Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Perspective on Color (1952 Interiors)

Hi-ya, folks!

Sorry to have been MIA most of today-- I've been snowed under at work! At one o'clock, some fellow library employees and I moved the nonfiction desk to its temporary home a couple hundred feet from where the old one was on the third floor, and I'm telling you, the calamity and clamor of it all. Plus, we were internetless for about two hours (which is the same as saying we didn't have oxygen to breathe in this, our twenty-first century)...anyway, "there was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!" but I'm here now, and don't I have a delicious little slice of the 1952 interior decorating pie to share with you. 

Come! Look! Let's start with this Dorothy Draper hunk of GORGEOUS:

Caption: "Feminine bedroom in nostalgic colors"

Yep, I was sitting at the desk without my internet, flipping through the March 1952 issue of your-favorite-magazine-and-mine, House and Garden, when spots appeared before my eyes-- and not just because I'd slugged what felt like a tureen of coffee just before reporting to my post. We've talked about Dorothy Draper before, because she's in my top five all time greatest decorators hall of fame, but if she wasn't already, this room would nominate her for that prestigious list. This article, awkwardly entitled "This Spring, It's the Light, Bright Look", features eight designs by world-renowned interior design experts of the time on how to use C-O-L-O-R to spruce up your digs for spring. I, for one, now want to put all the furniture out on the lawn and start from scratch. Isn't that what a really beautiful living room or kitchen does to you? Just makes you want to live in that picture of what your life could look like?

Draper is well-known for her splashy, feminine, whimsical designs, and as you can see, this room is no exception. From the text:
Dorothy Draper likes... cherry-bark, forget-me-not blue, heliotrope, white. She suggests a white chintz with cherry-bark polka dots for curtains and upholstery, forget-me-not blue ceiling, and heliotrope carpeting.
And I suggest that I drop everything this weekend to make my own bedroom look like this, however tiny it may be in comparison.  The colors again:

As I start singing some mournful, aching love song in the Otis Redding school to this palette. YES.

But the celebrity designers don't stop at Draper. Look at this sunny, rambling, just-so room, and guess what former silent film star designed it:

"Ranch living-dining room in western colors"
For your information:
William Haines likes... "natural" colors, beige, gray-green. He suggest a raw wood ceiling, polished brick floor, sand-gold walls, beige curtains. Against this background: eucalyptus chintz, gray-green accents.
Yep, my best friend Joan Crawford's best friend Billy Haines, from their days in silent pictures on the MGM lot, designed this room. I really love the mixture of prints and shapes and colors. Just think of the well-heeled young professional couple looking to build their indoors-outdoors modern Southwestern house and incorporating both the masculinity of the cowhide rug and raw wood ceiling with the garden-party pattern of the eucalyptus print sofa. Can you just see me stretched out reading my spooky comic books on my stomach on that rug, listening happily along as Matthew writes a brilliant new tune on the piano? I can! That would be the life, right there.

"Living room in earth tones"
William Pahlman is another big name in midcentury decorating, and he designed the room above. It's funny that this looks the most dated of the bunch, but to more like 1966 than 1951. So technically, far ahead of its time! 
William Pahlman likes...oyster white, Mustard, Driftwood. He uses a plaid that combines these three colors for curtains and a chair, picks up the Driftwood for another chair, the Mustard for carpeting. Deep oyster walls, pale oyster ceiling.
That last line sounds like something from a Jim Morrison spoken word poem. Isn't it interesting how matter-of-fact paint colors used to be? While my eye can differentiate between Sherwin Williams' "Everyday White", "Simple White", and "Gauzy White", I am irritated by the fact of having to. Shouldn't that name be descriptive of a thing in the world that that color corresponds to? Am I asking too much? Oysters, mustard, and driftwood all have colors! I love the potted cacti and the way the furniture is arranged with regard to but not around the fireplace.

"Lanai room with quiet background"
 Do you know somebody actually called the library about two weeks ago to ask me what a "lahn yay" was? I hadn't heard of the term and couldn't find anything to save my life, until she added that it "was what the girls on The Golden Girls were always calling the patio". Ahhhhhh. That google autocorrected me to "do you mean Golden Girls lanai?", which led me to this message board (note to self: explore Golden Girls message board at length later), which led me to this definition: "la·na·i (ləˈnäē,ləˈnī), noun. a porch or veranda." At least I know how to spell it now. What this guy says you should do with it:
John B. Wisner likes...gray-beige, white, and Bitter Green. In a glass-enclosed lanai room he uses gray-beige for walls, ceiling, and rug. Curtains and floor are white. For accent: Bitter green sofa.
Speaking of bitter, I am still feeling that emotion over the fact that my parents took down the wrought iron supports and covering over our 1954 back patio  lanai sometime in the mid-80's. Maybe I can convince them to put it back up again now that their vintage loving daughter lives there! If wishes were fishes...

