1961 vs. 2019

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating33 Comments

A few weeks ago, Jeff asked me a dangerous question.  “Would you like to go to Barnes & Noble?”  Well, of course, the answer was yes.  I am so glad we moved to a city that has a good bookstore.  Now, we do have an even larger library, but I must admit that I love owning my books.  I want to have the freedom to put Post-it notes in them and to revisit them for inspiration and information time and time again.

I purchased several books and magazines on this particular outing and one of the books I bought was a 1961 Better Homes& Gardens decorating book.  It might sound a little odd, but I love looking at old decorating magazines and books for inspiration.  These dated decorating guides are a great indication of what decorating choices are timeless.  If there is a thread that ties good design from 1961 to 2019 than that thread is a pretty good one to following decorating your own home.

The book is populated with a mix of tricolor graphics, grainy room photos, and hand-drawn pictures instead of the full-page, full-color photos we’re used to seeing in decorating books today.  But, when you look past that, the tips and suggestions contained in the pages are actually great decorating advice for 2019.

Mix antiques with modern trends, color is an exciting tool, backgrounds set the mood, large patterns give character, etc.

I haven’t read through it fully, yet, but I’m excited to dig into it a bit more.  It is full of a lot of great information.

For those who were decorating in 1961, which decorating choices are you still using and loving in your house today?

1961 vs. 2019

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33 Comments on “1961 vs. 2019”

  1. Oh wow! Such a fun book! I am sure my mom had that book. My mom was and still is amazing at decorating. I learned to love decor from her and my grandmother. Could there also possibly be a decor gene from I got from her and her mother? I used to sit for long periods of time looking through her decorating books from the early 60’s, then trying to incorporate what I was seeing/reading into my dollhouse — even making our own wallpaper and taping it up in the dollhouse!

    1. Love this! I have two decorating books i have been pouring over from 20 and 10 yrs ago, and i sit and analyze them, identifying the components of great design the hold the test of time!

  2. love this post! i feel like most things cycle back. i am always trying to figure out what the next trend will be. i sat back while everyone painted everything gray. keep us posted on what you learn.

  3. My daughter just sent me a text from IKEA saying “Lots of very 60s and 70s showrooms” so it does all seem to be coming back around. It was such a cool period, that maybe we can incorporate it, but hopefully without all the avocado green and burnt orange! : )

  4. I’ve had this book awhile it takes me back to my childhood in the early 60’s when my parents were decorating our den. We had a marvelous store downtown called the Lamplighter where they purchased the Early American decor.

  5. Oh, how fun! What a great reference. My parents married in ’49 so they set up “housekeeping” in the 50’s and 60’s and I remember the pieces in the house of which they kept most until their deaths.. My mom was great at decorating. She was always rearranging to give things a fresh look. I sometimes wish I had that ability. Maybe I do, I just haven’t exercised it much. Thanks for this. It was a nice trip down memory lane. Should be fun looking through this book!

  6. I still have some cherished magazines of my mothers that i love to get out and look at. Enjoy your book and have a great time.

  7. Oh my gosh! I LOVE that book <3 What a gem of a find Marian. And yay for being a book lover – I saw a gal yesterday that was wearing a t-shirt that read, 'Bookmarks Are For Quitters' – hehe.

  8. Oh my gosh! Married in 63, moved to San Diego. Bought beautiful rattan furniture!
    So sad I don’t still have it!

  9. I have a decorating Book … 100 Most Beautiful Rooms in America .. published in 1963. it is amazing how timeless most of the rooms are…very traditional but timeless nonetheless. I am considering putting a deep blue enamel range in my new house and perhaps returning to the coral appliance color of the 1960’s… now considered mid century Modern.

    Classic will always be a resource for good decorating!

    1. One of my friends has a coral colored range (it is from the 60’s and still works great) and every time I walk in her kitchen I sigh. I love it. It is such a breath of fresh air.

      1. We bought a late 50s ranch house this summer; only one owner before us. We are loving some aspects of the mid-century vibe, including the original cooktop and wall oven. I would call them the color of Silly Putty, but maybe coral is the correct term. At some point we’ll have to replace them since they are not functioning at 100%, but for now they are serving us well.

