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THERE’S A TIME WARP in discussing Emily Genauer’s Modern Interiors Today and Tomorrow, given that its “Tomorrow” began in the year 1939. No matter, though. Genauer’s account of interior decor is replete with tidbits. Today in Part 2, we see a room with a seeming Wagnerian heritage and another that suggests a less than tolerant time in American movies. We’ll also rest a while in interesting chairs.

A Rhodoid Garden Ensemble. Genauer devoted several pages to chairs, both for indoor and outdoor use. She noted, “Rhodoid, a new transparent plastic material, appeared in considerable outdoor furniture shown in the French pavilion, and in at least one display of interior pieces.” 

Rhodoid is combined with pierced metal for a garden ensemble impervious to weather conditions. This and following images from Modern Interiors. 

The Lexico website says rhodoid is an incombustible thermoplastic derived from cellulose acetate. It was introduced by the French chemical and pharmaceutical company Rhône-Poulenc. (By the way, composer Francis Poulenc was a third-generation offspring of one of the company founders.)

Bentwood Charm. Genauer observed “Designers of the north countries, perhaps because wood is so plentiful there, have developed a special facility with it.”

Seating of Aalto’s Paimio chair is one-piece bentwood, with broad curves at each end. Its arms are continuous circuits of bent plywood.

Finn Alvar Aalto, 1898–1976, invented furniture of bent plywood in the early 1930s. Aalto University, named in his honor, was formed in 2010 as a merger of three Finnish institutions of higher education.  

Where’s Siegmund and Sieglinde? “Any craftsman can make a piece of furniture,” wrote Genauer, “but only God can make a tree, the decorators responsible for this room at the Polish pavilion probably figured. So they left the tree growing on the land allotted to them and built the room around it.”

“There in the corner,” Genauer writes, “… a beautiful round honest-to-goodness tree, growing in the soil under the floor and up through the roof, where its leafy branches throw pleasant shadows….”

This aviator’s surrealist living room features a wall construction with an aeronautical theme. Genauer suggested, “It would take an aviator who goes regularly soaring off into the blue to be comfortable in a room whose designers embarked on such incredible flights of fancy.” 

Yes, though I’m also reminded of twins-to-be-lovers Siegmund and Sieglinde meeting in her husband Hunding’s rustic abode. All that’s missing is a sword embedded in the tree. 

A Belgian Bedroom, a French Bedroom, a (Post-Hays?) American Variation. “One of the most practical pieces of furniture in the Belgian pavilion,” Genauer noted, “was this bed, with its headboard extending to form a night-table, bookshelf and cabinet on each side.”

A Belgian bedroom.

By contrast, a French designer assayed “an ideal way,” Genauer wrote, “to treat a small, square bedroom—too small, even, for the regulation furniture—and yet, at the same time, give it a distinctive style.”

A French bedroom. Mirrors and horizontal-striped wall paper make this small room appear much larger.

In yet another contrast, Genauer described “The single headboard of these twin beds, containing radio, reading lights and book space, is an American reflection of trends set by the Belgian designer… and Frenchman.”

American twin beds.

“This American room,” she continued, “was designed by Count Alexis de Sahknoffsky and is included in a new World’s Fair exhibition being held at Bloomingdale’s, in New York.” 

Do you suppose the Hays Code may have influenced the American twin beds? This Motion Picture Production Code of self-censorship began in 1934 (and, amazingly, lasted until 1968). Among its many delicate points was the image of a man and woman in bed together.  

Thou Shalt Not, a 1940 photo by Whitey Schafter illustrating several of the Hays Code’s constraints. Image from Wikipedia.

Have you ever wondered why even married couples, Nick and Nora Charles, for instance, slept in twin beds? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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