Glam 1940s interior design: 5 before & after bedroom makeovers, plus 5 more retro room renovations

1940s interior design for bedrooms

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Not every kind of vintage interior design was elegant, quaint or the kind of mid-century retro that so many people still love. In fact, some vintage decor trends veered deep into the overdone, like the Hollywood-inspired look shown below — filled with satin and ruffles and bows.

A woman named Hazel Dell Brown designed these bedrooms during the 1940s, on behalf of Armstrong Floors, as the decor was intended to highlight the company’s flooring products. 

Her work in these catalogs was intended to be eye-catching and “glamorous,” Armstrong promoted her as their resident expert — and they needed the public to trust her design advice if they were to trust her flooring recommendations. Given that the company worked with her for 30 years, it probably means that people really embraced these glam 40s interior design concepts.

But this kind of decor didn’t stay popular for long. Just as these rooms were intended to replace the old-fashioned Victorian-era decor with Hollywood-style glam, many bedroom renovations like these were replaced with styles from later generations.

And the more time that had elapsed since one of these remodels, the more likely the homeowner was to delightedly rediscover the beautiful old floors and elegant architectural details from years before.

We found five before and after photos that show how “old-fashioned” rooms were renovated, plus five more bedrooms decorated in Mrs Brown’s distinctive style. Take a look!


1940s interior design: Master bedroom remodel

Many people furnish their bedrooms with a conventional six- or seven-piece set of furniture and then are disappointed because their rooms lack personality. In the small photograph, you see the matching pieces as they look in a typical bedroom. The large picture at the right illustrates how that same furniture can be glamorized in a new setting.

One of the newest ideas in decoration is used here — the “color shell.” It’s based on the lovely hunter green jaspe floor. That color starts with the floor, then sweeps up the walls and across the ceiling, creating a beautiful one-color setting for all the furnishings in the room.

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The pleasing shell of color creates the background for the canopied bed. That canopy, by the way, is nothing more than a valance of cretonne tacked to the ceiling and finished off with a mahogany molding. The same flowered cretonne covers the wing chair, dressing table bench, lampshades, and the bed.

For practical purposes, commodious closets are installed in two corners of the room. Both of these are equipped with full-length mirrors and decorated by scalloped wood frames painted to match the walls and woodwork.

Small individual string rugs are sewn together to form a one-piece, U-shaped rug that’s easily pushed aside to clean under the bed.

Before: Simple bedroom

Vintage interior design bedroom in 1940s - Before

After: Canopy bed sets the room’s decor theme

Master bedroom remodel with all new decor style (1941)

A home within a home: Remodeling a spare bedroom (1941)

statistics don’t tell but we all know from experience that many families face the problem of deciding where a lone parent or elderly relative is going to live . . . and a one-room apartment may be the solution.

But what’s involved in making over a typical bedroom like the one shown below into the smart apartment on the right?

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First, it’s necessary to partition off one side to provide space for a tiny kitchenette and bath. And for the floor, what could be more practical than Armstrong’s Linoleum? The soft gray jaspe fits in well with the hyacinth and turquoise on the walls and in the upholstery and makes a handsome foundation for the whole decorating scheme. For added effect, it’s cut in blocks and laid in a distinctive herringbone pattern.

There are a few other touches— most of them very simple — to give the apartment smartness and livability . . . that gem of a powder room, for instance, between kitchenette and bath . . . the shaped, upholstered head and sideboard on the bed that help get rid of the bedroomy look . . . and the family pictures framed alike and hung gallery-fashion on the wall.

All these changes are simple enough, but they add up to as complete an apartment as anyone could ask for.

Before: Spare bedroom

1940s bedroom remodel - Before

After: Self-contained apartment

1940s bedroom remodel - After

1940s interior design: Turning a spare bedroom into an apartment (1944)

“Rooms for rent” don’t bring much income, but “one-room apartments” do. So let’s teach a spare bedroom how to be a living room, dining room and kitchenette, as well.

In a room where one over-worked floor will be exposed to all the activities that would normally take place in four different rooms, what could be more practical than a long-wearing Armstrong floor?

Since we have a hankering for exotic chartreuse and French blue in our upholstery, let’s pick — for contrast — that handsome rust tone in jaspe linoleum.

Walls with a fashion future! Vintage wallpaper samples from 1940

Providing kitchen facilities that can be whisked out of sight when company comes, calls for a simple made-to-order cabinet containing a small sink and linoleum-covered work surface, with a hinged top to hide all the cooking or dishwashing paraphernalia.

Next, to make a full-sized double bed look like a studio couch by day, we’ll set its long side against the wall and build a tall, wood frame 12 inches wide around it. This frame serves also as a bookcase and as a bin for daytime storage of the bedding. The inexpensive, unfinished furniture can be done in a blond natural wood effect to match the cabinet and bed frame.

Finally, we’ll save money on wallpaper by using a trick that every decorator knows: namely, to buy the very best paper — but for one wall only, and paint the other three.

