1920s Decorating Ideas to Make Your House Look Old World

Decorating a 1920s home is easy with these subtle design changes.

art deco wallpaper pattern

The 1920s were a celebrated time in America. Generally speaking, it was a time when people were trying to figure out how to live better lives in all aspects. This period saw the birth of the Art Deco aesthetic, the rise of modern medicine, the invention of the automobile, and the beginning of the Great Depression.

As far as home life, this transitional period encompassed Victorian and Modern design elements. There was still the elegant and ornate curvature alongside more simple motifs. Many people with old houses try to recreate the vibe of this era, but what if you live in a new build or apartment? If you want to add some 1920s style to your home (even if it was built in the last forty years), keep these 1920s decorating ideas in mind.

Incorporate antiques or vintage items.

J. B. Van Sciver Co. Catalog, c. 1920

To give your home an authentic 1920s style, add antiques from that era. This might include:

  • Wood furniture
  • Artwork
  • Slag glass lamps
  • Statement gold mirrors
  • Lace curtains
  • Velvet or patterned upholstery

To make your house look more charming and vintage-inspired, decorating it with antique and vintage items (or Art Deco reproductions if needed) is essential. You’ll find unique antiques online or at thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, antique shops, and antique malls.

Paint the walls or install Art Deco wallpaper.

1920s wallpaper catalog cover
Montgomery Ward Co. Catalog, c. 1921

If you want to make your house look like it came straight out of the 1920s, paint the walls in a historical color. You can use almost any color, but Art Deco tones tend to be jewel-toned and saturated. Avoid bright, modern colors because they might not work well with the rest of your decor.

1920s wallpaper patterns
Montgomery Ward Co. Catalog, c. 1921

If you have even more energy to spare, consider adding period wallpaper. Fortunately, wallpaper comes in many 1920s-style designs with the added benefit of being easy to remove. To minimize the investment, add wallpaper to small areas like a powder room or just the upper walls in the dining room.

Embrace natural wood tones.

S.C. Johnson & Son Catalog, c. 1921

The Victorian era embraced natural wood tones, and that sentiment was not lost on the next generation. In the 1920s, wood floors were popular, with other, more minimal wood accents throughout the home. If you can, consider exposing and refinishing or installing wood flooring to add character and warmth to your home. If you’re stuck with wall-to-wall carpeting, consider adding more natural wood furniture.

Anchor a room with an antique rug.

The Larkin Book of Better Homes, c. 1924

Antique rugs are a quintessential element of 1920s decor, reflecting the rich cultural influences and artistic expressions of the time. Whether it’s a Persian rug with intricate patterns or an Art Deco rug with bold geometric designs, these timeless pieces can add warmth, texture, and character to any space.

Install a real or faux fireplace.

 Todhunter Inc. Catalog, c. 1920

A fireplace adds warmth and ambiance to any room. They also provide an easy way to heat rooms during cold weather. To add a fireplace from scratch, you or a professional can install a chimney liner, a fireproof material that fits inside the chimney. Then, you’ll need to build a hearth using bricks, stones, or other materials. Finally, install a flue pipe to direct smoke from the chimney.

This entire project is costly, which is why many homeowners in the 1920s added faux fireplaces to their homes. You can salvage vintage mantles and then decorate them with fairy lights, electronic candles, and anything else that adds ambiance. More importantly, a faux fireplace adds an elegant focal point to the living room—much better than just a large flatscreen.

Hang portieres in doorways.

Beautiful Homes, or Hints in House Furnishing; Vol. 4

Portières, or decorative door curtains, were a prominent feature in 1920s interior design. Often made from rich fabrics like velvet, silk, or brocade, portières were adorned with tassels, fringe, or ornamental trim, reflecting the opulence of the era. They served both aesthetic and functional purposes, enhancing privacy and providing insulation against drafts. Portières were commonly used to separate living and dining areas or to create a dramatic entrance to a parlor or study. The revival of portières in modern decor can add a touch of vintage glamour and a nod to the artistic flair of the Roaring Twenties.

Add glamorous light fixtures.

Acme Lighting Fixture Co. Catalog, c. 1922

Lighting played a significant role in 1920s decor. Consider adding Art Deco chandeliers with crystal or glass details or elegant table lamps with fringed or beaded shades. Look for fixtures with geometric designs and metallic finishes to enhance the 1920s ambiance.

Create a speakeasy-inspired bar area.

The Art and Mystery of Mixing Drinks, c. 1874

The 1920s were the era of Prohibition, and speakeasies were hidden bars where people could enjoy a drink. Create a small speakeasy bar area in your home with vintage barware, a mirrored backdrop, and Art Deco accents. Add a touch of glamour with gold or brass finishes and rich, dark wood.

Include salvaged or reproduction tile.

The Associated Tile Manufacturers, c. 1922

Antique tile is a distinctive and elegant way to infuse your home with the charm of the 1920s. During this era, decorative tile patterns adorned floors, walls, and even fireplaces, showcasing intricate patterns, rich colors, and artistic craftsmanship. Whether it’s a geometric Art Deco design or a classic floral motif, antique tiles can add texture and visual interest to kitchens, bathrooms, or entryways. Consider using reclaimed or reproduction tiles that capture the essence of the period, creating a harmonious blend of history and style.

Design a 1920s-inspired garden or outdoor space.

victorian garden book
Popular Gardening Magazine, D.T. Fish, c. 1884

Extend the 1920s decorating theme to your outdoor space by adding an old-world garden. Consider adding wrought iron furniture, geometrically patterned tiles, and lush greenery. Create a serene space with a fountain or a small pond, reflecting the elegance of 1920s garden design.

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