"Town sitting room with bold colors"
This is one of my favorites from this spread. The gold, white, orange, and pink remind me of something a thirties' star would have in their 1960's city apartment they bought with their television appearances money. It's elegant at the same time as it's loud and glamorous.
Melanie Kahane, pink, and black plus white. She uses the first two as striped carpeting under a pink ceiling. Upholstery is tweed flecked with orange, black, and white.
Why don't people have rugs or carpets in solid stripes like this anymore? I didn't even notice it until it was mentioned in that passage, but it's a really fun, funky kind of floor covering choice. Sign me up! The couch and the throw pillows may be the star of this set-up for me, though.

"White dining room with sharp color"
Judy Garland's outburst over her Parisian friend who drags her to a hairdresser, in that adorable little monologue from Judy at Carnegie, is a good description for this room. Replace "woman" with "room" and keep all the emphasis:  "A woman who is so chic! She's so, chic, you can't stand it. She's a darling, marvelous woman, she's just so chic." How she feels about that native of France, so do I feel about this room. Black candelabras and lavender candle sticks and crystal for miles! Green and white dining room chairs! That wall planter above the sofa! Well, let's get a look at what we're talking about here:

Stedman-Harris likes...lots of white with sharp accents. They suggest white walls, ceiling, curtains, and slip covers. Accents are in malachite green, magenta pink, royal blue. On the floor: Chinese matting.
Bust. My. Buttons. Chinese matting, huh? Even without the grand proportions of this room, I may have to institute the same in my den, if it can be recreated on the cheap. Wow!

"City bedroom in pastels and bright accents"
 How do you like that headboard? And the pink peeking out from stage right?

Tammis Keefe likes...grays with cerise and turquoise. She matches the walls to a pale gray cotton carpet, adds an ink-gray bedspread. Turquoise and cerise point up this scheme.
Those turquoise curtain and that palette are really neat. Again, if they could just show me a few things in a normal ceiling-height room, I would appreciate it. Outside of a cookie-cutter McMansion or a prewar brownstone, where are you getting these ceilings, people? I'll forgive you if you let me have that 10 foot lacquer Asian cabinet over to the side there, even if I don't have anywhere large scale enough to put it.

Last but not least:

"Country library in bright hues"
And the award for most eccentrically named decorator goes to:
Zelina Brunschwig likes...persimmon-red, grays, and yellow-green. Against deep gray walls, pale gray ribbed carpeting, she suggests orange tweed upholstery. Curtains are a yellow-green flowered chintz.
The picture I took of the magazine illustration doesn't show it very well, but this is a really neat room, especially with those revolutionary soldier red, lipstick red, whatever you want to call them red sofas (I guess I defer to Zelina from now on and call it "persimmon"). At any rate, lovely!

So! Tell me what you think about these rooms! Which do you want to bring wholesale into your own home? Which color palette appeals to you the most? Should I adopt a 10 foot lacquer cabinet and polka dot drapes and Chinese matting into my current home? The heart says yes, but your input is always welcome. :)

Well, kiddlings, I have to scoot! This is the latest post ever!! I have about another hour here at the book farm and then we're off to dinner at a friend's-- I am excited about having after work plans that don't involve my ongoing war with the fitness equipment at the downtown Y (it wants me to get in shape, my body wants to continue being out of shape, I want to get in shape...surely the majority will prevail!). Have a great night, and I'll talk to you tomorrow. Til then!


  1. the "living room in earth tones" and "town sitting room in bold colors" are my favorite. actually, all of these color palettes are nothing short of AMAZING. and for that matter, not just the colors but the entire layout, all of the furniture and decorations to go with it, thank you.

    1. Draper and Haines are my favorite, but like you said THEY'RE ALL SO GORGEOUS. I want to switch everything in my house around now!

  2. Love your timing on posting these early 50s interiors. I'm about to move into an apartment in a 1951 building and I've been agonizing over what to do with the awkward living room/dining nook space. I still don't know, but--polka dot curtains! A revelation!

    1. I spent most of Thursday after I posted this trying to find some curtains in exactly that pattern-- I may have to make them myself, but I MEAN TO HAVE THEM, haha. Let me know how your 1951 decorating goes, you know I'm your girl if you need inspiration! :)



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