With hefty fall fashion and design magazines hitting the newsstands this fall, we thought that we’d take a look backwards into the design trends of the past. Not only were the prices vastly different, but the reflecting values and approaches were too.
We scoured our collection of old design books and how-to manuals and found some rather interesting (some might claim useless) tidbits that give us a humorous glimpse into the design arena of days gone bye. As you will see, it’s a far cry from the Crate and Barrel, mail order, and the internet extravaganza we now have. Enjoy…..
The following was a furniture budget offered as a suggestion in “Popular Home Decoration”, a design book published in 1940. It appeared in a chapter titled “A Bride’s Eye View” and meant to assist the young new homemaker with household planning.
Sofa Bed with slipcover $67.48
Two end tables $ 2.99 each
Lamps $ 3.25 each (note: assemble at home)
Side chairs $ 3.00 each
Dining table $ 3.49 each
Unfinished bookcases $ 3.95 each
Percale for draperies $ 8.75 (35 yards @ .25 per yard)
Bath towels .59 each
Double bed sheets $ 1.79 each
Bed pillows $ 3.00 each
The same text offered these 5 categories for families: Prosperous, Comfortable, Backbone of America, Just Getting By and Relief Groups. You were encouraged to determine your category as it made your position clear and was helpful for knowing what types of household furnishing you would be purchasing and how much you could spend.
If you were in the middle of the pack, you could expect to spend a whopping $179.00 to completely outfit your first apartment!
You were also encouraged to determine what your family “type” was. Check this out:
The Social Type: Bridge, parties, gossip, clothes and shopping.
The Intellectual type: Books, current events, theatre and concert attendance
The Community Builder: Church, charity, PTA and active club work
The Home centered type: Mending, washing, ironing and cleaning
The Creative type: Art, cooking, gardening and decorating
And once you figured all of this out, you could select from any of the following design styles to create the home of your imagination or dreams: Rustic, Casual, Informal, Semiformal or Formal. Each of these came with suggestions on proper wood finishes, fabrics and surfaces to compliment the feeling.
Much of the advice in these old books is still of value today. Their value lies in organizing the interior design process into a framework from which to hang your project. Today it might be framed in the language of designing in “layers” or finding your “personal style”. The challenge is to integrate the advice of a half century ago into the progress we have made, the choices we have and opportunities afforded us by technology and innovation. At the very least, they are an entertaining glimpse at a simpler time.