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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Color and Retro Decorating

We've lived in the Dapper and Dreamy house for over twelve years now, and it still provides fresh inspiration and a willing canvas for our creativity.  Some have suggested that we might have lost some square footage over the years, largely due to the amount of paint that has been applied to the walls, but I think they are just jealous of the fearlessness with which we have thrown color around.  The living room started as a standard white...  It's gone through several yellows, one almost chartreuse, as well as a red or two.  For the past few years it's been painted Snickerdoodle, a cream that seemed soothing and subdued originally, but has now become just plain boring.

I think that, over the years, I've probably had more of a say in the decorating of the living room.  Fortunately, I've liked what's been done (of course).  However, I have not been the most adventurous person, seeming to prefer a cozy but rather staid look.  Traditional, is perhaps the best word.  Dreamy might say "dull".  So, now it's her turn.  She's all about color, and lots of it.  At this very moment, the walls are being coated in a delightful shade called, "Your Highness" - a sort of deep lavender.  It's a color that I wouldn't have picked, so I'm glad that she did.  I reminds me of a room in the Emma series that was recently on PBS.

Your Highness - the new color for the
Dapper and Dreamy living room.

When it comes to color in rooms, we just aren't as adventurous as we once were.  Have you looked at old decorating books?  A current favorite is the Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book from 1961.  Color abounds!  So do valuable tips on lamp and picture placement, the sizes and shapes of chairs and clever room arrangements.  While I might not want to opt for some of the crazier retro ideas that were suggested, I am glad to be reminded that there is some science to a beautiful room.

But, let's get back to color...  Below are some illustrations from the above mentioned BHG Decorating Book.  I've always wanted to have just one or two rooms that I could decorate exactly like they would have been done in this time period, preferably a living room - the kind that's only used for "special" occasions.  I know, we are supposed to love rooms that looked lived in, and I do, for the most part.  But the idea of a room, always perfectly kept, serene, just the right temperature and without the distraction of TV and noise, sounds heavenly to me.  Of course, there's absolutely no chance of such a room being found in my own house where every inch of space is used almost constantly, but one can dream! 

Formal?  Absolutely.  Child-friendly?
Absolutely not.  But check out that
yellow couch and gold curtains!

To me, these kinds of rooms always seem to be in those large, immaculately kept ranch-style homes of the '50s and '60s, usually lived in by the older set with few, if any, little messy people to "rearrange" and "redecorate".  In fact, one such house that always sticks in my mind is the home of an elderly couple I knew of when I was very small.  They lived a few houses away from our own in Corvallis, and I was always welcomed there...  at least by Mrs. Smith (I can't remember their name, actually, so Mrs. Smith it will be).  Mr. Smith was quite a different story.  He was a smallish man that always wore a golf cap a la Bing Crosby.  In my mind he looks rather like Stanley Roper from Three's Company and was about as friendly.  Mr. Smith could almost always be found in the sunroom, which seemed to be the real living room of the house, watching television and reading the paper.  The only other place I saw him was in his perfectly kept backyard, spraying yellow roses and grimacing at me.  I can also vividly remember the cigarette lazily dangling from the corner of his mouth.  From time to time, I passed by their front room, which was just as I've described above - perfectly clean, perfectly cool and completely undisturbed by the process of living.  To me, during a rather unsettled childhood, it seemed like a haven.

I've never been able to achieve a room like this, but there's good reason for that, eight good reasons, actually.  However, I can imagine a time in my life when I might have that perfectly quiet place - "A place for everything and everything in its place..." - and might just want a little of that mess and noise back.

For now...  Enjoy a trip back in time to the colorful world of home decorating...

My favorite room of all in this lovely book...  Love those
green chairs and the blue and white sofa.  Actually,
there's not a single think I don't like.  I wonder if one
could recreate a room like this today?

Here I go with the blue again.  The arrangement
reminds me of the Green Room of the White House
for some reason.  Wouldn't this be a lovely
room to sit and read in?

OK, so it's a little stark...  if you can say that about any
room with chartreuse upholstery!  But it is awfully tidy,
and that can be a nice thing.

Does anyone use this color combination anymore?  And if not,
why?  This room looks bandbox fresh and has a warmly
charming look.  Even the dark grey walls don't seem...
well, dark.

I really like this rather autumnal room.  The grey and floral
chintz is unique and lovely.  Have you even noticed that
in those fabulous movies of the late 40's and 50's most
of the walls are grey?  Yet, the rooms never seem drab
because virtually every color looks good with this


  1. I had to laugh at the description of "Mr. Smith". I knew a man like this as well - a college professor actually - who was very proud of his "living" room and even prouder of the fact that when Christmas was over, he and his wife just took their perfectly decorated Christmas tree, put a bag over it and put it in the attic, "all ready for next year!".

    As for that tranquil, ideal room, playing "Mozart in the morning" would lend an air of elegance to just about any setting! (I'm partial to Mozart myself!)

  2. Thanks for your comment, Holly! I agree with you about Mozart, we have "Baroque at Bedtime" and "Back for Booklovers" as well. I love those collections.

    Keep reading and keep commenting!