Furnishing the Small Apartment for One Thousand Dollars, 1922

In the 1920′s, just like today, people were eager to find a way to make their homes look nice on a budget.

This article from the April 1922 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal sets out to help us do just that.

Budget Home Decorating in the 1920's

The Living Room


Titled “Furnishing the Small Apartment for One Thousand Dollars (By Ethel Davis Seal: Drawings by Marion Dismant),” the article assures the reader that all the fancy touches of jazz age home decorating could still be hers:

“You who long for modern magnificence, take heart! You who would have the full equal of choicest decorated eggshell enamels, up-to-date daybeds, taffeta bedspreads, floor reading lights, colors rich and daring, and so often the prerogative of wealth – in a single word, ‘smartness’ – just show the tiniest tip-corner of your thousand dollars, and begin tomorrow the gayest and most effective of tiny homes.”

One way to have beautiful, stylish, surroundings while staying on budget was to turn away from a big home. The author goes on to explain, “More than ever, young couples are deciding in favor of the small apartment: it is convenient, and cozy, and, oh, joy! there are not so many rooms to furnish!”

Concerning the living room shown at the top of this blog post, “The cost of achieving the living room might be anywhere from $400.00 to $450.00, depending upon the person who was doing it.” Some of the particular items mentioned in the text are a desk of mahogany (“the like of which has not been seen since the war – a desk beautifully finished, with claw feet, spacious, and of as ample proportions as one wants in the average-sized room”); an overstuffed chair (“done in blue sateen or denim”); and a daybed (“the bed proper may be painted blue to carry out the color scheme, and a flounce of the cretonne may be added”).

Ok, let’s turn now to the dining room:

Budget Home Decorating in the 1920's

“The dining room furniture may be bought in the suite and may be had in walnut for $225, including buffet, extension dropleaf table, with three extension leaves, and five chairs.”

The author picks out certain items in this room for special mention. For the curtains, “an attractive striped material has been chosen… in peacock green, purplish blue, black and cream, and this has also been used for the chair seats.” Then there is the Colonial rag rug, which “is made of woolen rags dyed the desired colors, and may be made at home at practically no expense if the rags are begged from one’s friends.” “The picture above the buffet costs $48.00, and is the sort of decorative still life that is being much used in dining rooms, but a mirror could take its place at less expense.”

Finally, the last room to be decorated in the small apartment is the bedroom.

Budget Home Decorating in the 1920's

“The bedroom furniture is enameled in white with soft blue beadings and decorations, and is extremely low priced at $48.00 for the double bed, and $45.00 for the bureau.”

The bedroom is the simplest and least expensive of the rooms, since “at first, at any rate, one can do with a bureau and a double bed in the bedroom.” As the caption to the picture states, you could buy both of those items for the unbelievable price of $48 (although the author seems to have neglected to inform the reader of where she found such a treasure, or even who the manufacturer is). However, if after finishing the other rooms you still have a bit of money left over, the author suggests adding feather pillows, a night table, a wicker chair, curtains (made out of 25-cent white material), a bedroom chair to match the suite, and a small axminster rug.

If nothing else, I love this article for the colorful pictures of what the author considered reasonably modern looking room decor, at an everyday budget level rather than a designer showroom. If you are trying to redecorate using authentic 1920′s colors and style, this could be a good addition to your decorating research.

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