~ 1920: Classic Revival

General on the 1920s

In the 1920s, classicism is back in fashion. But the new style is very simplistic and lacks the lavish decorations of previous eras. The objective is to make it stricter and tighter, which can be linked to the Swedish empire style, which is one year older. Classic Revival style is given its own Swedish version, known internationally as "Swedish grace", thanks to its elegance.

At the beginning of the decade, housing construction gets underway after the war years of the 1910s, but with a new mindset. New ideas about good housing become an issue for all parts of society, and Social Democrat Per Albin Hansson launches the concept of the people's home. The new ideals are to be achieved through reduced construction costs. Previous decorative elements are scaled back and apartment sizes are reduced, while housing standards are raised with central heating, hot water, toilets, shower, laundry room, well-planned kitchens with electric or gas stoves and the new-fangled rubbish chutes. Houses are often built under time pressure but with great care around design.

From 1920 onwards, the owner-occupier family home movement gains momentum and many typical owner-occupier family home areas are created around Sweden. in 1917, the Public Construction Council is formed and, thanks to state housing subsidies in the form of Generous loan terms, own work and self-build, the dream of an own home can become a reality. In reality, it is still too expensive for many. The areas that emerge are populated primarily by white-collar workers and from the 1910s, emergency housing must be built as a short-term solution to the crisis for working-class families. At the same time, a less structured residential construction for the growing middle class is taking place around the country. Companies start with catalogue houses and for the well-to-do, there are owner-occupier homes built in garden cities. The catalogue house market has by then grown large and entire blocks can be built with similar catalogue houses by neighbouring collectives.

The stylistic expression of façades

The façades of the Classic Revival have a symmetrical designed with smooth plaster or slate in rich colours such as rusty red, ochre, green or grey. The houses are sometimes equipped with a high gable end that creates a striking background motif in the cityscape. This is designed either as a stepped gable or with Baroque-inspired or classical forms. Decorations such as pilasters and medallions, festoons or small bay windows in a different colour are often fitted on the simple façades. Also typical of the period are the lunette form in windows, baluster dummies under windows and friezes with meander borders or tooth-cut patterns. The period windows have two arches with three panes in each and are painted in green, brown or reddish brown. The roofs are covered with tiles or sheet metal. Entrance doors have a veneered glazed door and are often marked by stone surrounds. The stairwells are often colourful and contain large fields and artwork with motifs such as urns of plants, fruit baskets or stylised flower garlands.

The new style has great impact on detached houses thanks to the catalogues. The style is characterised by lightness and lightness through simple volumes and a symmetrical structure. Detached houses are characterised by shiplap panelling with varying colour schemes, often in white, grey or yellow. Corner pilasters and lunette windows are common decorative items. In southern Sweden, brick façades are also becoming common. Plastered façades are painted in light warm colours. Many houses have shutters.

Brommavilla 1920sOld Mayor's Court, Äppelviken, Bromma, 1920s

Workers' housing in Helsinki, 1920s

Residences in the 1920s

During the 1920s, housing standards improve, even for the smaller working-class dwellings. The difference in size between the homes of the working classes and those of the rich is no longer so great. Electricity, radios, telephones and refrigerators are becoming more and more accessible to most people. A bathroom with a toilet is also included, initially in the basement of the house. The standard of the kitchen also improves during the 1920s. There are hot and cold water taps, and the marble worktops and kitchen cabinets are factory-made. In many cases, the reception room is left empty and tidy, to be used only for celebrations.

There is a simplicity to the permanent furnishings that distinguishes them from previous decades. In lavish homes, living rooms, halls and stairwells are often decorated in a period style, such as columns or pilasters surrounding doorways. Rooms are decorated with elegant furniture in woods such as birch and elm and lit by electrified luminaries. Thanks to the mass production of household utensils, the ideals of artistic beauty are spread under the concept of "more beautiful everyday goods". Patterned wallpaper, woodwork, dark-stained period furniture and variegated textiles are all in a muted colour scheme, creating a period calm. The ceilings are covered in paper and painted white with a central ceiling rose, and the floors are parquet or linoleum. Carl Malmsten becomes known as a furniture maker during this period. He creates stylish, simple wooden furniture that will become a must-have in the Swedish home of the 1920s. 

Windows from the 1920s

In the 1920s, all windows have a uniform design and are inspired by antiquity and classical ideals. Typical of the period is the wooden window, decorated with rich heartwood, and has two louvres, each split into three panes with muntin. The glazing is profiled with a simple quarter or egg-shaped profile. Window frames open inwards and are coupled and closed with a tensioning bolt. The glass is thin and has slight light refraction. The woodwork is painted white, off-white or grey, but can also be grey-green, blue-grey and brown. Façades are also adorned with decorative lunette, round or oval-shaped windows.

