20th Century Furniture Styles

1920's - a decade of glamour with a new youth class emerging after WW1 and when a new profession called the 'interior designer' rose to prominence.

Moderism emerged with Bauhaus in Germany. Art Deco was emerging in Paris.

Key looks were geometric and angular. Materials were chrome, mirror and glass.

For furniture: strong single pieces such as the Bibendum chair, tubular side table or day bed inspired by the designs of Eileen Gray, or Le Corbusier Barcelona style chairs and day-beds are an excellent choice. Read more on Bauhaus Style Furniture.




1930's – the Art Deco decade was the golden decade of stylish travel.

Architecture reflected this in buildings such as the Lawn Road Flats in London and Embassy Court in Brighton with their sleek outlines, like giant ocean liners and the curved lines of outdoor swimming lido's.

Inside, styles embraced striking colours such as red, black, and silver, with stained glass panels and animal prints. Three-piece suites and radios came into fashion with bakelite, an early plastic, coming into use for switches, radio cases and household items.

For furniture: Think leather and tubular steel for chairs. The Wassily and Corbusier LC Basculant sling chair make great period pieces as do the leather LC Corbusier inspired sofas and matching arm chairs or the Florence Knoll sofa and armchair.



1950s - After a decade of war, a boom in post-war building saw new and smaller sized houses being built, so space saving furniture like ironing boards and sofa beds emerged together with appliances like fridge freezers and and fitted kitchens.

Materials like formica, wire, ply and vinyl came to the fore.

Charles and Ray Eames, the giants of 20th century furniture emerged during this era with their plastic, fibreglass and ply furniture and in the UK similar fresh design came from Robin and Lucienne Day.

For furniture: Eames style pieces are easily blended in to most modern décor schemes. Whilst Jacobesen's egg and swan chair designs for the Raddison SAS hotel in Copenhagen redefined sculptural styling.




1960s – the space age and the flower power decade reflected into interiors which was a bit of a mish-mash of older styles like art nouveau swirls being given a cheeky twist together with vibrant oranges, purples and neon greens being the colour of choice. Habitat opened its doors and it was also the decade of plastic and fibreglass moulded shapes.

Saarinen designed tulip chairs featured on the first TV series of Star Trek, so For furniture: think fun pieces such as Aero Aarnio's sculptural pod and bubble and ball chairs.



1970s - Turquoise, yellow, orange and brown. Sometimes called "the decade that taste forgot" white plastic and fibreglass and teak were THE colours for furniture.

Organic shapes plastics, faux fur or leopardskin on upholstery, the classic '70's shagpile carpet and rattan peacock chair fitted perfectly with the hippie, spiritualist movement that had emerged from previous decade.

For furniture: think space age pod egg chairs, Saarinen style tulip tables and chairs rattan, slouchy sofas and Panton styles.



1980's – think disco balls, spinning lights, black décor, mirrored walls and ceilings and chrome.

It was also the decade of big shoulder pads and the 'Yuppie' was born, who went onto create their own new style incorporating bare brick walls, stripped wood floors...in fact, a lot of what we are doing today.




1990's – finally after three decades of gloss, screaming colours and plastics, people retreated back to nature – specifically to pine. This was most certainly the decade of pine furniture and magnolia.

For furniture: look for Ron Arad style designs, chrome and tubular steel chairs and sculptural design styles of Philippe Starck and early Tom Dixon.


If you've enjoyed this post you can might like to view our Buyers Guide to Eames Style Lounge Chairs also.


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