Understanding Period Home Design: Edwardian - Post War
Fraher & Findlay
By Lizzie
June 2020
The Greenest Project is the building you save:
Following on from our last journal post, we wanted to look at the design of the Edwardian and post war home. The progression in building can be seen in new forms of spaces as different environmental pressures arose - the family dynamic also changed and in the post war housing this was reflected in the house building.
Edwardian (1901 – 1914)

Although far shorter than the other periods, the housing boom continued during Edwardian times and it developed its own particular style often influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement. The boom would have continued if WW1 had not intervened. The movement promoted simple design which can be seen in the houses of the time. As a result of the social reforms of the previous 50 years, life was much improved for the average person. For example, further technological developments had improved sanitary arrangements, including trapped and ventilated house drains and the inclusion of bathrooms at first-floor level.

Following the Victorian construction wave, better quality terraced housing emerged. Edwardian developers were forced to move out into the suburbs where they created wider properties with bigger gardens in areas. These Villas provided homes for the upwardly mobile, built by small builders employing local construction methods and materials. As such there is regional variety between these houses. The houses have fewer but larger rooms. After the heaviness, clutter and dark colours of Victorian interiors, people wanted something new and cheerful. Edwardian style was a breath of fresh air.
  • Pebble dashed walls and mock timber gables.
  • Hanging red tiles and terracotta decoration.
  • Stained glass front doors.
  • Casement windows.
  • Taller houses and deeper.
  • Chimneys come through roofs lower down the roof as chimney stacks built directly over the fireplace.

  • Wide hallway · Parquet wood floors
  • Lower ceilings.
  • Fresh and light
  • Flowers and Floral patterns
  • Pastel colours
Between the wars (1918-1939)
After the war the European style of Modernism made its way over to the UK. We were slightly late adopters of the style being wrapped up in Art Deco, colour, ornamentation and the Edwardian Design movement. New houses and buildings were a reaction to traditional styles of house building. Modernists styles rejected historical styles and architectural decoration. New houses were designed based on functionalism and simplicity of design, traditional building techniques were substituted by reinforced concrete. The modern movement was never willfully adopted by the UK - it did not really suit the weather. Large areas of glass were seen as either too hot or too cold. Some great apartment blocks in London were built during this programme and a number of striking houses, but the Modernist Movement failed to win widespread acceptance before the outbreak of WW2.
The majority of house design in the UK within the 1930's continued the Edwardian principles as the Modernist movement failed to take mainstream force.
Post war (1945 - onwards)
At the end of the war, slums remained a problem in many large towns and almost 500,000 houses had been destroyed or made uninhabitable. Temporary accommodation was provided by pre-fabricated houses. Altogether 156,000 prefabs were assembled using innovative materials such as steel and aluminium. Provision of new council housing was a top priority.

In this period, the gap between standards of housing between professional and manual workers narrowed. There was growing relationship between private and public house types. This was novel, as both space and amenities across the private and public sectors became aligned.

The Parker Morris report of 1961 recommended standards for all new homes. Recommendations supported changing patterns of living - the house became less formal. Living and circulation spaces were to become more generous alongside better heating throughout the house so that all spaces could be used freely.

The Victorian parlour that we have talked about in our previous articles was updated to provide two living spaces - one for quiet activity and the other for eating. Kitchen design lept forwards, with domestic appliances becoming included within the kitchen (washing machines and fridges). Dining spaces became integrated within the kitchen space providing family rooms.

House size however reduced so furniture needed to be light enough to stack and move about. With private housing, garages became integrated where possible, car ports with a canopy are also a common feature. Hallways were spacious and well lit.
Characteristics of Post War houses include:

  • Plain flat walls with oblong picture windows.
  • Light painted coloured woodwork.
  • Low pitched roof with an end gable finished with a prominent but unadorned barge board painted white.
  • Brown or grey concrete roof tiles
  • Cladding of tiles (usually of concrete), white painted boarding applied between the ground and first windows.
  • Terraces without chimney stacks as houses built with central heating - decline of coal fires due to the Clean Air Act in 1956.

  • Open Plan
  • Fitted Kitchens
  • PVC, Formica, fibreglass, rubber, melamine, aluminium, vinyl, plastics
  • Spacious hall ways
There was a definite shift in the 1950's that re-considered the design of the house. Post conflict and with an opportunity to reshape the future, urban planners and designers made the most of the opportunity to change ways of working. We are very much faced with the same opportunity presented to us a result of the Climate Crisis as well as the Pandemic.

The challenge in our studio if finding a way of thinking that marries up a new way of living with an existing building stock. This is why retrofit is so fundamental to our work. This covers housing, offices, retail - any form of built environment . Whilst there are targets for the delivery of new housing, as a studio we are focusing on how to retrofit the existing built environment - buildings from 1700 - 1970's!

If you are thinking of starting a project, please do not hesitate to contact us in the studio: hello@fraherandfindlay.com