Before: Simple small bedroom

Spare bedroom renovation interior decorating from 1944 - Before

After: Redecorated bedsit/room with tiny kitchenette

Spare bedroom renovation interior decorating from 1944 - After

Renovating a bedroom with a bay window seat

This room is the result of a letter from a woman who said she just had to have a little nap every afternoon. If she dropped down for a minute on the living room sofa, someone was sure to show up at the front door. If she went upstairs to lie down, it usually meant remaking a bed. What to do?

We started with the bay window. It was given greater depth by adding two much-needed closets — one at each side of the window. A wide semicircular couch was then built to fit the area, equipped with an upholstered mattress, and finally furnished with several plump pillows.

The result is a cozy, inviting alcove where it’s delightful to stretch out and relax. It’s a wonderful spot to do mending, too — or to settle down with a good book. After nap time, it’s a simple matter to fluff up the pillows and give the couch the fresh appearance of a newly made bed.

Of course, the rest of the room has been transformed, too. The soft, graceful curves of the fruitwood furniture suggested the appealing provincial treatment of the doors and alcove. Glowing parti-colored faille drapery material was also used for the chair upholstery, the dressing table skirt, and the dust ruffle. This provided the color cue for the entire room.

Avocado green was chosen for the walls, upholstery, and rug to contrast with the warm wood tones throughout the room.

For the floor, an interesting grid effect was obtained with Armstrong’s Tan Jaspe Linoleum Tile and strips of Malay Brown Jaspe Linoleum. Presenting an appearance of fine parquetry, this floor blends in perfectly with the provincial style of the furnishings and is in keeping with the room’s color scheme. It’s appropriate, also, to the real idea of the room — making a housewife’s days more pleasant.

Before: Beautiful antique furniture and graceful styling

1940s bedroom design renovation - Decor Before

After: Satin ruffle overload in pink and grey-green

1940s bedroom design renovation - Decorating After

Retro interior design: Pink and blue bedroom makeover

People who are saddled with a suite of outdated bedroom furniture needn’t despair. Once this bedroom had an “early 1900” look, but it’s been transformed into a pink and blue dream with a minimum of expense.

Most of the smart furniture of the redecorated room grew out of the dreary old pieces that looked so discouraging before.

A big chiffonier was sawed right through the middle to make two bedside chests. The bed was turned around, end for end, and the old footboard became a smart low headboard. The old headboard was sawed off right down to the legs. The result is a Hollywood bed, right out of a four-star feature.

The ample dressing table, that stretches all the way across the double window, has a small, old-fashioned vanity as the central support for a long piece of plywood.

The paintbrush also played an important and thrifty part in this transformation. Walls and furniture were treated to the same rich blue, while the ceiling was painted a delicate pink to match the drapery and bedspread material. Incidentally, the bedspread and swags are shirred with cords. When the cords are pulled out. everything launders flat.

The flowers on the walls and on the chests come under the heading of “decoupage”— a difficult name, but an easy art. It’s simply cut-outs from old wallpaper and books, pasted where you want them, and varnished for protection.

In a room with so much feminine charm, the two-toned carved carpet effect in Armstrong’s Embossed Inlaid Linoleum is exactly right.

Before: Old-fashioned bedroom with “dreary” hardwood antique furniture

Vintage bedroom redecorating from the 1940s Before

After: Remodeled into a pink ruffled chiffon bedroom “dream”/nightmare

Vintage bedroom redecorating from the 1940s -After

Vintage decor: For the woman (age 16) who wants a glamorous bedroom

With a bed and dressing table taking up a good share of the space, a small bedroom is usually difficult to furnish— especially when the prescription calls for enough glamour to make a style-conscious teenager happy.

Actually, this little bedroom is only ten feet square, but the arrangement provides a surprising amount of free floor and wall space. The trick is that everything has been placed on the diagonal, even the floor of Armstrong’s Linoleum. This breaks a long-standing rule of decoration that all major pieces of furniture should be placed parallel to the walls, but here the eater-corner result is delightful.

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The corner space behind the bed is put to good use with a handsome cupboard-headboard with shelves for books and bric-a-brac and a compartment for storing extra linens. A large, gracefully shaped dressing table fits compactly into another corner.

Creamy linen with a black lace design was used for draperies and upholstery. The bedspread, window valances, and dressing table skirt are a puffy quilted linen. The camellia pink walls and ceiling and the white wood trim provide a perfect background for the fabrics.

The whole effect is enhanced by the floor of ebony black Armstrong Jaspe Linoleum. The graceful bowknot inset of plain white linoleum helps tie the decorating scheme together and makes this diagonal treatment of the room seem quite logical. For a cozy finishing touch, two white fur rugs that accentuate the color scheme were placed on either side of the bed.

