What Realtors Need to Know About Roaring Twenties Homes

Housing styles drastically departed from traditional styles with the introduction of Art Deco design, and a new era in home architecture emerged. Gerard Splendore explains what you need to know about houses from this period.

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American housing styles have changed and continue to change across the country and as homeowner tastes and lifestyles have evolved. As the country has undergone industrial and economic changes, both good and not so good, housing styles have adapted out of necessity.

In this new series, I’ll walk you through the predominant housing styles of the past 12 decades, starting in 1900. A basic understanding of each architectural style that defines a decade will position you as a knowledgeable agent with your clients and facilitate finding a home with your buyers easier for everyone.

From the perspective of over 100 years old, talking about “the modern era” might sound comical, but that’s how the 1920s are known. Housing Styles radically moved away from traditional styles, and with the introduction of the Art Deco style of design from France, a new era in home architecture emerged.

Art Deco was first seen primarily in commercial buildings in New York, such as the Chrysler Building. In 1922, the Chicago Tribune headquarters was another example of the large-scale Art Deco style.

Glamor and sophistication are the sentiments most associated with Art Deco. Interiors are characterized by geometric lines, bright colors and bold mirrors. Metals, especially chrome and aluminum, were present on the interior and exterior of homes in the 1920s, as opposed to wood and brick. The Gothic Revival buildings, with the pointed Gothic arch, were characterized by decorative finials, interior and exterior designs, and scallop shells in the masonry and woodwork.

The so-called “Roaring Twenties”, a period of rebellious thought and the avant-garde movement in art and design, reinforced the introduction of Art Deco. New technologies in materials, plumbing and heating have been incorporated into the Art Deco-style house.

The eclectic, not pure, design incorporated modern and classic design elements, deliberately breaking with traditions that existed before World War I. The Beaux-Arts aspects of Art Deco incorporated the French and Italian neoclassical styles.

Art Deco can be described as a pastiche of styles in its desire to avoid direct historical references. It is one of the most influential decorative styles of the first half of the 20th century. Functionalism and sleek architectural forms to radical extremes are part of the Art Deco vocabulary.

Coinciding with Art Deco, introduced by Walter Gropius to Germany around 1919, is the Bauhaus movement. The purity of form and the reality of nature are other facets of the Art Deco style.

While the Art Deco style of the 1920s combined several aesthetic, what does the 1920s house look like? Servants and multiple generations living in one house became less and less common. Streamlined, easy-to-maintain interiors became a priority, and modern kitchens with new, streamlined appliances, including washing machines, were in evidence.

Houses now had telephones, and “corners” to house a telephone, some with built-in seats, were features in new houses. Often located between bedrooms and the bathroom, phone nooks were niches in the wall with a box under the small shelf to hold the phone.

Early home phones were too small to hold the ringer and other electronic parts, so these parts were housed in a separate box, which was screwed to the back of the lower compartment. A cord connected the two parts of the telephone and the shelf conveniently held the telephone directory and a pencil and paper for messages. A telephone nook is a sure sign of a 1920s home.

Garages were rarely seen in Art Deco homes, despite cars beginning to become available. Owners who owned cars parked on the street near their homes.

Realtors who can identify the historic elements of homes from different time periods can easily discuss with their clients why the homes are configured or designed the way they are. If historic styles are important to buyers, the real estate agent who can discuss them has an advantage. If buyers are looking for more contemporary or up-to-date homes with modern amenities, the knowledgeable realtor need only look at the age of the home to determine if it will work for their buyer.

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