Interior Design Styles 19001925


Jan 5, 2001
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I find it a fascinating study that compares the interior design of the ‘Lusitanias’ and ‘Olympics’ with the lavish German ideas seen onboard ‘Imperator’ and her sisters.

Previous historical analysis — which I broadly agree with — has concentrated on the Olympic’s interiors as being ‘restrained good taste’ compared to the Germans which followed her. Olympic’s public rooms set new standards in terms of their size, but I have always felt that their décor was restrained, for its own good; true, her interiors were lavish, but they did not see the over-done carvings or festooned slabs of marble which make Imperator look monstrous, in my opinion.

Already, by 1911 passengers — and in particular Americans — were turning away from the scheme of décor which characterised turn of the century Norddeutscher Lloyd or HAPAG vessels; in favour of a simpler, but plush and nonetheless smart style. Even a ‘modern look.’ By the mid-1920s new styles were coming out entirely, and by the end of the decade both Olympic and other ships had seen touches to try and keep them up to date with tastes. The process accelerated for the older pre-war ships in the early 1930s, culminating in Olympic’s case with much colouring and other changes in 1933.

Cunard, when designing Aquitania, apparently took into consideration the trend for simpler design, but nonetheless her interiors included such examples as the Palladian lounge and smoke room, which might not have looked out of place if we had lifted them up and transported them to one of the new 50,000-ton German liners. Nonetheless, her first class suites look far simpler in design than Olympic’s few grandest, such as her Louis XVI, but in comparison with some of Olympic’s suites such as the Regency(?) they retain the same kind of elegance underpinning their design.

You can tell I am rambling (as always!) but it is interesting that even before the first world war design styles were changing. I am hopeless with decorative lingo. Certainly changes did not go far, especially compared to the Ile de France or something, but the trend certainly seemed to be for less lavish, but more dignified, design features. Grandiose carving was giving way to cultured decorative finishes; massive domes and skylights slowly giving way to flatter, perceptively nicer designs.

Olympic may have had a grand style, her interiors festooned with detailed carvings and lavish decorative features, but it is to her credit that her á la Carte restaurant was not a gigantic medieval banqueting hall, nor her grand staircase’s beautiful dome anything rivalling the Great Pyramids in size or pretension. Three decks for a dining saloon seems excessive. She was more in keeping with slowly developing trends of the travelling public than the grandiose Germans that followed her, I believe. As was Aquitania, perhaps to an even greater extent.

(Now you know why I am not an interior designer, having read this weird critique!)

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I'm not so sure that I would call what the Germans did...Ballin in particular...restrained in any sense, but I suppose that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Germans, and to some extant Cunard with some of their ships, paid a price for the multi-level dining saloons, and their habit of using heavy woods, wroght iron, and marble in the appointments. That price being reckoned in terms of excessive topweight.

The Imperator (Aka Limperator) is a notorious example of this, and despite extensive attempts to do so, they never really corrected the problems. The Lusitania and Mauratania were also what could be called "tender" in regards stability, although using hulls designed for speed certainly didn't help.

The Olympics were by far much better seaboats and fast enough for reasonably short passage times. I've rarely heard any complaints about them. (Although some parties were a bit annoyed when the Titanic played bumper pool with an iceberg.)
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Anyone interested in this subject might look in "The Sway of the Grand Salon" or "The Only Way To Cross". The authors of both these books deal with this subject quite well. And yes the Ile de France was a new page in interior design, called Art Deco. Interestingly todays cruise ships have multi-deck atriums where the old timers had multi-deck dinning rooms.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Michael!

Thanks for your reply. To clarify, I didn't mean to say the 'Imperators' employed restrained good taste -- the opposite in fact, a grandiose pomposity, but Olympic and Aquitania *did* display such 'restrained taste.'

I do certainly agree with your assessment as regards the seaboat qualities. Imperator seems to have listed even as late as the mid-1930s.

Has anyone on this board though really done a study comparing the décor, styles, etcetera, of the three classes -- 'Lusitanias', 'Olympics' and 'Imperators'? Has anyone else any thoughts?

