Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Before and After Midcentury Apartment (1948)

Good morning!

How's everyone out in cyberland? Things are sailing along smoothly here at She Was a Bird-- my More is More Tony Duquette coffee table book came in the mail yesterday (YES), I am completely obsessed with the Jane Campion mini-series/television event Top of Lake (halfway through! Don't tell me what happens!), I'm going to dinner at my sister and her husband's house tonight, and I am ready for it to be the freakin' weekend already. How about you? Did you live through the torrential downpour in Nashville last night? Better rain than snow, but I do need this weather to start minding its p's and q's and acting like I live in the mid-South, already, not some winter hell world of grey skies and biting winds whistling through downtown's skyscrapers. Cut us a break!

At any rate, one thing I am not, no, never tired of is looking at late forties' apartments. There was a "before and after" apartment I thought you guys would be particularly interested in, and so I have iPhone camera'd the mess out of the 1948 Home and Garden article in which it appears. Wanna take a look?

This is the room that made my heart skip a beat! Is it not my ideal bedroom?! For the record, this is what my bedroom looks like, and THIS (see above) is what I would like it to look like. Points of interest: the long, black lacquer built in vanity/dresser with frilly curtained storage underneath; the black driftwood lamp with white, boxy shade; the gorgeous novelty print tulip-y pinch pleat curtains; the Pierrot painting over the bed; THE CACTUS RANCH AT THE FOOT OF THE BED. Shades of light green are among my favorite colors, and I just can't get over how dramatic but with a light touch this room looks! Especially when you consider what it looked like before:

Honestly, I'd bet some of the Apartment Therapy addicts out there would prefer that it look like the before, maybe with some wildebeest's head in between the window and saffron chevron print drapes (I now feel bad because I want a wildebeest's head), but I am a huge fan of what Home and Garden did with it. Classy, feminine, and fun. One of the most impressive feats is making that wall look like there are floor to ceiling windows by hanging floor to ceiling drapes as a trompe l'oeil...if the proportions of your room aren't what you want them to be, there you go! Drape it like you want it to look!

Here's a before of living you think they purposefully tried to make everything look like Charles Dickens's Bleak House or it really does just photography that drearily?

And presto, change-o, AFTER:

Seriously, carpet was THE THING in 1940's home decorating. Look how vibrant the room becomes with that overall splash of color...I would never paint a room red, but boy, would I like to have some lipstick-colored wall-to-wall carpet. I love, in this and the bedroom photo both, how there are a large number of individual pieces in the room, yet none of it looks cluttered. Again, the high-hung, wall-long curtains make up for the pipes and centrally placed windows (did they build some kind of radiator cover? It's disappeared!), and the arrangement and choice of furniture make it look like department store buyer Joan Crawford's own pied á terre for meeting up with a married Clark Gable in one of my movies. Chic, chic, and chic! Take a closer look at the middle of the room:

Built in hi-fi? Check. Walnut dish? Check. Tiny demi-tasse cups with yet tinier spoons? Check. Chesterfields in little dishes and an art deco ashtray to match? Yup. Doesn't this glass coffeetable look like something that would be in a late seventies' living room and fit right in? So modern it's actually avant-garde! The woven seats on the chairs are interesting too-- how do they look like lawn furniture yet feel like grown up home furnishings? Couldn't tell you.

And another last look at this jewel box of a living room:

I initially thought the object in the center of the wall was a pass through to the kitchen, but it's actually a shadow-box window with room enough to perch a strange little willow-y looking plant. I know mirrors add the illusion of extra space, but this just bowled me over...look how much bigger the room looks! If you close up on the throw pillows, they're done in prints of architectural building sketches, which maybe a little too discount designer nowadays for my taste, but I like that they're done in squares and triangles, and I like that the lampshade on the left is done in the same print. See how the consoles on the left are all the same height and all pushed together to make them look like custom built-ins, when they're just individual pieces? LOVE. THAT.

And the third room in the house is the (actually pretty spacious for an apartment, if you ask me) kitchen. Take a look at the before:

And the after!

Do you see how they've put wallpaper on the ceiling? There's an accent wall in that same paper behind the tiny stove to the left of the this photo in a picture I can't get to load for some reason-- in the meantime, check out how the cabinetry under the sink, as opposed to the skinny legs of the 1910's basin that came with the apartment, adds storage and looks way less awkward. How about that little decorative awning over the window? I don't know as I've ever seen one of those on a non-commercial interior, but how cute?! The funny thing about this do-over is that they really did do can see how a few cosmetic tweaks here and there can really change the space from dreadful to delightful, though, huh?

Here are some excerpts from the text. The breezy, conversational voice of the article is pretty representative of the tone of the magazine, which makes it probably my favorite library discovery to date:

I now want to be a writer for an interior design magazine in the late forties'; add that to my High Fidelity list of dream jobs that no longer actually exist. Can't you just imagine the kind of wry, smart girl, á la the Betty character in Sunset Boulevard, who would be behind the typewriter and behind schedule on an article like this? ((as I drift into a fond reverie))

So! What do you think? Which room is the best made-over? What elements of these designs would you like to incorporate into your own home (I'm hanging my drapes high from now on!)? Have you made any massive changes to the way your house is set up lately, for the better or the worse? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I will catch you kittens on the flip side tomorrow. Wednesday! We're halfway to the weekend! Take care, and I'll see you then.


  1. i really like the living room. especially for the colors. our living room has red walls, painted with art pigments. they made for a velvet like tone. and i have a chair like that with the woven band, only in beige. its comfy.
    but cactee at the foot of the bed? autsch!

    1. You have a chair like that!! How cool!! I know, I didn't think about the cacti danger/hazard until later...but you have to admit, it looks amazing in THEORY! :) haha

  2. Cacti at the foot of my bed might keep the dogs from thinking that they own it. ;)
    I wish the kitchen "after" was in color. I want to see what that wallpaper looks like.

    1. I had a picture of it, but I think I accidentally deleted it before I did this post-- it was a floral red pattern on a white background, and again, it was back behind a little apartment stove as an accent wall. I need to go back to that issue and see if I can photograph it again!



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