Swag [books]

I love my local Oxfam bookshop. Okay, it can be pricy, but I found a real treasure there today: Modern Decorative Art by Maurice S. R. Adams from 1930. Maurice Adams were decorators, furnishers, architects… a firm people with money went to when doing up their home. This book is a guide to furnishing one's home in a style that was modern in 1930, and while almost all the photographs are of things made by Adams' own firm and money is not a consideration, it's an interesting volume nonetheless. To start with, while the furniture is streamlined it bridges a gap between the more ornate art deco of the 1920s and the moderne style of the later 1930s – possibly because this is not machine-made, and customers buying this sort of furniture would not consider mass production desirable. There's almost a 'smoothed-our Regency' look to some of it.

Someone has left a page from a newspaper or old furniture catalogue in the book; it's stamped '1936' and is clearly aimed at people of a lower social class than the book (probably still rather wealthier than my own family was, I must say). Some things look much more typically 1930s, in particular the upholstered settees and chairs with thrusting, curved arms like the wheel arches on a 1930s car. Others still show hints at past ages; just as the 18th-century ancestry of Adams' furniture shows, so there are tables with twisted 'barley sugar' legs and sideboards with Chippendale-style animal feet. People were modern… but very few went completely modern! A touch of something familiar in our homes is human nature, perhaps.


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