During the 1940s the war was at the forefront of people’s minds, it dominated the industries and the homelife of civilians. For many, partners were enlisted and sent to fight for the military leaving women behind to raise children and work. There wasn’t time for glamour or indulgence, money was tight, resources were limited, and time was scarce. The interior design style known as Mid Century Modern was born.
This period was influenced by the Machine Age and new technologies. Decorative styles were less sought after as the Modernism movement focused more on design and function. Materials were minimal, honest, and rustic. Natural qualities often became a feature of consumer products, and this was true even for architecture.
Functional items filled British homes and machines like microwave ovens, toasters and hair dryers were widely adopted to help save people time. Open-plan interiors became popular for homes and offices in the forties. Walls were removed to increase space, socialising and a sense of community. This was a functional solution and it helped to break boundaries during times of loneliness and worry. Rounded coffee tables, unfinished pine cabinets and plants were typical signatures of the decade.
World War 2 lasted for half of the decade. In May 1945, Germany surrendered in Europe and celebrations broke out across the world. Many military successes contributed to the end of the war, with the cracking of the Enigma code being one of them. Computer legend Alan Turing developed a sophisticated enciphering machine that decrypted Nazi communications and gave Britain a hidden advantage.
Troops flew back home and during the second half of the decade, a lot of modern changes took place such as the election of the labour party. This new government led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee saw some ambitious social programmes put into action, creating the Welfare State in Britain.
The aftermath of the war also saw the formation of the United Nations where Britain became one of its five founding members. Post-war immigration also began, with large numbers of Indian and Pakistani nationals flocking to the UK to find work and escape the conflict happening between the two countries. Later in 1948, nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain also seeking residency. These new residents helped to diversify and enrich British culture over the next few decades.
A strengthened society
Britain was leading the way in building a modern society and the world was watching. Parliament passed the National Health Service Act in 1946, and in 1948 the NHS was formally established, providing universal healthcare to those in need. Living was becoming more accessible in a multitude of ways including the opening of Britain's first supermarket in London called Premier Supermarkets in 1948.
In 1940 and 1944 the Olympics had not been held due to the war. At short notice in 1948, the UK hosted the Summer Olympic Games in London, also known as the ‘Austerity Games’ in hopes to boost the country’s post-war economy. Britain was still rationing at the time and despite shortages of essential products, London rose to the challenge with renewed spirit and hope. These were the first games to be shown on television, however, TV sets still weren't a staple in many homes.
Comfortable and traditional
Households began to re-introduce traditional and decorative features into their homes in the mid-late forties. Floral prints were common for wallpaper and textiles, and ruffled draperies helped to add extra comfort. Hardwood floors were considered old-fashioned so wall to wall carpet was introduced in many homes. Whether it was the living room, the kitchen or the bathroom, a carpeted floor was cool. This statement piece offered new warmth and cosiness for families, plus it was affordable. Nowadays carpet in the kitchen and bathroom isn’t as desirable, but it’s always a telling sign of the 40’s interior design trend.
A movement that reshaped society
The Modernism movement started off modestly but by the end of the decade, Britain had bounced back from the impact of the war and transformed the country to become a role model for the rest of the world. The Modernism design style reflected strength, practicality, and accessibility. It wasn’t long, however, for some home comforts to slip back into people's homes such as carpet, carpet, and more carpet.