• Historical Context: How furniture & home décor transformed post-WWII

    December 2, 2019
  • The evolution of furniture style as affected by war

    When we look back at history and the evolution of furniture design trends, there are a few demarcations that we can point to that forever changed the course of history. While we think about the attack on Pearl Harbor being the turning point for American involvement in WWII, it can also be pointed to as a turning point in many facets of American culture including style and design. Below, you’ll find information about what things were like prior to the start of WWII and how things changed after that fateful day in Hawaii.

    Pre-War Design

    Prior to the war, American design was stuck in limbo. Due to the economic crises that spanned the entire 1930s, many Americans couldn’t afford to even think about buying new furniture, much less what type of furniture they could want. While futurism was starting to come into its own as a design trend, focusing on more prominent times up ahead, it was relatively scarce due to the state of the economy and the disposable spending of consumers.

    December 7, 1941: A day that will live in infamy

    When the Japanese bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it becomes the date most people believe the Americans became involved in WWII. However, it also marked the beginning of a change in American thinking and values. America went from a country reeling from a financial disaster to a country that had been kicked into overdrive to produce for the war effort. Ration stamps were issued, grocery stores were less full and people turned to “victory gardens” to help produce food for themselves and neighbors. With materials scarce, furniture and home design couldn’t take the leap forward that happened after the war.

    post war furniture designPost-War Design

    After the war, we begin to see the rise of Mid-century modern furniture and design. This minimalistic, utilitarian design style was known for the combination of natural and artificial materials in streamlined designs that spurred futuristic feelings. This coincided with feelings of American exceptionalism that helped feed consumers’ hunger for new and stylish designs.

    Dawn’s Take

    A day in December 1941 echo, “A date which will live in Infamy”.  That’s a pivot point in my opinion.  Furniture design is on the edge of Mid Century Modern, yet American families were stuck in 1930’s Victory Kitchens.  Materials were short supply due to depression and wartime was upon us.  Agriculture was not built up to fill grocery stores like we see today.   Community grocers provided staple goods, the “Victory Garden” replaced the yard space of the household.   The electric appliances were on the market if you could get them.  Side boards and vintage kitchen hutches, baked enamel white, and red gingham.   The popular furniture was the Duncan Phyfe, part of the Sheraton style.  Then, after the war, the Mid Century Modern rolled out in full glory.  It’s been brought back, reproduced for today’s styles and I like it very much.   Technically, the original pieces are not an antique yet…. They’re all under 100 years!!

    Stop by your local furniture store and explore the variety of furniture designs!