Decorating & Design

March 6, 2012

Vintage Decorating Magazines

It’s no secret I’ve been known to frequent antique markets and flea markets whenever the opportunity arises. There are a few items I keep my eyes open for — tartan blankets, silhouettes and ironstone pitchers are all among them. Not surprisingly, I also have a weakness for magazines. Sometimes I pick up a back issue of a current magazine for a dollar or two. But occasionally I come upon true vintage gems like these:

These issues of Canadian Homes and Gardens date from the early ’50s. They are so much fun to pore over to see how much some things have changed and how little others have. The cover of the one at the bottom of this photo is so amusing. There’s dad, who we learn inside is Mr. Joseph Fleming, cleaning his guns in the living room and explaining the difference of a vortex venom vs viper.

In some of my issues, the copy editor was Canadian journalism legend Robert Fulford. The women’s editor was Zena Cherry, The Globe and Mail’s former gossip columnist. On the masthead there’s also a person with the title Child Training Consultant!

This issue is from 1951, but I think this room looks very now with its grey walls, Eames-style molded plywood coffee table and shag area rug. And the woman on the sofa looks like she was styled by Brad Goreski for Kate Spade New York 2012. (Never mind that the guy is smoking a pipe — yikes!)

The ads are a hoot! Love this one for The Decorator Refrigerator. It came with instructions on how to coordinate the appliance with your drapes using just 1-3/4 yards of fabric. Love it. It reminded me of a shot from the late Domino mag from a couple of years back of Nick Olsen with the fridge he transformed using a Paule Marrot tulip print wallpaper called Guermantes from Brunschwig & Fils.

Amazingly, so many of the stories are the kinds we would do today in the pages of House & Home. It seems clever storage solutions, small space tips, DIY ideas that save you money and this story called Where to Put Your TV Set are what we call “evergreen” editorial — in other words, always relevant. Others stories, like a DIY I spotted on how to insulate your pipes using asbestos cement you mix yourself, make you shudder in disbelief.

One issue included this bound-in sample of metallic geometric wallpaper by Sunworthy (left). Cole & Son’s recent Sienna Tile (right) bears an uncanny resemblance.

One issue featured a contest where homemakers could write in their idea for a new gadget that would help them around the house. Mrs. Blenkhorn of Athol, Nova Scotia wished for some kind of machine that would automatically mix her bread dough.

Imagine how delighted Mrs. Blenkhorn would have been to receive a KitchenAid stand mixer or even a Cuisinart bread maker like these! We’ve come a long way Mrs. B.

Makes you wonder which new designs we have today will still look pleasing and even cutting-edge in 60 years.

If you haven’t had enough mid-century inspiration, check out Morgan Michener’s blog post.

Photo credits:
1, 2a, 3a, 4, 5a, 6. Margot Austin
2b. Kate Spade
3b. Domino November 2006 issue, photography by Paul Costello, from Apartment Therapy
5b. Cole & Son
7a. KitchenAid mixer, Bed, Bath & Beyond
7b. Cuisinart Bread Maker, Bed, Bath & Beyond