1948
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Decorating Forties Style
by David Claudon


Notes from

The American Woman's Encyclopedia of Home Decorating


by Helen Koues


Garden City: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., 1948

The following are notes taken from Helen Koues' 1948 book. Illustrations are from Better Homes & Gardens, 1949.


This Firth Rugs and Carpets advertisement shows an "ice blue" broadloom carpet, with red couch, mahogany furniture, gold framed pictures on a moss green wallpaper. The model wears a Pattullo gown of fuschia and black.
Better Homes & Gardens, October 1949 (118)

  • This is the age of color. Today our walls are yellow, not cream; dusty rose, not putty; soft blue and green, not gray. . . . Some small rooms are even in strong, deep colors. (4) . . . Any color you like may be chosen for the walls of a formal room: white, straw color, soft blue, green. (12)
  • . . . The majority of American homes are adaptions of Colonial architecture. (18)
  • [An] informal type of furniture which is much liked and used in this country is French Provincial. . . . In the delightful informal furnishing which is becoming a type along our California coast, this style is often used with attractive results . . . by combining a chair or a desk with another type of furniture--Spanish perhaps. . . . Soft plain colors are used for the walls or, more often, the attractive toiles . . . This puts the pattern used in the room on the walls and in the draperies, rather than in the upholstery covering. (22)
  • It's amazing how you can transform an uninteresting room into one of distinction by paneling one wall. (25)
  • Glass block can be very decorative in Modern interiors. (28) . . . Modern rooms usually may have wood-veneer, painted, or papered walls as backgrounds. . . . Making use of every inch of space is the first tenet of Modern design and another is double-duty furniture. . . . Blond as well as fine mahogany is being used, but you will find the blond woods make a light, pleasant room and make individual pieces seem smaller.(29)
  • Except where scatter rugs are used, the style today is to have the rug follow the outline of the room, allowing a margin of from six to twelve inches between wall and rug around the entire room. In Modern rooms and in much of the Contemporary decorating . . . the floor is completely covered from wall to wall.
  • Paint the radiator the color of the wall, the background of the wallpaper, or the woodwork. . . . Put a shelf on it and group one or two chairs or a small table in front of it. (39)


    Better Homes & Gardens, October 1949 (194)

  • [Venetian blinds] are practical, decorative and very much in style. (39)
  • Groups of windows should be treated as one. (56)
  • Have a screen in the dining room to hide the door to the kitchen or pantry, unless the room is very small. (60)
  • Modern: the furniture is light-colored, . . . use of brilliant color on walls . . . give the contrast needed. (77)
  • In many . . . combination rooms, the studio couch is a key piece of furniture. In the one-room apartment, where it is in daily use, it should be chosen with careful consideration for its comfort as well as its appearance. (168)
  • Use slipcovers to "freshen up" a room that is drab or shabby. (218)


    Better Homes & Gardens, October 1949 (218)

  • A row of pictures may be placed one above the other. . . . This is a particularly nice way to hang-human-interest pictures. . . . Instead of a vertical row of small pictures, either a horizontal row or groups of two, one above the other. . . . Fortunately pictures and interesting wallpapers are in style today. (405)
  • The top of a lamp table should be level with or half inch higher than the arm of the chair or sofa. The average table height is about 27 inches. The lamp should be 28 inches to 30 inches high, including the shade. (420)
  • Paint old bookshelves or cabinets that you may already have or can buy secondhand and use them for stage places. . . . A new note is to stain the tops and sides a light color and the dropdoors or draw front a contrasting color. (645)
  • Painted chairs give needed variety to a room that is furnished in Colonial maple, cherry, or birch furniture. . . . Use old jugs and pots for lamp bases and vases. (651)
  • Swedish decoration is full of color, and when of the Provincial character. . . gives great charm to informal rooms. (668)
  • In contemporary as well as Modern decorating large sheets of plate glass may be used where sun, air, and a pleasant view are to be gained. To hide an objectionalbe view or a too-near neighbor, glass block is ideal. (692)
  • [Laminated wood] is an ideal wall covering for modernizing old, cracked walls, for many built-in features, for covering old doors, for cornices concealing indirect lighting, and for a hundred and one other uses that you and your architect will find, if you like wood interiors. (695)

from Better Homes & Gardens, October 1949 (160)
  • At first, modern decorating in France in the thirties was neutral-colored--all tans and beiges. Then "dusty pink" at the Paris Exhibition took hold of the imagination, and off went the whole world in pursuit of colors; and they were affected by the Swedes, who have long used color boldly. . . . Where we used to have a partial background of it with accents of dark color, now bright walls of clear rose with deep-green lamps and shades against it . . . (705)
  • Furniture in a light-colored finish is very much the style of today. . . . (798) Popular finishes: bone-white (raw umber glazing), antique white (yellow glazing). (813) . . . modern glazing . . . add a little oil paint in yellow to chrome green into glazing liquid and apply on plain enameled furniture. (814) Mexican decoration in vivid color is having a decided vogue and is one method which is easy to follow. As in the pieces above, backgrounds are clear, bright colors--light yellow, blue and orange, red on which small motifs are painted in complementary colors.(816)
  • The Pennsylvannia Dutch of colonial days decorated their furniture with crude but quaint designs which have been revived recently. They fall, of course, under peasant designs but are distinguished by the tulip, the heart, and a bird with the strange name of distelfinck. Colors are barn red, vivid green, clear blue, and yellow. (817) Painted pieces, chairs especially, with gilt or colored stencil decoration, are suitable and attractive with maple and even mahogany furniture in antique ivory, black, red, or blue. (818)

This page was created by D. Claudon.
Last revised 7/26/00.

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