Design of the Period House - 1920-1929

Although known as 'the Roaring Twenties', the period mixed post-First World War optimism with years of economic depression. Many of the 1920s houses were in suburban developments in the countryside around existing towns and cities. As with the late-19th century period, these new houses were built in conjunction with new railway lines. Most houses were still built by speculative builders, who funded each project from the profits from the previous buildings.

Houses tended to be in semi-detached pairs, and owned rather than rented. Houses were smaller, with activities in the home less separated. Children were much more visible. The new society was increasingly servant-less.

For some ten years after the end of the First World War, the shortage of labour and the high price of materials limited the amount of building that went on. Only by the end of the 1920s did the level of activity increase and then become a boom. In 1919, there were eight million homes in the UK; by 1939 there were 12 million.

The cost of a semi-detached home in a suburb of London was at least £750 in 1920. A £1000-a-year man in 1920s London was regarded as a high flyer.

The architects working on council housing produced designs which stressed uniformity whereas it was the desire of private owner-occupiers to show their individuality. Their semi-detached houses were usually identical but with slight variations perhaps in the half-timbering or treatment of the gables.

The 1920s saw a number of different styles in domestic architecture.

Many houses were a simple evolution from Edwardian homes; in a terrace or semi-detached, there would be a two-storey bay with square or angled sides. The mullions, doorways and lintels were plain. The typical house of the 1920s was smaller than those of previous decades. It had a front room off a hall, a second living room at the rear and a kitchen. Upstairs there were two large bedrooms, a third much smaller room, and a bathroom and toilet. There was also often a garage. A new pattern was the bungalow with all its rooms on a single level, or the chalet-style bungalow with one or two bedrooms in the roof.

1920s detached cottage-style house

1920s detached cottage-style house

The most popular style, taking its influences from the Arts and Crafts movement, was the Tudorbethan style. For example the Ideal Home exhibition of 1910 featured a Tudor Village.

bungalow, 1920s

bungalow, 1920s

There was also a Georgian revival in town houses, particularly those built as social housing. One example is the new town of Welwyn Garden City.

A more distinctive style was called 'Moderne', 'sun-trap' or 'International Style'. Modernism saw the home as a 'machine' where the priority was fitness for purpose. The style avoided decoration and decorative objects, instead stressing the use of chrome and glass.

However, most house-owners wanted the traditional values of the Tudorbethan, 'olde worlde' houses, rejecting Modernism, but they were derided by the cognoscenti.

As well as these architectural styles, there was the Art Deco decorative style. The name 'Art Deco' appeared in 1925. Initially it featured rounded motifs, such as foliage and flowers, but later these were more abstract and geometric, such as a sunburst. Some designs indicated speed with strong lateral lines, often tapered. House-owners decorated their houses with fireplaces and furniture, wallpapers and fabrics in Art Deco designs.

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