Personally I seem to feel that the British ships had a better restrained taste in décor, but then again the German sisters were *slightly* more popular through much of the 1920s. That said, both Olympic and Aquitania set their share of records and collected accolades.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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One of the finest speakers alive on this riveting subject is Bill Miller- and I do recommend his Dover Press books on ships and interiors. Hard to make a blanket statement about any one line -there was always the exceptional beautifully- appointed ship. The 4-stack 1912 France I understand was a lovely ship inside-her profile and exteriors are fabulous. The Germans had a penchant for heaviness to be sure- I think it was The Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse aka "Rolling Billy" which had to rip out the heavy marble washstands and fittings to reduce the topheavy old gal's roll. I love Deco, well-done, as in Normandie- but the Queens seemed a bit stuffy and frumpy to me in the public rooms for the most part. Of course many liked her Dowager Duchess comforting feel. The aluminum and clinical interiors of The United States left me cold- . Nothing like the old Conte di Savoie and Olympic- both my favs.
 

Nigel Bryant

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Mark,

I am impressed with your study on this, I have always been interested in an insight look into the Olympics, Lusitanias interiors. I agree with you that style defiantly changed and became more lose and not overdone with wrought iron, decorative tiles, fancy furniture and wood work. As you mentioned the Olympics had a restrained good taste. I guess what you are saying is that she was decorated nicely but not over done like some of the German vessels?

If so, recently before this thread was brought up, I show my mum (no interest in Olympics history what so ever, just a casual oberservation) one of Titanic books, showing the Olympic's first-class Dining Saloon and Smoking Room. I go to my mum do you think this is overdone? She goes yes. Then I show her one the large Dining Saloon of one the German ships (its in Lost Liners) large, big storey room, I ask the same question. She then said that it was defiantly over over done, to fancy for her.

So I guess is that what you are saying and others too is that the Olympic-class was very luxurious but not overdone. So would this mean since the Olympic would have been more popular than the German ships or even the Mauretania and Aquatania in the 20s and 30s when interiors designs were less ornate etc. Did this attract more passengers to the Olympic?

Would I even be right to say that even a modern audience would find the Olympics more attractive in the Edwardian Age then any other vessel around that time? Considering our different taste of styles today. All is that just a matter of taste?

Enjoying the thread. Look forward to your response.

Best,

Nigel
 
May 8, 2001
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Just weighing in to say I am enjoying the thread too. Always interested in Interior design styles. Have allot to learn, but with a REALLY GOOD tutor, :0) I can start to distinguish what made a certain room "Look" and "Feel" a certain way. Now if I could only replicate it in my house I would be happy!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I have some ofBill Miller's books and they are a good resource to have when it comes to photographs. On The Sway of the Grand Saloon, I'm hesitant to reccommend it for anyone who is not a really determined reader. The material is good, but the style is dull to say the least. The Only Way To Cross is just as good, and a lot less exasperating in excruciating detail.

Mark, my own read on the Imperator/Beringeria was that they never did get that ship right. And I shudder to think at the constant strain on the hull with the concrete that was poured into some of the tanks to serve as permanent ballast. I'll bet you've seen some interesting surveyors reports on that ship.
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While I haven't done a lot of study on it, I have a preference for the British built ships. From what photos I've seen, the British ships were in their own way grander simply because they didn't overdo it. They also seem to have avoided some of the problems...or at least managed to remedy to acceptable levels...that the Germans did with poor stability, propellor cavitation as well as the noise and vibration that came with it.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Shelley, Colleen, Nigel, Michael!

This might turn out to be one of my 'mega posts.'

I Have one of Miller's books, but I hope to get more of them as time goes on. I have just ordered Vol. 5 of Frank Braynard's Leviathan series so I should really be cutting my spending on books -- but perhaps not.
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I found it interesting to compare the France of 1912 and her lavish Louis décor, then the Paris of 1921 and Ile of 1927; Paris looks so different in comparison, the France's interiors especially lavish. I like France's scheme, but it does seem interesting that the French Line felt it had dated as soon as the war was finished. The Conti was no doubt a fascinating ship -- was she a kind of cross between the 'clinically modern' Bremen and some of the older vessels?