In the 1920s, windows of multi-family dwellings are significantly smaller than in previous decades. This is mainly due to the lowered ceiling height of the apartments. The Public Construction Council publishes pattern drawings for windows in 1923. In detached houses, upstairs windows can be smaller and more square to make more space. The windows of detached homes are painted in off-white, light grey and green.

Front doors from the 1920s

The classical style of the 1920s is evident also in the doors, which form an important part of the otherwise sparse façades. Usually the entrance door is centrally placed with a symmetrical scope in carved stone or artificial stone consisting of classical ornaments. The door itself is either a single door or a double door with glass and an overhead window. The panes of glass are profiled and decorated with various ornaments. The doors are varnished or stained but are sometimes also be dark stained. The lower part of the door leaf is often decorated with carvings of either flowers, shells or plain roundels. The doors open inwards and have brass pull handles.

The exterior doors of detached homes are often painted in off-white, brown, grey-green or English red. It is becoming popular to add round piece of glass and they often have simpler wooden infill with panels and boards. In 1923, the Public Construction Council published pattern drawings for doors. 

Stairwells from the 1920s

In the 1920s, interest in the classical style was revived, and this was reflected in stairwells that were decorated with varying degrees of classical motifs. Intense colours become popular and a freer approach to painting is allowed. It is common for the walls to be divided into painted fields and decorated with small works of art, either in relief or painted. Common motifs are urns with plants, fruit baskets or stylised flower garlands. The floors and stairs are often made of marble or white marble. The ceilings are covered with decorative paint in the entrance hall.

Stair railings are often painted black with wrought iron and decorated to varying degrees. Along the outer wall of the stairwell is a round wooden handrail with turned knobs, stainless steel brackets and round washer. There are also wrought iron handrails. The lift is placed in the middle of the spindle, which consists of a wire mesh with an lift door decorated with geometric patterns in a classical style. The lift can also be built into the wall, opposite the stairs.

In the stairwell there is often a window or window-door with clear glass leading to a common balcony for rug-beating.

Single doors with frame and inserts lead to the apartments. Usually divided by three or four inserts. The doors are oak, dark stained or vein painted. Above the doors is often a decorative painting. The doors, as well as their lining and plinths, have the same design as those in the apartments. Door handles are ordered from the catalogues of lock manufacturers. At this period, the postman’s bugle handle (from the early 19th century) becomes popular. Brass bells are placed on the door skirting and a plain or simple brass letterbox is fitted in the door leaf.

In the stairwell, electrified luminaires are suspended both in the entrance hall and on each floor. Either through a pendant luminaire or a luminaire on a fixed base in the middle of the ceiling. Its placing is often marked by painting or a ceiling rose in stucco. There is a wide variety of luminaires designed in both clear glass or raw glass with wrought iron frames. Stars are commonly used to decorate the white screens.

A new feature of the stairwells of the 1920s is the rubbish chute.

Lamps and lighting from the 1920s

In 1922, 80% of the residents of Stockholm had electric lighting in their homes.The number of light points in the home has now expanded and table lamps as well as floor lamps are popular. Our Gullberg floor lamp is classic for its period.

As for the surface alloys of the lamps, nickel-plated brass became very popular in the 1920s, not least in Classic Revival interiors. Even the proponents of modernism in the 1930s and onwards often found the shiny brass too gaudy and advocated nickel-plated lamps instead. Historically, however, yellow metal, as in untreated brass, has been the most common surface treatment, not least because light is reflected in a warmer and more homely way compared to the cold white metal.  

In the 1920s, metal-clad Kuhlo wiring are started to being used. It has been invented as early as 1905 by the German electrical engineer E. Kuhlo, but it took until the end of the First World War for the knotted wire (twisted textile cord and insulator knobs) to be replaced by the Kuhlo wire. It is only by the 1930s that electric wires are hidden inside the walls of the city apartments. Conduits in the walls are made of porcelain pipes. The electrical wiring, switches and sockets in the 1920s continue to be surface mounted directly on the wall.Many switches and sockets are now made of Bakelite, although most had porcelain switches. 

In connection with the main entrances of apartment buildings, lanterns of all shapes are placed. These are usually supported by a wrought iron bracket with clear or opal glass panes. In detached homes, outdoor lighting usually consists of opal glass balls.

Floors from the 1920s

Floorboards are made of pine or spruce and are either varnished or covered with linoleum flooring. Common patterns are the printed parquet imitations and floral patterns. The surface is protected against wear and tear by varnishing. In the lounges, parquet flooring with oak strips of varying dimensions is laid. The most popular pattern is the herringbone pattern with a frieze along the walls.

