Editors' Letter: Jazz Age & Beyond
In great swaths of the USA, “old houses” are those built in the 1920s through 1950. The between wars and postwar booms left us with an important stock of solid but often undistinguished vintage (not yet antique) houses, in leafy close-in suburbs that may be still affordable. These neighborhoods are desirable. But how to restore such houses?
With little current information available about 20th-century houses, some owners have resorted to turning them into Arts & Crafts Bungalows. Sometimes that’s an adaptable look for a plain, ordinary house . . . but there’s so much more to draw from! In every house, the builder’s intention and a whiff of the times remain in certain leitmotifs—arched doorways, troweled plaster, sun parlors and French doors, Colonial Revival mantels. These must be understood so that they are appreciated and preserved. It’s time to go deeper than “this one’s a Tudor, that’s a Dutch Colonial.”
It’s happening. In 2017 the Cooper Hewitt and the Cleveland Museum of Art co-organized “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s,” the first major museum exhibition focusing on American taste of this era. Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers has added a ‘1920s Vintage’ collection and a 1940s ‘Post-war Era’ collection. J.R. Burrows is adding new items in the ‘20s Home Collection’ while designating suitable designs from current offerings. A brand-new website is even underway, which will be educational as well as a place to buy papers and carpets. “I’m working along with friends immersed in 1920s-era costuming, music, and dance,” Burrows says. “My goal is to distill the key elements of the era, as a guide for creating ’20s style. We all did this for the Victorian era nearly 40 years ago, albeit selectively. In the same way, it should be possible to convey the essence of 1920s homes for owners who want to better understand the style.”
Brian Coleman leads the way in this issue with his story about the period-inspired redo of a 1925 Norman Revival cottage. Besides an endearing Scottie-dog theme, the house features colors, lighting, and furniture of the period. My own appreciation is growing!
~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
Look below to see stories from this issue.