Moderne Style

A distinctive style used in the 1920s and 1930s 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 it stressed the use of chrome and glass. Most house-owners wanted the traditional values of the Tudorbethan, 'olde worlde' houses, rejecting Modernism but they were derided by the cognoscenti. Usually, you can see a few such houses in a cluster among Tudorbethan homes.

In their purist form, Moderne houses are stark and functional, with flat roofs, concrete walls painted white, and large plain windows with galvanised iron frames. There was a complete absence of decoration. Inside, the house was open plan.

As with other architect-driven styles, the style was bastardised by ordinary builders with brick with painted render and a pitched roof.

In the late 1930s a variation called the 'Hollywood Moderne' style appeared with coloured pantiles in green or blue.

The style's roots were in the geometric forms of northern Art Nouveau as shown in the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. From Germany, the Bauhaus movement and Walter Gropius brought new materials and horizontal layouts. Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffman from Austria contributed geometric shapes and stepped designs. The Cubist ideas from the French art world lent their ideas too. Designers from the USA also influenced the style.

In 1925, Paris was the location for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes; this gave us the name 'art deco'.

Hitler closed the Bauhaus in 1933; the designers emigrated to the UK and then to the USA.

The Moderne style aimed to maximise light, enhanced by white paint. 'Sun trap' curved windows, with metal frames made the interiors bright and an open layout allowed daylight to permeate the living rooms. This was sometimes encouraged with glass bricks. Pale woods in plain or simple profiles were used. Furniture was in crisp, clean lines and rooms were kept clear of clutter. The objective was to make houses easy to clean.

A plain facade was achieved with the use of reinforced concrete, with the entrance often on a corner. Concrete was again used for floors and to create a flat roof which could be used as a terrace. Alternatively, the roof may have had a shallow pitch, edged by a parapet.

The energy of the design was enhanced with horizontal lines in the walls and horizontal glazing bars in the windows.

Famous architects using the style included Berthold Lubetkin and Wells Coates.