NEW YORK -- A home's doorway is like a gateway. What's inside says much about the people who live there -- no matter what they do, what they wear or how they present themselves on the other side of that door.
House & Garden magazine, celebrating its 100th birthday this year, has kept a record of the 20th century and its changing attitudes by tracking changes in home design.
Each issue during 2001 examines a bygone era of architecture and decorating -- and of the nation's history. Veronique Vienne, the author of the magazine's "Past Perfect" column, and Katrine Ames, features director, recently reviewed their findings, decade by decade.
-- Early 1900s: At the beginning of the 20th century, Americans were clearly influenced by trans-Atlantic trends. People lived in tall and narrow Victorian homes filled with parlors and servants, both of which came in handy for all the at-home entertaining that was going on, said Vienne.
Dinner parties were excuses to give grand tours of homes, which were cluttered with bric-a-brac from their travels abroad.
-- 1910s: The automobile changed everything about how people lived, even the insides of their homes. More spacious, suburban homes became popular since getting back and forth to the train station was easier, said Vienne.
During this decade, there were great advances in home sanitation and a greater awareness of health in the home, she said. People breathed easier thanks to the vacuum and slip covers on furniture were washable, allowing for cleaner and brighter interiors.
-- 1920s: This was the decade of light, said Vienne. People took down curtains, opened windows and the advent of central heat meant they finally were rid of filthy coal heaters.
Kitchens, however, were left out of the aesthetic revolution. Electricity was now flowing into appliances, making kitchens more functional, said Ames, but their decor wasn't even an afterthought.
-- 1930s: "This is when it became OK and chic to have American-made furniture," said Ames. In fact, she said, "chic" was a buzzword that emerged as more home furnishings were made in the United States -- growth that might have been spurred by the pure economic reality of the Depression, which made travel to and transport from Europe an unlikely option for many.
People looked to Hollywood as an escape from the dour economic period, and suddenly one-floor, expansive California-style bungalows and their open-floor plans cropped up coast to coast.
-- 1940s: This is when women took over every aspect of the home, said Vienne. Their husbands were battling World War II, so the women went to work and took care of their houses with newfound awareness and abilities.
When the war was over -- and men wanted their old jobs back -- women were lured home by great appliances that promised to make their daily routines more enjoyable. The postwar euphoria also prompted a wave of redecorating.
-- 1950s: The influence of high fashion, beginning with Christian Dior's "new look" of 1947, became evident in the home, said Vienne.
Color became very important in interior design and the color palettes people chose were very sophisticated. Color-coordinating was more important than decorating.
-- 1960s: Elegance was no longer the key element of a decorating scheme as trendiness took over.
The look, however, was very casual as lazy Susans and chafing dishes took permanent positions in kitchens. Furniture -- and even the floors -- were lower, as conversation pits were filled with rolling chairs and sofas. Big bucks were spent on shag rugs and stereos.
Electronic equipment became the status symbol, says Vienne.
Psychedelic colors like acid green and magenta were used in living areas, while gold and avocado dominated kitchens.
-- 1970s: Going by the decorating calendar, this was the era of true rebellion.
"Now we had patterns on top of patterns. It was sensory overkill. It was the decade that good taste forgot," Vienne says.
The early 1970s had a high-tech look, or at least high-tech for the time. The futuristic style was fueled by "Star Trek," Neil Armstrong and the space race, said Ames.
By the mid-'70s there were two distinct and conflicting decorating routes: the homemade-craft look with macrame, quilts and patchwork art covering every bit of wall space, and the sexy look, in which hot tubs and waterbeds were the centerpieces.
On a much smaller scale -- but still prominent -- was a "natural" decorating movement that featured stenciling, bare brick walls, exposed pipes and solar panels.
-- 1980s: Homes took on a postmodern look as historical references began popping up, Vienne said. Columns, structural and fake, were added to both the exterior and interiors of houses.
Before the 1987 stock market crash, everything was big, bold and ostentatious. Decorating was done more with attitude than refined taste as people clamored to show off their possessions and moved to bigger houses just to have room.
In the quest for extra space, people experimented with refurbished factories and converted garages, Ames said.
At the same time, the home became less important as people started spending money on other lifestyle expenses, like travel, Vienne said.
The weak economy at the end of the decade, however, immediately halted the "bigger-is-better" outlook and most people lived with whatever decorating scheme they already had.
-- 1990s and beyond: During the recession in the early part of the decade, House & Garden went on a four-year hiatus from publishing as home and garden improvements were not at the top of anyone's list, said Ames.
When the magazine relaunched in 1996, it reflected the return of elegance and good taste.
There was a lot of soul-searching in the world of interior design following the early '90s grunge, and people decided they once again wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things, Vienne says. The look that emerged was decidedly American, sophisticated and upbeat, but there was no longer a few dominant styles because as long as it was tasteful, any style was OK.
People also have learned to adapt an attractive decorating scheme to match their lifestyles, whether it's a bigger kitchen so children can comfortably do their homework at the table while their mother is preparing dinner or a bigger bathroom to indulge in stress-reducing baths.
"There are still are so many ways you can go and there is so much available that you cut the cloth to yourself," Ames said.
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