Talking about houses, I must say I like bright, vibrant colours; but that's hard when you are living with people who don't!
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I guess what you are saying is that she was decorated nicely but not over done like some of the German vessels?

Pretty much, yes. I *am* saying that her style became outdated as time went on, but that really wasn't until the 1930s when other ships were also regarded as having 'outdated' styles; and I am saying that the German liners' grandiose rooms must surely have been outdated even earlier, yet we hardly hear criticism of theirs.

I feel that during the 1920s and even right up until the mid-1930s there were passengers who considered Olympic and Aquitania to have a more restrained style compared to the German vessels, and preferred it. But it really is hard to guage popularity. Aquitania didn't even have a Turkish bath from what I remember, yet was a good seaboat, as was Olympic; while the Germans were perhaps overdone and not so comfortable, but even so they still seem to have had a slightly higher popularity. From my own and Brent Holt's research, it seems that during the 1920s -- when traffic had actually fallen considerably from 1913 levels -- the Mauretania seemed to average over 800 passengers per crossing; Olympic and Aquitania 900-1,000; and the 'Berengarias' 1,100-1,200. Decorative styles alone can't explain this and as you know there are loads of theories as to why some ships were more popular than others.

But, come the depression the over-ornate German liners seem to have 'crashed.' Berengaria's passenger totals all but collapsed in 1931 compared to 1929, as did Mauretania's and Olympic's showed a drastic decline; but in comparison Aquitania amazingly only dropped a quarter of her passenger total. Some attribute this to her 1929 'modernisation refit' when some first, tourist and third class accommodation was changed. By 1935 the remaining ships seemed to be pretty much even as regards passengers, varying from 400-600 passengers per crossing.

Personally in 1914 I would have preferred Olympic's styles, but you know I am biased. She was grand, but it was done in such a symetric, restrained taste.

It's interesting to look at Britannic's planned interiors. From the smoke room we can see a beautiful dome, chandiliers, and golden-carved details near the fireplace and 'runs board' (which was where the fireplace was on Olympic, to confuse matters!) The style has been changed, but it is debatable why; in my opinion, Britannic's smoke room was edging towards the décor of Aquitania's, which helped make her so popular. I feel White Star was sensing the change as Cunard was. Britannic's smoke room was simpler, but also grander, in that the dome and lavish carving outluxed Olympic; but the stained glass windows, lit from behind, and mother-of-pearl has all gone.

I think somebody described it as an 'Emperor' kind of style, as with some of Olympic's 1911 suites, but I don't know much about it. Olympic's 1928 suites were plainer, but there were coloured murals and newer decorative schemes. By 1933 even the original suites had some colour scheme changes to help them stay 'in the fashion.' I find it remarkable that up until 1935 people crossed on Olympic because they felt her first class suites were the finest afloat, despite all the newer vessels. They were not a large number, but a dedicated few, to their favourite liner.

In regards Imperator's hull, I think the strain of all the cement and stuff did damage her; her double bottom was showing it badly by the end, as you say.

I tend to agree with your thoughts about those ships -- the British liners seemed to have a nicer style and seaboating qualities, whereas Teutonic extravagence tended to take over their competition. But, I am biased again.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Nigel Bryant

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Aug 1, 2010
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Dear Mark,

Thanks for your detailed anwser.

Do you think the interior designers improved the Olympic in her later years to modernise the public rooms/suites for the newer/jazz age? Do you think they improved her from her orginal 1911 Edwardian style? What new additions do you think improved her and what not. Mostly talking post- Titanic here.

All the best,

Nigel
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Nigel!

Do you think the interior designers improved the Olympic in her later years to modernise the public rooms/suites for the newer/jazz age?

I think that there was a definite attempt to make Olympic more in tune with the times, but only from the late 1920s. The 1920 refit and re-opening of the á la Carte restaurant in 1921 only really signified her restoration to her plush pre-war accommodation. From 1928 there was the major refitting, followed by colour changes in 1929, minor improvements in 1930 and further colour changes (such as curtains) in 1931; by 1933 the ship’s look was much more up-to-date (for better or worse!) but she still retained her Edwardian splendour.

