From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Back To The 50's

An elegant home remembered


Yesterday, I bought a curious book at one of the thrift shops. It is the 1954 edition of Ladies' Home Journal: Book of Interior Decoration by Elizabeth T. Halsey. It is a large book, the same size as the Ladies Home Journal used to be. Do they even still publish that magazine? If they do, they must have gone to a smaller size by now.

When I opened the book and looked through the pages, I knew I had to buy it and preserve it as a historic document. The photographs give me a sense of déjà vu, and it's no mystery why; they are images of home decor that was fashionable when I was a child.

Specifically, the book reminded me of a long-ago visit to the Arthur and Mary Mallory home, somewhere in Iowa. I suppose it was in the late '50's. The Mallory Brothers (I think it was Arthur and Dwight) raised and sold Black Angus breeding stock. We were there to buy bulls, and we spent the night -- an uncomfortable night, in my opinion. Mary Mallory's home was so elegant that I was afraid to speak in more than a whisper. It was not a place where a child could relax. If she had ever had children, her house had made a total recovery.

I don't think the Mallory house was quite this fancy,
but this picture illustrates what it felt like to me!!

The photographs in this LHJ decorating book show slipcovered armchairs that match bold curtains. Bright patterns and stripes are popular. Rooms are decorated with strongly contrasting colors (such as red with white and dark aqua -- wow!) Walls are painted in bold colors or papered in emphatic patterns. The dust ruffles on the beds match the pillowcases, and the bedspreads match the ruffled skirts of the vanity tables. Homemade quilts or rag rugs are nowhere to be seen, but in the dining room, hand-crocheted doilies and table linens are acceptable.

The book contains some useful and/or interesting information, such as the photographic examples of different furniture styles. For example, the illustrations of chair styles include wainscot, slat back, bannister, Windsor, India, Queen Anne, ladderback, and Chippendale. It even has directions for sewing slipcovers, curtains, and throw pillows. If I ever want to do my home in 1950's sophistication, I've got the manual.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.