  10. I was married in the sixties so I started decorating then. At first there was no budget for extras. I loved reading magazine about decorating as well as decorating books. I would try DIY decorating projects sometimes.I have always been traditional but in the early days more colonial or Early American I guess. The bright colors of the seventies were not my thing but my daughters loved them. It has been fun watching styles change over the years.
    Now I’m have a granddaughter studying interior design. Fun!

  11. I was thinking that your new-old book cover looked very on-trend! I have a stockpile of old magazines (many from Victoria) that I love to look through again and again, because, as you have already said, it helps me figure out what I truly love in decorating. Whenever we renovate something/add new furniture, I ask myself if I will like it in 10 years. We don’t have the financial resources to constantly follow the trends so this is a very helpful exercise for me.

  12. I wasn’t into major decorating back in 1961, in 1966 my Grandmother gave me a round Parlor table to use in my bedroom. That table has had a variety of tablecloths and now paint but I have used it in every place I have lived.

  13. I am 78 but I want to talk about my mother. She was so good at decorating; could paint, wallpaper and was so good at everything. I remember coming home from school and she had painted the linoleum floor and took a rag and stenciled a design on it. I sure miss her but I do believe I did get a little of her decorating gene. And yes, I have had all those books and used them. Enjoy those books! One of my very favorite books is Seasons at Seven Gates Farm. I look at it often and any book by Mary Emmerling.

  14. I was a child in the 60’s. I had the most beautiful pink and white bedroom with wall paper at the top, similar to where crown molding would be. It was stripes and bows. All my friends were jealous!

  15. I have a set of 60’s dining chairs, definitely mid century modern and I don’t consider it my style. A friend was getting rid of them and the leather is in fabulous condition. So since it was not my style what convinced me to grab them up? Because they are sooooo comfortable. They may be dining chairs but you can sit and watch t.v. for hours in them. The trendy stuff is not at all that comfy (ie: the current metal dining chairs, they are the worst to sit in). We have a small house so being able to grab the chairs around the table for guests and know they can be super comfy while visiting is a big influence.
    Plus now my younger friends think I am so cool mixing a cottage (farmhouse) dining table with mid century modern chairs. So going for practicality over trendy can sometimes be the best and older furniture like that sometimes was much better made than what we get now.

  16. The comments on this post are so moving and beautiful! I’m 28 and have been decorating or home making for about 6 years (soon after getting married and moving into a tiny 180 sq ft apartment that needed lots of love). I’m a mom of 2 now so it’s really special to read comments by the women above sharing what they remember of their moms. Looking forward to checking out some of these book suggestions. It’s so neat Barnes and noble had this book!

  17. I was a teenager about then and Mother let me wallpaper my bedroom. I wanted a bright yellow flower bower–very outre at the time–but had to settle for a more conservative pattern. Now my rooms are riotously filled with cabbage roses, gardenias, palm leaves and aspen trunks. We always had old family furniture, most of which I have kept. It’s quite a mashup! I love being surrounded by things that remind me of the people and good times gone by.

  18. My mother was the VERY first person -by years and years- who designed our front formal living room with two sofas. She was also the only one until I saw it years and years later in blogdom who cut a round antique solid walnut dining table down to be the coffee table. That woman was an incredible designer and way ahead of her time and always thought outside the box. She also mixed turn of century modern with classic antiques and did a bit of mixed metals too. And she HATED plastic – it never ever was in her design elements. Loved really good wood and cool walls and warm woods. I slept on a 200 year old bed – one I would kill to have back now. I loved it, but it was so much shorter that today’s standard mattresses. People were much tinier than today. Blame growth hormones in milk and meat I guess, and generally much better health and nutrition.

    My mom let her 5 children express their own sides so our bedrooms were truly “ours.” Like in junior high when I thought it would be cool to have a dark dark DARK purple bedroom. Ugh. Or when my little sister wanted chartreuse walls or my older sister blue flowered wallpaper or my brothers wanted orange walls and blue furniture. Ugh.

    Me? I was in diapers in 1961 but as soon as I was old enough I noticed her mad skills. Oh she would’ve so loved blogs and Pinterest and social media beauty. I miss her.

