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Sarah Jane Wilson takes a look at the 1930s

A Look at the 1930s

Glamour and sophistication were keynotes of the 1930s. People reclined, dresses got longer (after the roaring 1920s), you danced like Astaire and Rogers and you swung and sang to Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman.

Yet, juxtaposed with the glitzy, new age of electricity and cars, was the bleaker side: the 1930s Depression.

It was the Golden Age of Hollywood: the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs blew audiences’ minds with their vivid colours and visual effects — nothing like this had ever been seen before.

How can you follow the yellow brick road to the 1930s? Here’s some inspiration!

Art deco george clews teapot

Art deco george clews teapot

Inject some sunshine into your morning cuppa with this delightful teapot. Staffordshire earthenware manufacturer George Clews & Co Ltd specialised in teapots, supplying the ocean liner trade in the 1930s, including the Queen Mary (1936) and Mauritania (1939).

Lyme Regis Antiques and Craft Centre, £38.

Bridport in the 1930s

During the war the military placed a large number of orders the town’s way for rope and nets, leading to great prosperity. However, after the war there was a severe housing shortage. In Bridport alone, the population was 3,053 in 1901; it had increased to 5,920 in 1931.

Bridport Borough Electricity Undertaking with its power station opened in 1930 (until then Bridport had no electrical supply). However, 1930 also marked the end of the West Bay railway extension and station. The covered general market in South Street was also demolished in the 1930s.

(Source: Dorset Historic Towns Survey: Bridport).

Art Deco Chair & Consol at Molly's Den, Bridport

Wow, two gorgeous pieces that should not be separated — if you had nothing else in your front parlour other than these gems you could relax knowing you had nailed 1930s art deco. Molly’s Den, £595 and £625.

Kitchen Units and Stools

1930s Kitchen Units and Stools at Alleyways, Bridport

Recreate the 1930s kitchen in an instant with this fantastic set comprising two kitchen units and four matching stools. Alleyways, £200.

Bakelite Radio with Bluetooth

Bakelite Radio with Bluetooth at Cornucopia, Bridport

Bakelite ruled the 1930s and, with the cheeky modern addition of Bluetooth, this piece is now both beautiful and useful.

Cornucopia, £85.

Nigel at Cornucopia on the St Michael’s trading estate in Bridport is upcycling vintage radios so they have a new lease of life with the addition of Bluetooth.

As long as the amp and speaker work, Nigel will, for £35 to £40, convert your old radio so you can stream music from your device to it! Nigel says: “We’ve just started doing it this year and it’s proving really popular. Vintage radios are really attractive items and, with this addition, it retains the fabulous, original, authentic sound.”


Bakelite was the material of the 1930s — there’s even a museum in Williton, Somerset dedicated to it! www.bakelitemuseum.co.uk

The 1930s saw the invention of superheroes with Superman and Batman appearing in comic books for the first time.

Silk & Lace Dress

Silk and lace dress at Vintage at Cornucopia, Bridport

Blending the popular fabrics of silk rayon and lace makes this fabulous day to eveningwear dress sing!

Wear it with this sumptuous ivory fur cape and you’re ready to start on the gin. Vintage at Cornucopia, £65.


Hand-painted lampshades at Vintage at Cornucopia, Bridport

Unbelievably adorable lampshades, hand-painted and signed. A ducks and drakes pair or a mallard drakes pair are available.

Vintage at Cornucopia, £28 per pair

1930s Inventions for the home: Scotch Tape, colour film, the three-piece suite, high definition TV broadcast by the BBC, the bass guitar and the chocolate chip cookie. New cheap, bright and reliable electric filament lamp bulbs magically transformed homes. Plus, the introduction of hire purchase meant people could buy luxury goods for the home on the “never never”.

What to invest in? Bakelite radios and telephones are an ever-expanding collection waiting to happen. Vintage perfume bottles are beautiful and elegant items that would look lovely in a luxurious Art Deco Hollywood bathroom. Specific names to look out for include ceramics by Graham Sutherland, Frank Brangwyn and Dame Laura Knight.

How to get the look


Conservatism stepped back into the wardrobes. Rayon, wool, silk and cotton were used extensively. Somewhat sadly, by the end of the decade, nylon was introduced as a replacement for silk. Dresses were bias-cut to emphasize feminine curves. The 1930s loungewear was the house-dress, which was also used for cleaning — a genius bit of excellent “cost-per-wear” marketing was developed here. Long, elegant evening gowns were very popular as ladies tried to emulate their Hollywood goddess idols.


Think 1930s, think Art Deco! When creating your 1930s home mood-board there’s two choices of colour palette: the classic vibrant art deco (red, black, silver) or the more traditional eau de nil (a pale green), pale blue and pink, buff, beige and coffee. Diamonds, zig-zags and sunbeam shapes are all fabulously stylish. Still popular today, Lino flooring was the housewife’s saviour in the 1930s. Contemporary art was also being trampled on. Abstract art, jazzy images, florals; all sorts were being printed on to Lino. Stained glass is a total 1930s tick-box — whether it’s ships, sunbeams or flowers. Cornucopia has a great selection, priced at £25 each, that you could retro-fit.

On a local level, Axminster carpets (a wall-to-wall carpet), made by the same-named Axminster Carpets Ltd, were a luxury that many hankered after.

Windmill Mirror

Windmill Mirror at Alleyways Bridport

A fun, quirky piece of classic 1930s design. How could you not smile when looking in this mirror with accompanying decorative windmills? Alleyways, £35.

The cinema had a huge influence on people in the 1930s: in the UK, 20 million people went every week

Cast iron moneybox

Cast iron moneybox at Molly's Den, Bridport

Do you need a moneybox? Do you want one in cast iron? With a crocodile on it? Sorted. Molly’s Den, £80

The 1930s home

Three million homes were built in the 1930s, most semi-detached.

1930s houses are, as a rule, a sound investment: they’re robust and substantial, have high ceilings and wider halls than Victorian properties.

Key features to preserve or reinstate include picture rails; stained glass; bay windows; tall skirting boards; art deco fireplaces; wood panelling (art deco style light oak panelling was the thing to impress!) and the glorious pattern that is parquet flooring.

Alternatively, there’s the Moderne style with its lack of colour and clean, streamlined shapes. Often with flat-roofs (sunbathing was a popular pastime then). However, investors weren’t convinced by these now highly-desirable properties, so there’s a distinct lack of them in the UK, unlike the traditional 1930s house!

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