1940s interior design for bedrooms from 1949 (3)

1940s interior design: An apartment bedroom for a young family

Young parents living in a small apartment aren’t the only ones who need a bedroom like this, It’s a good idea for any family that has to “double up” to make room for new arrivals*

First, we’ll set aside one corner of the room, a five-by-five alcove for baby’s crib and chest. Then we’ll nail light wood strips to the ceiling and hang traverse curtains. These curtains form a small, private bay and can be drawn to regulate light and air.

To give the corner a little architectural character, we’ll add a pretty, shaped valance, made of thin pressed wood, plywood or buckrum. This wood valance can be extended over the windows, then painted directly on the walls around the rest of the room.

The valance pattern is also used as a border treatment on the bottom of the curtains, dressing table skirt, and bedspread flounce. Simple scallops, substituted for the valance pattern would be almost as attractive and a trifle easier to manage.

Our cool, fresh color scheme is inspired by the delightful morning-glory patterned Glosheen used for bedspread and draperies. The white walls, sky-blue ceiling and wood trim, and soft green valance look their loveliest with the azure blue jaspe linoleum floor. The linoleum, inset with a three-inch band of plain white extends into the hall and a closely harmonizing blue Marbelle effect in Armstrong’s Linoleum has been selected for the adjoining bath.

Bedroom 1940s interior design soft furnishings and flooring 1944

1940s interior design: Glamour room for a teenage girl

Every girl wants a room of her own. And what girl wouldn’t thrill to this gay blue-and-pink boudoir! It’s hard to believe that the room on the right is actually a junk-cluttered attic transformed— with a few tricks and a lot of ingenuity — into a lovely bedroom.

But once the ugly attic floor was concealed with colorful Armstrong’s Linoleum, the rest was fairly simple. First trick was a mirror on the sloping wall by the window. Then, an old round table covered with chintz to match the wallpaper, and the result— a make-up corner glamorous enough for a movie star!

You’re wondering about that lovely canopied bed? It’s just an everyday couch hung with white cotton bobbinet. And the comfortable chair — you won’t believe it — was actually made from an old barrel.

But the smartest idea in the whole room is the magical way those old floorboards were made to disappear. Since blue is the favorite color of most girls, Armstrong’s Jaspe Linoleum in colorful azure blue is used for the new floor. The trim circles of jaspe are set crosswise into the floor field. This design is as inexpensive as it is interesting and different.

Teenager bedroom 1940s interior design from 1941

Sewing room/extra bedroom

We worked on this room plan with special enthusiasm because we can appreciate how difficult it is to try to sew when you don’t have a place for it. Getting ready to go to work is half the job. You waste time clearing a place to cut material, dragging the ironing board out of a closet, running to the kitchen for the iron and to the bedroom for the sewing box.

This double-duty room offers what we think is a happy solution. Just open the curtains between the windows, and the beautiful bedroom becomes a sewing room, too, with all the sewing equipment anyone might need.

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From behind one curtain a compact sewing table swings into place. There’s a recess in its top for a portable sewing machine. On the wall beside the machine is a convenient spool rack for thread and a set of drawers for efficient filing of patterns, buttons, bindings, and other small accessories for sewing.

From behind the center curtain comes a spacious cutting table. Ample shelves are provided above it for material, and there are bins for partly finished work. Scissors, skirt marker, and tape are kept beside the bins. The section behind the third curtain houses ironing board and iron. When things must be put away, the whole job is done in jig time.

1940s interior design for bedrooms from 1949 (1)

Vintage home decor: A room for the mother-in-law

Sooner or later, most of us face the situation that brought this home-within-a-home into being. What was once just a spare bedroom has been remodeled into a snug and complete small apartment that is giving a lot of happiness to everyone concerned. Mother can live her own life, at her own tempo, and without interfering with the established routine of the rest of the family she has come to join.

One corner of the old bedroom was transformed into a compact bathroom, while another corner was made into a small flower room for house plants.

The kitchen area seems to take up no space at all, although there are facilities for cooking complete meals. Within the area allotted, there is a surprising amount of cabinet space and the top of the apartment size refrigerator affords additional work area. If someone stops in for a visit unexpectedly, a pull on a drawstring will put the kitchen out of sight.

1940s interior design for bedrooms from 1949 (2)

In the evenings, shutting the door that leads to the rest of the house affords complete privacy. It is then that the charming living room is quickly changed into a bedroom by merely opening up the couch which becomes a large comfortable bed.

In a one-room apartment such as this where the kitchen, bath, and flower room areas directly adjoin the main living room, a practical, easy-to-clean floor is really essential. That’s why an attractive floor of Armstrong’s Linoleum was used for the entire apartment. The rich red-violet color is in perfect keeping with the rest of the apartment’s furnishings.

This beautiful, friendly room— equipped for independent living, but under the same roof with the rest of the family — is one of the very best ways for two or three generations to be happy together.

NOW SEE THIS: 1940s house plans: These vintage starter home designs were small but beautiful

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