Wallpapers from the 1920s

In the 1920s, all the walls of domestic homes are wallpapered. They consist primarily of geometric patterns typical of the period, in a combination of lines, circles, stairwells and stylised flowers. Darker colours on a brownish beige background are common. New patterns of the moment are classical ornaments on a plain background, preferably in a calm shade of green. Many designs are also inspired by the Orient. Wallpapers are often designed by famous Swedish artists and architects. 

Joinery of the 1920s

In the 1920s, the floor plinths is quite low and has a simple profile, often with a Rococo form. Door and window skirting is now even narrower than in the 1910s, normally between 7-9 cm. The profiles are even simpler and are often have a pear-shape. 

The older wainscoting still remain but is being replaced by lower, narrower floor plinths with a simple profile in classical forms. The wainscoting remains into the 1930s but is beginning to be seen as outdated and are replaced or covered with Masonite.Joinery in the 1920s is painted in a brownish beige colour, veined or painted off-white.

From the advent of functionalism in the 1930s, smooth mouldings were used without any profiling.

Stucco from the 1920s

Mouldings, rosettes and other ornaments are produced in large quantities in the plasterer's workshop and installed on site. This craft arrives in Sweden in the 15th century and grows gradually. At the end of the 19th century, many formal languages were used simultaneously, depending on the purpose of the room. In the 1920s, the forms become simpler and more stylish. Most ceilings are completely smooth with a gentle curve towards the wall. The white ceiling paint is pulled 2-3 cm down the wall where the wallpaper begins. A wooden strip or wallpaper border can be placed in the joint. A simple stucco ceiling rose marks the location of the luminaire. Lavish larger apartments and villas may have ceilings of unpainted wood divided into coffers. In detached houses, ceilings are covered with paper and chalked with white glue paint. The cornice is designed as a coved cornice. 

Doors from the 1920s

During the 1920s, most interior doors have a similar design in terms of the number of inserts and placement. Doors with three or four panels of equal size are popular. Between the hall and the kitchen, the door is often fitted with a light inlet to provide light to the windowless hall. Sliding doors remain popular between reception rooms and offer more ways of furnishing. Door handles are simple nickel-plated with separate key plates, although long plates still exist. A novelty for the decade is the coiled door handle with sleeve of black wood. Skirting and plinths are narrower than before and with fewer profiles. The same skirting is used throughout the apartment around both windows and doors. Doors and joinery are painted in a dark brown beige, or dull green colour. Towards the end of the decade, lighter woodwork in off-white becomes more common.

Fireplaces from the 1920s

During the 1920s, central heating increasinly becomes standard. It is now popular to place fireplaces in halls or finishing rooms, either in the middle of the wall or in a corner, both in the larger flats and in detached houses. The period stove has straight lines, a mantelpiece and is clad in tile or marble. Seashells are a common decorative item.

Kitchens from the 1920s

The standard of the kitchen improves in the 1920s. Taps normally provide both hot and cold water. Real fridges are starting to appear in kitchens and marble worktops and cabinets are factory-made. In the 1920s, kitchens in detached houses and flats in towns begin to be designed more lightly, with spaces planned according to the user, which is the woman of the house. It is now that kitchen wall cabinets become commonplace, but it still would take some time before they became standardised in terms of size. Kitchens are relatively reduced in size and it is now that the cooking area is introduced. The reduced kitchen space is a result of the advent of semi-processed food and the fact that housewife spends less and less time in the room.

The interior is made of solid wood, but in keeping with the style ideal of the decade, it has simpler profiles. Bright kitchens become more popular, preferably in beige or light yellow tones with glossy linseed oil paint. The tiles on the walls are made smaller and tend more towards a smooth square. The tiles are often fitted edge to edge without grouting. 

In the 1920s homes, bowl-shaped nickel-plated pull handles are used.

Hygiene in the 1920s

In the 1920s, apartments and detached houses begin to be planned with a water closet and bathroom, often located separately. It was probably HSB [The Savings and Construction Association of the Tenant], through Sven Wallander, who contributed to the popularity of the bathroom because they believed that it should become part of the standard equipment of homes. However, it will be a long while yet before the bathroom becomes standard in the Swedish home.

Bathrooms are equipped with free-standing bathtubs that are increasingly moving towards a simpler design. Walls and floors are usually covered with tiles to protect against water. White tiles are popular, as are coloured tiles in dark red, dark blue or green. All pipes are exposed and until the end of the 1920s, toilets are high flush.

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