Time Machine Tuesday: Furnishing a 1920s House

Furnishing a house is more than just putting furniture into it, says What’s What in the House, a 1924 publication from the Colorado Agricultural College Extension Service. Almost 100 years later, this booklet is both a fun window into the past, and a helpful guide if you want to furnish your home in period-correct 1920s style.

Various styles of lamps are critiqued in What’s What in the House.

First of all, what qualities should one look for in furnishings? According to the author, Blanche E. Hyde, these include “suitability to the purpose,” as well as “comfort and convenience,” “strength in construction,” and “beauty and attractiveness.” With these qualities in mind, Hyde looks at each type of furniture – beds, chairs, tables, dressers, desks, cabinets, bookcases – along with furnishings such as linens, curtains, and lamps. For each, she describes what features to look for, as well as trends of the period. For instance, by 1924 there was “a growing tendency to have bookcases with open shelves instead of enclosed with glass doors,” while “hair and cotton are the materials in greatest favor for mattresses.” Well, okay, today’s readers might not want to go 100% period-correct…

Blanche E. Hyde. Photo courtesy Colorado State University Morgan Library.

Also included are the author’s views on what not to buy. For example, Hyde clearly has a problem with rocking chairs. Also, “a dresser with decorative carving glued on should be avoided.” (Good advice). And what were Hyde’s opinions on different woods and finishes? Take a look at pages 18-19 of What’s What in the House to find out.

For more historical Extension Bulletins on home, garden, and agriculture topics, search our library’s digital repository.