What the American Home Looked Like Through the Years

Take a spin through a virtual yearbook of interior design history from 1940 to 2000.

american kitchen
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We might not have invented a time machine yet, but if you want to go back in history, that's pretty much possible through photographs. So, if you've ever been curious about what homes in the United States really looked like between 1940 and 2000, get a glimpse inside them here. Bring on the floral upholstery, patterned wallpaper, and shag rugs!

trend house living room at marshall field and company
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The first half of the 1940s were defined by World War II. Because many materials were unavailable during the war, decor stayed relatively static—this 1940 living room has classic '30s hallmarks, including damask curtains.

living room
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Still, evidence of the technological advancements of the 1930s made their way into the residential design world. Here, the curved lines of the furniture have a Streamline Moderne quality about them—the design movement was inspired by aerodynamic design.

family gathered around radio
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In the early 1940s, radio was still the primary form of living room entertainment. Though televisions had been invented, they were far more expensive than radios, which were found in more than 80 percent of American homes at the time.

modern furniture settings at marshall field and company
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The beginnings of the midcentury modern design movement started to take root in the 1940s. But it didn't flourish until after the end of World War II.

trend house bedroom at marshall field and company
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Art Deco and Art Nouveau were still popular in the first half of the 1940s. The geometry of the wall hanging is very Deco in nature, while the organicism of the headboard is more Nouveau.

mother daughter at the kitchen counter
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In the 1940s, kitchens were quite compact. They did, however, benefit from modern appliances.

housing official with women in living room
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Florals were definitely popular in the 1940s, especially in upholstery, though they'd soon make way for more modern design. As with all design trends, however, they come back!

dumont console tv in living room
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The '40s were a transitional period. Here, a TV set makes an appearance in an otherwise pretty traditionally decorated living room.

family scene in living room
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Chinoiserie might've been more of a 19th-century fad, but it made a strong comeback in the 1930s. And its presence continued well into the 1940s, especially as international travel and trade opened up in the postwar years.

mother looking at children while they are praying bedside
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Patterned wallpaper was quite popular in the 1940s. Instead of a traditional floral motif, this one in a bedroom features a more abstract design.

woman watching tv in wood paneled room
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By 1950, televisions were becoming more popular in American homes. But that didn't stop people from continuing to decorate with a more rural style—take, for instance, this gingham-upholstered chair.

modern living room with butterfly chair
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The Butterfly chair, officially called the Hardoy chair or the BKF chair, was developed in Argentina in the 1938, but it became a huge success in the U.S. in the 1940s after it was produced by Artek-Pascoe and Knoll. But once the design entered the public domain in 1951, its popularity exploded, with some five million copies produced within a decade.

family watching television in living room
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Tropical motifs like this curtain were all the rage in the 1950s, not only in interior design, but also fashion. The fringed armchair, however, is left over from the 1930s and 1940s.

woman inspecting books on a bookcase
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Tiled fireplaces were on-trend in the 1950s—they were a revival of an Art Deco stylistic choice. And wallpapers, especially geometric patterned ones, were also going strong.

open floor plan dining and living rooms
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Open floor plans took off in the 1950s. They became a signature of midcentury modern homes.

1950s kitchen
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Nothing says "1950s" like a black-and-white checkered linoleum floor. But here, it's paired with country details, including Shaker-style chairs and painted porcelain jars.

1950s kitchen
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Kitchens began to grow in size in the '50s, in part because of the need for extra space for all the new appliances being developed and added into homes. In this house, there's a dishwasher and a garbage disposal.

1950s sitting room
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Pastel colors, particularly mint green and baby pink, were two of the most popular colors for interior design. Interestingly, they were often paired with red accents.

capote at home
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Truman Capote had an unabashed flair for maximalism, which was losing out in popularity to minimalism by the late 1950s. Still, Capote's home has touches of other popular '50s trends, like Chinoiserie, patterned wallpaper, and a red palette.

party dress presentation
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It's not always about incorporating all of the latest and greatest trends into your home. This simple living room stuck to the basics when it came to furnishing, though the colors are decidedly 1950s.

baseball player with his mother in the kitchen
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Curved fridges are Smeg's signature these days, and in 1960, the appliance's silhouette was found in kitchens across the country. Check out that Formica table, too.

60s bedroom
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The matching curtains and bench upholstery have a funky pattern that feels very '60s. But there's still quite a bit of traditional decor here, like the two oval framed portraits.

midcentury living room
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Slate floors, often with different colored stones, became very popular in midcentury homes. The chair in front of the fireplace is an Eames Molded Plywood Chair, designed in 1946 and named by Time magazine as "The Best Design of the 20th Century."

dining room with chinese style room divider
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Within open floor plans in midcentury homes, room dividers provide some distinction between rooms. This one takes on a Chinese-inspired pattern.

ann bonfoey taylor in living room
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It's not always about the über modern in the 1960s. Socialite Ann Bonfoey Taylor's Vail home shows how traditional decor was still en vogue.

harlem living room
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Lighting design changed greatly in the 1960s. Fixtures became far more sculptural in form.

dean martin's family at home
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Open floor plan, large kitchen, vaulted ceiling—this house checks all the midcentury modern boxes. (It's the Los Angeles home of singer Dean Martin.)

woman in 1960s kitchen
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Now you can see the multicolored slate flooring in its full magnificence! The material was used throughout the house, from the kitchen to the living room to the patio.

boys and girls playing twister in basement
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This basement showcases some of the bolder design trends of the late '60s, namely the Op art on the wall and the colorful chair. But it also showcase some of the more neutral, like the wood-paneled walls.

modern furniture,1969
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Though most American households wouldn't have such a complete set of modern furniture, this photo shows some of the more minimalist yet avant-garde works of furniture design from the period. Take note of the acrylic chair—you almost can't see it.

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