Streamline Design: When Vacuum Cleaners Looked Like Spaceships

Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner, Designed By Lurelle Guild In 1937
Photo: The Brooklyn Museum

The 1930’s birthed a beautiful style of design that was immediately and relentlessly applied to all kinds of things. Buildings, vehicles, regular household appliances such as toasters and vacuums, and other every day items all became incredibly aerodynamic and shiny.

Streamline Moderne, or just Streamline, as the style came to be called, was inspired by aerodynamic design and emphasized smooth, curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sleek shiny chrome. It conveyed a sense of modernity and futurism that persists to this very day. The right toaster from the 30’s looks like it’s from some parallel future reality where the space age never ended.

All of these streamlined things are an absolute joy to look at, especially some of the more mundane household objects. While streamline design is more known for the various vehicles to which it was applied, this article is more reserved for those everyday household objects, that had no business being as streamlined. Why should a toaster be aerodynamic? Perhaps because society was, at that time, hurtling into the future at high speed, and every little bit helped.

I’ve gone ahead and compiled some of my absolute favorites down below, though if I had to pick one, I’d say the Electrolux Vacuum takes the cake. It’s a classic for a reason. When your vacuum cleaner looks like a spaceship, the future looks bright.

Travel Iron, Designed By Richard Spencer For The General Electric Company In 1941
Photo: The Wolfsonian Florida International University
Remington Streamliner Typewriter
Photo: Vintage19 Something @ Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)
Toaster, Unknown Origin And Model
Streamliner Radio By Polyconcept
Photo: Joe Haupt (CC BY SA 2.0)
Victor Adding Machine, 1930s
Photo: Kitchener.lord @ Flickr (CC BY NC ND 2.0)
Ericsson DBH 1001 Telephone
Photo: Holger Ellgaard (GNU FDL)
STEAM O MATIC B 200 Iron, 1941
Photo: Phil King (CC BY NC ND 2.0)
Soviet Table Fan
Thermos Flask, Model 3750 Designed By Raymond Loewy For The American Thermos Bottle Corporation
Photo: Daderot (CC0 1.0)
Safety Razor from the 1930s in a Bakelite Case. Made by The American Safety Razor Corporation in the USA.
Photo: Joe Haupt (CC BY-SA 2.0)