    1. Your comment reminded me of my Mom! She cut down our table too and painted it and I am still using it as the coffee table in my family room! She would be up in the middle of the night rearranging rooms and later making gorgeous window treatments with Ralph Lauren sheets. Things were painted and repainted and slip covered and always looked perfect. I inherited that gene Obsessing over houses and decor and so did my four sisters! I miss my Mom too. When I see Marion’s Mom visiting on her stories I remember my Mom visiting me when I was newly married and keeping the girls busy so I could paint and sew and hang curtain rods and light fixtures.

  19. The square oak coffee table centered on a sofa and a loveseat was whitewashed when we bought it in 1989. Since then, it’s been painted country blue and now, for many years, a natural top with black legs. It doubles as an ottoman and, when we remove the deco tray on it, a game table for our grandkids and their friends.

    We’ll downsize to our smaller retirement home next year. The huge computer desk will probably get hauled out to the curb, but the square oak coffee table is coming with us!

  20. My mother was my main inspiration for decorating. Married in 1951 she and Daddy had modern furniture such as the lipstick red and gray modern sectional in a nubby textured upholstery and blond legs, waterfall chest of drawers and nightstand in well built wood and a bookcase headboard on their full sized bed. Her tastes changed in the 60’s when she embraced Early American and purchased maple end tables with a matching coffee table and a wing-backed sofa accented with milk glass lamps. She started buying antiques here and there then.

    I loved browsing the magazines she bought and kept, even years later. She and her friend decided to plaster this hard plaster stuff on the walls of their old homes and textured them in swirls and protruding points. That stuff was so hard it took the skin off your arm if you got on it! It popped more than one balloon, too. I think they did it just to keep the walls clean and the kids off of them.

    By the time I had toddlers of my own, my mother and I learned to wallpaper from her mother-in-law, my grandmother, and we ran a wallpaper business together. By this time she and Daddy lived in a beautiful late Victorian two-story home with a full basement and two porches, and her style was all traditional. She had the good sense to keep the integrity of the home and not modernize it like many others had, except for the bathrooms which my dad got a hold of.

    She was my first teacher as well as my first inspiration.

    1. That was my Mom too! Married in ‘49 by the time I arrived in the late sixties my parents were totally into Early American reproduction and swore they had all modern furniture when they got married including a black lacquer panther statue. I simply just did not believe them! They are gone now, much too soon and I have most of their furniture. It needs a refresh now, I’ve lived with it since I was in fifth grade but somehow it’s not so easy to change something you’ve lived with for so long and reminds you of Mom and Dad.

  21. I bought this book about a month ago. I have read through it once, and will read through it, again.
    It has excellent decor advice and I love looking at the old photos!

  22. using copper/brass in the kitchen, chenille bedding, milk glass collections, demitasse spoons collected all over my parents world travels, black handled flatware, crystal and silver everything, fine embroidered table lines, fall colors of (harvest) gold, (avocado) green & rust, huge colored glass bottles, lace & tatting, early American maple furniture (which gals are painting these days), silouhettes, Danish moderne wood furniture my parents bought while living in Europe, the low slung, sleek Hi Fi credenzas now used for TV stands, midcentury boomerang design, French press coffee pots, blue & white Dutch or Sicilian ceramics and tiles and my favorite…cotton and linen fabrics! My mom is 91 & I always felt I had superior decorating skills but now I realize how much her style informed mine and how amazing she was so I need to tell her.

  23. yes.Sharon I second your choices of Seven Gates farm and Mary Emmerling.Saw Jamie’s home a few years ago.Painted art white,but still love his home.He and Dean did so much. I am 71 so I love theses from the past.I love how Marian paints furniture.Wish I could.Thanks for the memories Marian. love and look forward to your new posts.

  24. I was a teenager about then and Mother let me wallpaper my bedroom. I wanted a bright yellow flower bower–very outre at the time–but had to settle for a more conservative pattern. Now my rooms are riotously filled with cabbage roses, gardenias, palm leaves and aspen trunks. We always had old family furniture, most of which I have kept. It’s quite a mashup! I love being surrounded by things that remind me of the people and good times gone by.

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