Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Complete Book of Interior Decorating (1948)

 Good morning!

My question for you readers out there on this rain-threatened Tuesday morning: Do you ever get the hankering to do-the-heck-over your whole house?

Five years into living in the 1950's ranch style house we currently call home, I will say two things for the humble abode. One, it is C-O-M-P-L-E-T-E. There is not room for one more stick of furniture or one more atomic-age wall hanging, not one art moderne knock off lamp nor one decorative swag rug. Since the Bataan death march of clutter-to-Goodwill a few weeks ago, I am compelled to actually send things out to the donate bin before I even bring things into the house, knowing that the number of items in the house are EXACTLY in harmony right now with how many things should be in the house, and if you're going to add something, you must concomitantly SUBtract something.

The second thing I'll say? I really miss getting to decorate blank walls!

Say "YES" to...everything?

This 1948 interior design book is not making anything easier for me! So many wonderful ideas between two covers. Written by Mary Derieux and Isabelle Stevenson and available in its entirety on Internet Archive (avail yourselves!), the book contains page after page of interiors that are only missing Barbara Stanwyck or Brenda Frazier gliding in wearing a pair of "lounging pajamas" or some such glamorousness to make the effect complete!! Actually, strike Stanwyck and Frazier and replace with ME. See? Editiorial decisions makes all the difference.

Take a look at some of the interiors that have me drooling, won't you?

This bedroom looks like a twenty dollar candy box come to life, and that is not a bad thing! I love the matchy-matchiness of the pinstriped fabric, the built in dressing table, and the fact that the floor is some kind of imitation marble effect achieved by black laquer paint coated in "splotches" of other colors. The boko has the technique in full, but for now, I'll just hypothesize over what color the stripes are and pine...

As salmon colored as this admittedly is, how about that flocked pink carpet, the built in curved shelves, pinch-pleat drapes, and...violin lamps? VIOLIN LAMPS.

I thought this one was pretty straightforward until I saw the gorgeous equestrian-themed curtains. Do any of you have barkcloth novelty print curtains in your home? I have those great colonial patterned ones in the living room, but I wish I had more for the other rooms, because they add such a pop of vintage sass to the room. I tried looking on etsy and ebay but only got discouraged by the three figure price tags, boooo....

Everything this room is doing, it is doing right! From the curved dinette bench to the Williamsburg-y print wallpaper to the wall-sized mural of a stylized, from-the-pages-of-Vogue garden at Versaille, I'm actually gloomy with envy. I see these whole-wall papered murals at estate sales from time to time, usually in a Gone With the Wind plantation scene of peacocks and colonnades. What I wouldn't do for one of these even in my humble breakfast nook! Will have to investigate new old stock or repro ones.

I just liked the square bedsheet graphic "pop" of this bedsheet set. Again, I always wonder what color it was in real life with these kind of photos.

Another thing tons of MCM homes have that I want...gilded/smoked mirror walls! Now, I've seen this done very badly (one house I was in had weird, DIY installations of the tiles in the oddest places...) and done very well (where the entire entryway was like something out of Louis XV), but I just don't have a very good place to do this at present even if I had the materials with which to execute the idea. Additional praise for this room: the tall, tapered lamps, the coffeetable with its own pedestal, and the squared-off shag carpeting.

So Joan Crawford. From the curved (always with the curves!) mantlepiece and sectional to the Art Deco lamp and round mirror. This looks like the "kept woman" 's apartment from one of La Crawford's early "shop girl" pictures.

Color! Even in an illustrated sketch, suggested color is a welcome feature of these interior design scenes. The Hey-Wake-ish chairs with bright, cheery red seats! The decorative panel which matches the wallpaper which matches one set of drapes! I know the patterns can get a little busy but I think I would actually welcome this as opposed to the "cluttery" feeling of a lot of my grouped wall-hangings. What do you think? Can busy be "clean" with reference to design if the busy-ness is confined to a theme throughout the house (say, ONE pattern)?

I wish I had a green thumb just so I could do this. Maybe it could be done with cacti? I love the "greenhouse" look it gives the room.

When in doubt, MORE! RED! Do you see what looks like a built in hi-fi in the console between the two couch pieces? YES.

I like the patterned chairs that don't match yet match combination here. I imagine the patterned one on the left in a pale pink with periwinkle flowers (or vice versa) and the chair in matching tones. Also, I imagine myself and Dana Andrews living together in this dream of late 40's living room. Le sigh.

I don't have kids or double beds. Does that mean I'm not going to somehow incorporate these FREAKING ADORABLE headboard ideas into SOME kind of do it yourself application in the next week? It does not. While I'm uncertain about the burgundy/burnt sierra color, I like the contrast with the white shag rug. Don't know if it's the best idea for kids trailing Chips Ahoy and play-do, but what do I know.

This upstairs-room has a really planeterium feel to it thanks to interesting paint effects or paper on the wall... it's weird how "open" it looks compared to a lot of upstairs, converted attic spaces feel. Nicwe use of space.

And finally, even more red...notice how this small space is used to great effect by just varying up the colors and patterns going on...from the faux brick floor to the plaid curtains to the greenery and natural wood finish of the chair set. We love it!

Are you getting a spring-early summer hankering for ripping out and redoing? How's it working for you? Which room would you most like to copy out of this set? Do you have quick "one change made the whole room different" tricks? Share, share!

Til next time.


  1. awsome i love 1950s decorating and i'm a sucker for retro lamps, curved couches and beds with names on them. the old photos are cool too. (wish my house was as clean as that!)

  2. If you would please do me a favor and build me a dream castle incorporating each and every one of these rooms, I would be much obliged. Late 40's decorating is my favorite - little kooky and less serious than earlier eras and not quite as sterile as ultra-modern stuff. I'm with you on the kids' headboards - so cool!!!!

  3. i've been taking loads and loads to goodwill, because i love the hunt but have no more room! most of it is stuff ive had for years, and has been boxed up since we moved into our house three years ago. why is it so hard to throw stupid crap away! i might have kept a pog with a bat on it. haha. i LOVE those name head boards. I need to make some for phyllis and pricilla!



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