Then and Now: British Home Style

Style guides

Celebrations, proposals, family get togethers and even family rows, your living room sees a lot. And while design influences from Europe and further afield abound, it’s good to know that the great British living room has been home to some great British furniture over the years.

Let’s take a look at some of the key decades in UK furniture design and see how those trends continue to influence British furniture manufacturers today.

The 1930s: History and heritage

1930s sofa

Something special happened to the British living room in the 1930s. This decade saw the introduction of the three piece suite—a centrepiece sofa flanked by two matching chairs—and, with it, a deeper consciousness of comfort and design in our living spaces. While the popular Art Deco style continued to flourish in the 1930s, upholstered furniture took a backward glance and sought inspiration in Tudor and Georgian styles, showing a fondness for rich velvet and woolen upholstery. The bold, tapestry-inspired fabric and wood-and-brass feet of this UK-made Duresta Berkeley sofa show distinctive 1930s influences.

The 1950s: Curves and angles

1950s sofa

The newly-built post-war houses of the 1950s were considerably smaller than their pre-war counterparts and furniture had to adapt. This era saw the arrival of space-saving stackable chairs, furniture that served more than one purpose (like sofa beds), and furniture that could be easily moved around (like trolleys). Designed and made in the UK, the Ercol Studio Couch displays the gently-sloping curves and angled legs of the 1950s sofa as well as the decade’s commitment to bold primary colours.

The 1970s: Warm and welcoming

1970s sofa

What the 1970s lacked in taste, they made up for in a whole new approach to family living. Sociable spaces, open plan rooms, bright colours, and roomy furniture put the emphasis firmly on comfort and relaxation. Upholstery textures and materials included new-on-the-scene vinyl and faux fur as well as leather. The G Plan Eton leather couch takes the best of the 1970s aesthetic—expansive, soft and comfortable—and adds something much more modern in the form of an optional, touch-sensitive power recliner.

The 1990s: Calm and comfortable

1990s sofa

After 1980s power dressing, garish colours and general excess, the British living room of the 1990s toned down the colours and put the design focus on comfort, calmness and serenity. Colours became soft and muted—light blue, dusky pink and a sage green that’s also seen in this inviting British-made G Plan Cayman sofa. With its softly padded back and arms, it’s the modern interpretation of 1990s style.

The 2010s: Eclectic and nostalgic

2010s sofa

As modern homes get smaller, we look for furniture that’s multi-functional, like the double-duty Twilight sofa bed, and space saving, like the Catalina sofa, both quality sofas made in the UK. These days, modern living room furniture offers a wide range of styles and, as a nation, we’ve become more adventurous, happy to pick and choose the trends we like best and even blend them in an eclectic way. We love contemporary furniture (even the stuff we have to build ourselves) but we’re still drawn to styles that are reminiscent of a bygone era, like the lovely Langham Place 4 seater sofa.