These two informative books, companions to The 1950s Home which I reviewed here last week (the link is at the end of this review), give the retro enthusiast a comprehensive look at the British home in the middle decades of the 20th century. Lavishly illustrated with photographs, ephemera and wonderful period advertisements, all three of these books take one through a good overview of British architectural design, house construction, furnishings and decor, and gardens.
The 1930s house, whether a suburban villa, a Moderne bungalow or a “Tudorbethan” mock-historical semi, was a charming blend of old and new styles which still holds up well in today’s housing market. Houses were built in quantity for new home-owners who took advantage of good mortgages and good prices. The homes reflected the smaller, servantless households of the 1930s, with fitted kitchens and well-lit, efficient spaces.
The 1940s was, of course, a decade dominated by wartime shortages and hardships. So it is no surprise that a good part of The 1940s House is dedicated to discussing items such as bomb shelters, blackout curtains, and the simple, modern and rather attractive Utility furniture which the British householder could purchase with ration coupons. Though, as Evans and Doyle point out, the 1940s are often remembered as a drab, dull period in house decor and design, this is not entirely so. Shortages forced designers to create furnishings and kitchenware from interesting materials- such as aluminum and plastics. The streamlined look of decor presaged the modern, forward-looking ideals of 1950s design.
I very much enjoyed reading all three of these books and would recommend them to anyone interested in the history of mid-20th century British homes. Stevenson also lists “Places To Visit’ and a short bibliography at the end of The 1930s House, which is most helpful. My review of The 1950s House is here, and all of these books may be ordered from Shire Books.