However, the depression dictated such a drop in passenger numbers that I have to wonder if it really helped; but the fact that Olympic’s schedule was not cut until 1932 signifies to me that White Star were in denial of the collapse in passenger traffic. In May 1930 Lord Kylsant boasted to a shareholders’ meeting that traffic was soon going to pick up and that the White Star Line was heading for boom; a drastic overstatement.

In early 1928 the new first class suites — in newer styles, with the colour murals for example — signalled a definite attempt to keep the ship in the fashion; while the antique limed effect in some of the first class accommodation in the 1928-9 annual overhaul marked a further step. The well known changes in the 1928 refit (late December 1927 to end January 1928) including the dining saloon’s dance floor and the rearrangement of Tourist class, not to mention the new third class public rooms and two cinemas, were definite as regards an attempt to modernise the ship, not just in looks but also equipment and facilities. Although there was some evidence that Olympic’s swimming pool had received proper décor like Britannic’s in 1928 or 1933, Daniel Klistorner has proved that this was not the case.

Do you think they improved her from her original 1911 Edwardian style?

Personally I feel that all the changes made to Olympic gave her a different look at the various stages in her career, and there are good points for her accommodation as it was in 1911, 1913, 1920, 1928 and 1929-33. From 1911 to 1930 she was actually never anything but popular. The depression reduced her popularity, but then again it did for all her rivals; Olympic still retained her usual 1.5-2 percent share of the total transatlantic traffic. Even in summer 1912 she bounced back to 1,500 passengers, despite her sister’s loss.

I like each ‘look’ of Olympic at her various refits, but my favourite would probably have to be 1928: Olympic essentially retained her old character, but there were some good changes such as the new cinemas, first class suites; but also there was the first class dining saloon which didn’t look as good in my view. She was then of course at the height of her popularity. Yet, she retained her old looks before too many colour changes (especially to the grand stairs in 1933) changed her for the worse, or better from a 1933 perspective.

What new additions do you think improved her and what not.

Pretty much everything improved her in my view, excepting the antique lime added in 1928-9 and some of the rather garish colours added later on; the suites added in 1928 were an improvement, but their windows could have been arranged better. I prefer the original Café Parisian too (1913) compared to the 1928 version. I still wonder if it might not have been better to built two private promenade suites in with those new suites forward; there’s no solid iron rule saying that private promenades need to be amidships or aft of the grand stairs, and I see no reason why they could not have been added forward. I can understand the need to keep access between the grand stairs and to keep the grand amidships suites at bridge deck level.

Aquitania was lucky, because there was a ‘step’ — small raised deck — inward of the outer promenades, for deckchairs and a good sea view; so in the late 1920s they took this for new colour-schemed suites. They could have expanded Olympic’s suites slightly but it would have been at the expense of the public enclosed promenades and the suites were pretty *huge* anyway.

Speaking of that, is anyone in contact with Steve Anderson? I e-mailed him the info. on Aquitania from 1929 but his e-mail seems to have packed in.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
May 8, 2001
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How 'bout Lusitania? (Eric Sauder's ears perk up!)I didn't feel she was too overly done. I have recently aquired a book (
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) that details the interior of the ship with pictures. I was really impressed with her style, and... OH THOSE CEILINGS! Cherubs, wall sconces, plaster designs over the door (still trying to learn what those are called)....
....I am running to Lowes! Though the customer service may call security on me if all I did was stare wide eyed, grin, nod, and point at a picture!
Mike S. I came across 4 men at Lowes last week that look just like you. Did a good job and scored very high!
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Dec 2, 2000
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Four men at a Lowe's who looked like me? I guess I'm just cloning around! (Ducks to avoid flying objects!)

