These images come from a work published in 1935 by a large paint company, Pinchin, Johnson & Co. It was entitled: New Rooms for Old. Some helpful designs and details for transforming the ordinary interior into the ultra modern. (Please note: ultra modern) The title is clear enough and each room of the house is shown before and after modernisation.
The type of paints that were being produced by Pinchin, Johnson & Co. were very similar to those manufactured by Thomas Parsons & Sons at the same time. Using the colours shown in the latter’s extensive catalogue I have tried to show the closest ones, should anyone want to draw inspiration from these images. In most instances a reasonable match can be found, but some colours would need adjustment if a literal copying was desired.
In each case I have tried to provide a brief commentary, emphasising the differences between the old and new rooms and offering a few thoughts on the paints.
The words below each of the rooms are those found in the original book. Thus the caption below The Hall read as follows:
“An exceptionally attractive air of spaciousness and charm has been secured in this, otherwise quite ordinary hall by the sample means of covering the doors with three-ply, or composition board, boxing in the old-fashioned balustrade and building out a corner cupboard for the storage of overcoats, umbrellas, etc. A wall lighting fitting of modern and inexpensive design replaces the hanging light and the whole is finished in shades of Deydol Water Paint and Satinette Enamel.”
You will notice a particular theme throughout these images – one of ‘streamlining’ –
1) the ‘heightening’ of rooms by the elimination of chair and picture rails;
2) the smoothing-off of surfaces and the consequent reduction of dust traps;
3) the replacement of wallpaper with paint;
4) the increased light produced by changing the windows, improving the artificial lighting and the use of lighter colours in shinier paint, and
5) the provision of storage spaces to reduce clutter.
In this case the walls were painted in an ‘Eau-de-Nil’ type colour. Deydol Water Paint was what is known as an oil-bound distemper, very similar to Thomas Parsons’ Parlyte Water Paint. The Satinette Enamel was a white gloss enamel (see below) presumably like one of the Parsons’ Gloss Enamels.
“Most houses have a room with a French casements leading to the garden. The conversion of such an interior into a morning, or breakfast-room, is quite a simple matter. The old-fashioned fireplace is removed and replaced by one of modern design, with a lighting unit of character on either side. The recess is filled in with a comfortable settee, and a small writing-table – a handy feature in such a room – is also introduced. The decoration is effected by means of Hygeia Flat Wall Finish and Veritone Scumble varnished with Gripon Supervar.”
All ‘Mod Cons’ are shown in this image – telephone (plus the inevitable directories), electric wall light and electric fire.
The walls and joinery appear to have been given a glazed finish – a ground coat of a flat (although I suspect that an eggshell might have been used) finish with a coat of tinted scumble glaze stippled on top, and then it was given a coat of varnish (presumably matt or eggshell). The nearest Parsons’ green-coloured scumble glaze is obviously much too bright and yellow, but it does show the technique well.
“In this view of the lounge, the two recesses beside the fireplace are filled; on the one side, with a lounge settee of the most comfortable description; and on the other, with a cocktail-cabinet. The old fire-place is replaced by a modern panel type electric-fire and the lighting is secured by means of tubular lamps placed on either side of the mirror. The window shown is of metal type in wood-surround. The decorating materials employed are Satinette Enamel, Deydol Water Paint, Veritone Scumble and Gripon Supervar.”
Once again, all ‘Mod Cons’ – wall lighting and a rather useful-looking directional lamp beside the ‘lounge settee’, an electric fire and a magnificently-equipped cocktail cabinet.
From the description it seems that the walls would have been given a glazed and varnished finish; the ceiling was painted in a Water Paint and the joinery in a gloss enamel. The Parsons’ green stippled finish is obviously too bright and yellow, but, again, it does show the technique well.
“The building-out of the fireplace and the construction of one settee beneath the window and another facing it on this side of the fire-place, has introduced an air of complete comfort and spaciousness into what was previously an average, plain living or drawing-room. It will be observed that provision has been made for a gramophone or wireless cabinet – the cupboards, on either side of the settees, forming handy receptacles for records. The bright effect of the blue upholstery is heightened by the colouring of the walls and woodwork. The materials used are Satinette Enamel, Velveteen Flat Wall Paint and Figaro Hard Enamel Gloss Paint.”
The modern lighting would have been enhanced by the Satinette enamel on the walls and the very shiny joinery, which was based on ‘Home Entertainment’ of a most sophisticated kind. Note also the clock, which has been built into the wall. The use of complementary colours – blue and yellow – would have made the whole effect very crisp.
“The awkward recess occasioned in this room by the bay-window, is pressed into useful service in our adaptation by being made an auxiliary to the table. This latter is secured to the floor, which enables the top to project far enough to allow comfortable leg-space everywhere. The side-board with its accompanying lounges on either side lends a great deal of character to the room itself. The casement windows have been removed and replaced by those of metal type. Lighting panels are let into the wall. The decoration is provided by means of Deydol Water Paint, Cementilk The Perfect Rough Surface Decorative Material and Satinette Enamel.”
This is a very interesting development. The space-saving, albeit rather curious, table would surely result in some guests sitting with their backs to their neighbours. The bronze Panther statue on the glass display case is a classic piece of Art Deco decoration.
The Crittall windows are another classic element of the time and I have taken paint samples from similar ones in the 1930s BBC Broadcasting House and Eltham Palace. The ‘L’ shaped lighting units are fascinating additions and would have presented a very different light to the original centrally-placed light. One wonders how successful these would have been for a dining room. One also wonders as to the purpose of the ‘lounges’ on either side of the central side board if this room is being used for dining.
Of particular interest is the juxtaposition of rough-textured walls with shiny smooth surfaces. Again, I have encountered stone textured paint in other 1930s buildings, notably Eltham Palace and the Cafe Royal. The example from the Parsons’ catalogue shown here is obviously too pale.
Availability of Colours
Most of these colours are available from Papers and Paints Ltd.
Further rooms in the 1930s house will be considered in The 1930s House (2).
An advertisement for Pinchin, Johnson & Co from a slightly earlier work refers to each of the finishes recommended here –
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