is also when modernism began to find its footing, beginning with the opening of Bauhaus, the German art school that combined crafts and the fine arts and began to spread its design love everywhere. Art deco touches meant homes were flashy, sophisticated, and fun all at the same time. Geometric shapes, shiny fabrics, stylized images of skyscrapers and airplanes, and exotic touches from Africa, Egypt, and the Far East were brought together to form an eclectic and exciting home interior.
As for the nuts and bolts of homes of the 1920s, lath-and-plaster was still the ticket. Galvanized pipes were employed both within the house and for sewer lines as well. No one back then knew they corroded over time. And the now-infamous knob-and-tube wiring was everywhere. So if you were to buy a 1920s home that had never been updated, you'd be looking at replacing all plumbing and electrical conduits as well as the electrical panels. Toilets of the 1920s had long cords attached to tanks placed high on the wall, and tubs were surrounded by 360-degree curtains. Interestingly enough, you can still find manufacturers who make those strange looking toilets and, of course, clawfoot tubs are still the rage. How about those craftsman homes, such a beautiful home that still provides many homeowners with continued enjoyment to this day.
Kitchens were large, usually with a large informal dining table in the center. And for those who could afford it, iceboxes were traded in for modern electric refrigerators, introduced in 1920. No longer did homeowners need to wait for the ice to be delivered by a guy in a truck. It was now contained in trays in a freezer compartment, ready to break out for cold drinks at a moment's notice.
So as you look to consider doing some updating to your home in the coming decade, remember that it was the 1920s that began a tradition of distinctive style in home interiors. It was a prosperous (and sometimes irreverent) time in U.S. history. The elements of it that have been preserved to this day are living proof good architecture and design can stand the test of time.
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