In regards the Lusitania, you might want to contact Eric Sauder and get his book on the ship. It's not large, but it's a very substantive peice of work. On page 32, he mentions that the second class rooms had to be re-inforced and stiffened because of the severe vibration and racking which rendered these areas virtually uninhabitable. The befor/after photos of the second class lounge on the same page show the extent of the modifications as well as the expensive decor that had to be installed to make the extra structure look good.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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All,

I've enjoyed reading the discussions that have gone on here. Of course my opinion is biased, but out of the three Olympics, Titanic is my favourite one. As we are not talking about Titanic, I have to say that I really do love the Olympic. In my opinion, 1913 is as good as she got. However this is in keeping that she would have reminded the most of Titanic. During the 1913 fix-up, all the mistakes learned since 1911, and all the good that Titanic had to offer was incorporated into Olympic.

I must agree with Mark that Olympic’s and Titanic’s designs while still grand in 1911/1912 were simpler yet still luxurious. When looking at interior illustrations of White Star Line ships prior to Olympic and Titanic, I was surprised to see how much more luxurious these ships looked than Olympic and Titanic. This would indicate that White Star Line were no longer looking to overdo their ships in exceptional luxury.

In 1933, a lot of changes were made to Olympic that we might consider drastic, and killed a few of the beautifully carved wood. Mark has already covered that her staircase was painted over. A few of the suites (B and C deck) were also painted weird colours (Mark you and I have discussed this before). One other thing, while in 1911, Olympic’s Reception room on D deck (which became C deck in 1921) was considered the most popular room aboard. By 1933, it seems this room was minimised rather considerably.

Originally this room was enlarged in 1913 (to look like Titanic’s). In 1928 the room was made smaller due to some changes made to the dining room, when the fore wall was moved 9ft. forward. By 1933, the expanded space around the staircase was closed in, and the walls once again resembled what Olympic had in 1911, only they were moved further aft (minimising the room yet by a further 9ft.) with 8ft. passages on either side of the staircase.

Daniel.
 
May 8, 2001
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>>>...you might want to contact Eric Sauder and get his book on the ship.<<<
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That's the one I just aquired...........

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Nigel Bryant

Member
Aug 1, 2010
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Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Mark,

Thanks for your detailed post, might have to print this whole thread, with your guys posts it just keeps on getting more interesting.

Daniel,

Thank you for sharing that diagram. It is certainly strange to make the room smaller, compared to 1913 refit when they were trying to make the reception room bigger. Maybe they also wanted a bigger entrance way? I think other changes to the room was also that they placed in lino down as you have mentioned that this occured throughout Olympic's carrer but I never thought they would have taken out the famous Axminister carpet that as noted in the Shipbuilder I think. I guess it got very worn down, but I can't determine if they replaced the carpet in the 1920 refit from the previous one that was down there in 1911. I think its the same design.

The lino is seen in that photograph you posted showing Olympic's painted staircase.

Do you guys think it lost its popularity later on, maybe with the older Jacobean style used through out the room (not to say that it was ugly, it was very nicely done) trying to modernise it in the 20s. Did they paint this room in different virbrant colour or did it retain the white paint orginally used for the room? Did the paint the elevator surrounds as well?

All the best,

Nigel
 
Dec 7, 2000
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I'd say that the room might have been minimised because it lost its popularity. There was still carpet, it was just of a different design. They had to replace the old carpet, which was still there in 1920. I have no solid evidence, but they might have changed it in 1928.

Daniel.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi!

I won't go into my thoughts as to the reception room, as I haven't my sources with me. Daniel's research as regards the interiors is excellent.

In answer to your question Nigel, I like both Olympic's 'homely' tile colour schemes and Titanic's more 'tangy' or vibrant décor in some of their public rooms; but to pick a favourite I'd go for Titanic as I like brighter colouring.

To be honest I don't like leather anyway, no matter what colour; it's cold in winter and sticky in summer. And being a veggie, I am bound by convention not to want it. As for the colours, though, green seems best to me.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Nigel Bryant

Member
Aug 1, 2010
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Cheers Mark and thank you for your opinion. You proved me wrong ;-)

Did they make any changes in the 1930s to the Lounge? I know from what you guys have said that a cimena was added but there was no drastic changes to the panelling? Or did it still really look the same as it did in 1911? They didn't paint that white as well or did they....?

Does anyone also know what the dining dance floor in the Dining Saloon was made of as well?

Any way thats it for me, better call it a night.

Best,

Nigel
 

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