Living Rooms by Decade


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Mid Century Living Rooms

Images from Mid Century Homes — 1937 to 1963

1941 Armstrong One-Room ApartmentLike today, the living rooms of American mid-century homes served a variety of purposes.

In the 1930s, families gathered around the radio to take in programs like "Amos 'n' Andy" and the "Chase and Sanborn Hour" which featured Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist. (Millions were terrorized in 1938, when Orson Welles aired the H.G. Wells classic, War of the Worlds.) Listening to music, news, and comedy allowed people to play checkers, read, and crochet doilies and just be together.

That continued through the early 1940s as the Depression years turned into collective sacrifice to win World War II. The radio and record player were the home entertainment media of the day. Movie night for couples and adults was Friday; for kids, it was the Saturday afternoon matinee.

We'll include images of some of the one-room apartments that served as war-time housing when we find them. It's interesting to see how creative people could be converting attics and rooms over garages into tiny living spaces. (We've used an Armstrong one-room apartment in our image at the upper right.)

The advent of the television, which was first introduced in the late 1920s, changed all that. Though they continued to be relatively rare in most homes after WWII, they were on the horizon. Early models are seen throughout the late 40s and early 50s. By the mid-1950s, they had become mainstream and by the late 50s house plans aimed at the solidly middle-class home builder featured TV rooms or space in family rooms for dedicated TV viewing.

Record players became stereos and by the 60s color TV was the norm for most families.

Some families reserved the living room the same way their parents and grandparents had reserved the front parlor for company. Often, a formal living room was more of a showroom than living room. The family room was were the homely activities of daily life took place.

We've included living rooms of several types: dens, family rooms, and the all-purpose living room.

Let us know if you have questions! Contact us for more information or research; we have lots of material we'll be happy to share.

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