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.
Antique Home Style – Bathrooms of the 1920s
Terra – The Encyclopedia of New Zeland – Toiles
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
It’s lovely to read about all the changes that were bought about. I can’t imagine a life without electricity!
Researching everyday life is one of my favourite things to do. It’s what really makes me understand those people of one hundred years ago.
I have never even thought about why Victorian houses looked the way they looked… interesting!
The Multicolored Diary
Oh, I loved researching this post. We often take what we have in our houses for granted. it’s probabaly among the things we most take for granted. So It’s so interesting to read how house and life in a house looked like in the past.
Quite how much electricity changed more than just how much light there was in a room, but also its design isn’t something I have often considered, this is fascinating. I knew the rooms would have been smaller before, but not exactly why, except heating.
Virginia’s Parlour – The Manor (Adult concepts – nothing explicit in posts)
Tasha’s Thinkings – Vampire Drabbles
This was one of the most fascinating letters to research for me. Because as you said, we don’t often think to how and why houses changed. And actually we sometimes have a hard time thinking that anything cound be differnet once. Our houses are so familiar to us, that we may tend to think that they were always like they are now.
What a nice bathroom pic you found!). Lightness came into being during this time because they didn’t need to use candles any longer. I do absolutely hate it when people paint over beautiful wood. I wish that would stop
Sometimes, I feel our current for capacity for awe (in the technology realm, at least) is slowly shrinking, so I can only imagine the excitement and awe those in the ’20s experienced with having these advancements for the first time.
True eh? We often don’t get how schoking a change might have been at the beginning, because we take that thing for grated today.
I had twin great-aunts that refused to have electricity in their house. I remember as a kid being fascinated by their gas lamps. They kept their outdoor toilet too!
H is for….
Oh, wow! I’d curious to know why they did. But I suppose that sometimes people is just comfortable with what they have and know and don’t wish for change.
It wasn’t all that long ago that we lived in pretty primitive quarters. My mom and her family grew up with an outhouse.
True, eh? I rememember outside toilets in my courtyard too, when I was a kid.
Electricity and plumbing must have been such an a perk. You only know the value of something when you’ve lived without it.
I can’t imagine living without water and light. Though I think I’d sooner get accustome to a house without light than a house without water.
While I love Victorian houses, I also love 1920s apartments with their spacious proportions and beautiful architectural details. Since both sides of my family in the 1920s were proletarians, though, they had to make do with smaller houses that didn’t always have running water or indoor toilets.
Advancement never goes at the same speed for everyone. But I think that even when change comes to only a section of society, that’s a good thing. Because then also the other sections of society will be aware of it and will work to get it.
It happened the same with the concept of the New Woman.
Interesting read! Wish someone writes a similar piece on India- though that is way too diverse so perhaps on regions!
Researching the history of how houses were built really is so interesting. The dwellings were we live in say so much abotu who we are and what we value.
Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Your articles are very interesting! Modern plumbing is my favourite advancement from the 20s 🙂
An A-Z of Faerie: Grim
Yes, mine too. I think it would be easier to live in a house without light than in a house without wanter and plumbing. At least for me.
Fantastic article, I didn’t know all these facts before.