1940’s Home Decor

1940s interior design 7

Decor in the 1940s was affected by the decade’s current events more than any American today may understand. World War II was an awful time for many, and it was felt even where citizens were safe from combat. The severity of the war impacted daily lives, and in turn, homes.
At the end of the war, when soldiers returned home, and families attempted to recreate some feeling of normality, traditional decor styles began to resurface. The styles seen during this period combine both the modern style that America had begun molding, and the ways of the past.

1940's interior design 2

The population of the country soared during this decade due to immigrants trying to escape the atrocities of the war, and the soldiers returning from war (and the subsequential baby boom). The increased need for housing was met with the mass production of simple homes, like Cape Cods. These homes were small, and so interiors were kept simple and uncluttered to maximize the space available.

1940s interior design 8

Where decor of the Twenties and Thirties was extravagant, I would consider the Forties to be sentimental. Rich reds, greens, and yellows were favored for the interior of the home, while natural tones were saved for the exterior. The geometric shapes of the previous decades were largely overlooked in favor of bright florals used in both upholstery and wallpapers. Gingham also became popular pattern for kitchens and living rooms, as well as apparel.
Rooster designs also became a big craze in this era and were a common theme in kitchen decor. Kitchens themselves were also adorned in bright colors, and cabinetry was often painted white or a light color.

1940s interior design 10

The hardwood floors favored in previous years began to be considered outdated. Carpeting, which had become more affordable, was preferred. During this post-war time, the focus of the home was placed on family. Seating in common areas was emphasized, so groups of people could comfortably spend time together. Colonial style furniture once again came into style and was used throughout the living and bedroom areas.

1940's interior design 3

Decorating in the Forties style can be difficult for some. Personally, the styles of this era are not my favorites, but there are certainly elements that can be used to give a vintage look to a modern home.

1940s interior design 9

White kitchen cabinetry contrasted by bright walls evokes the cheery feeling of the Forties. Accessorize with jadeite pieces (or look alikes), and colorful canisters. Opt for chrome fixtures for an extra touch.

1940's interior design 5

The Forties style works wonderfully for nurseries, where innocence and softness are ideal. Give it a cozy look with floral patterns and ruffled fabrics. The simple, uncluttered arrangement gives a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere. Since carpeting has gone by the wayside in favor of hardwood floors, opt for large rugs in solid colors or delicate patterns.

1940's interior design 6

Relax with friends and catch up in a sitting room or sunroom decorated in light florals and bright colors. Make sure to have plenty of seating available! The chandeliers dress up the cottage-style look and bring in a little glamour. No complaints here!
Happy Decorating!


Written by TGH Domestic Design Expert: Adrienne Breedlove. You can also find Adrienne on her blog.


  1. jmtokunaga says

    I love all the style of the 1944 movie “Laura,” including the interior design of Laura Hunt’s apartment. All the lampshades and the curtains are crazy with ruffles, but other than that, it’s a very livable traditional style (but very high end). Her country house is much more like the cozy family homes described here. The white and green kitchen shown here is gorgeous!

      • Shari D says

        “Laura” is indeed awash in 1940s glamorous decor, in different levels, from country house to city apartment. Definitely something that must be experienced. TCM is one channel that anyone with an interest in vintage movies for their decor, set dressing both interior and exterior, and wardrobes, as much or more so than plot lines needs to be sure is included on their TV programming options. They also have an option for subscribers to TCM through their cable, fiberoptic, or satellite provider, to be able to watch their programming on any desktop, tablet or other handheld compatible device, for no extra charges.
        I am permanently disabled, and remain at home 99.9% of my time, and while I am alone all day while my husband works, TCM is the only channel my TV is tuned to. Same when he comes home at night! If they are showing something in which we have no interest, which is rare, we have close to 150 vintage movies recorded and stored on our DVR from that channel. I highly recommend it for everything from the Silent Era, all the way up to the 50’s for movies that can give you all kinds of glimpses into life during those times. I frequently watch silent movies, not because I have a particular interest in silent films, but because outdoor shots were rarely created on the sound stages, but shot locally in southern California, and may show the newly constructed architecture of the day. Same with 30’s movies as well. A great deal of 40’s makeup, hair style and clothing styles can be gleaned off movies filmed during those years.
        Nothing gets on my last nerve worse than watching a movie filmed in the 50’s or 60’s ABOUT the 1940’s or the 1950’s, and the wardrobe, hair and makeup obviously is coming from the period during which the movie was being filmed, instead of being sensitive to the differences during which the story is actually taking place. There were quite a few movies about the WWII years and events made in the 1960’s that made that obvious mistake. It’s very distracting to those of us who are better educated about those times.

        • says

          Shari, your last paragraph sums up my feelings exactly! It is really frustrating when a movie does not portray the era properly. Sometimes it is a source of amusement for us, such as watching the Waltons . . . the seventies shine through with the hair and clothing that the actors wear.

  2. says

    I love the simplicity of 1940s decor, where everything was a bit smaller and not so oversized or overstuffed. I’m a big fan of the show “Bomb Girls,” and the set designers did a great job recreating 1940s design. Lorna’s house and the girls’ rooming house are warm and cozy, and the hotel where Gladys lives has great style, too.

  3. says

    Love the kitchen and actually the other living spaces are a lot brighter than I originally thought, great help for up coming project thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *