Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In the last year or so (especially) I've began to amass a veritable library of vintage home decorating and gardening books. I cannot resist them. The fact that there is not a single book shelf (they're on Anth's to do list, I want them built out of ply btw) in our house is no deterrent.

I read these books like novels - they're way more interesting to me than the interior decorating mags I used to have a seriously bad addiction to. It's the same stuff anyway. Many of the happening interiors in today's magazines could've come straight from the pages of old faded books like these. "Everything old is new again"

I've got them from most era's from the late 40's onwards, and I always find something(s) to copy/covet in each of them.

Yesterday I scored a perfect copy of Babette Hayes's, Design for Living in Australia, which was published in 1978 (some of you would swoon over the homes in this one - I'll share soon) for two bucks. Today I picked up a 1980's Sunset Book, Decorating with Indoor Plants, which is equally awesome in its own way.

Today though, it's all about this one:

published in 1957

(thanks Mrs E.J. Kaleka - her name is written beautifully, inside)

The editors (that's what they call themselves)

"feel certain that you will grow in your skill and appreciation of the art of flower arranging"

Down the track I'm going to have a go at some of their suggestions and how-to's (I'll share pics), but right now, I just have to say, that I am loving that ashtray on the cover (even though I am not a smoker!)

each chapter has gorgeous little drawings like this one...

Anyway, too many words from me. Here are some pretty ideas for spring (remember we're talking 1957...)

"invite spring to come early"

"what's more springlike than a few branches of rosy, flowering crab in a bright blue bowl?"

"create a spring landscape with branches of lilac, violets, and a bluebird"

"trailing branches to grace the fireplace mantle"

"colour of china pattern is echoed in flowers for table"

"generous bouquet from a few tulips plus long branches"

It's safe too say that I would've been an absolute flop as a 50's house wife - despite the addition of a small (very small!) chapter called "Arrange These in Just Three Minutes" (yeah right, I bet that's just like the sixty minute sewing patterns that take me half a day - to cut out!) Nice of them to think of people like me though...

There's some wondeful modernist interiors (and floral arrangements) in this book too - "modern seeks bold and daring effects" I'll show you those another time.

Thanks for reading x

  p.s. In the spirit of retro/vintage home-making, Donna and I are organising a big retro cook-off. We'd really love you to pop on your aprons and join us. More details soon. 


  1. Wow, what a lot of trailing branches. I guess some of these arrangements are perfect for when you're sat opposite a guest who chews with their mouth open. Mind you, every time I've tried to bring blossom into the house it's dropped off almost immediately and been a total fail, I wonder where I was going wrong?

    Retro cook off sounds fun.

  2. Count me in the retro cook off! I love these books too, so I look forward to all the things you have tempted me for later! Indoor plants first please, I need more ideas!
    Maybe a floral display for the table in the retro food shoot?

  3. They are interesting arrangements, aren't they, quite sparse and trailing. I'm a just plonk 'em in a vase type of flower arranger! That little illustration is so pretty.
    Looking forward to seeing what emerges from your retro kitchen next, Kylie - will it be pink?! xxxx

  4. Hey! I'm in for a retro-cook-off. Can it be on a weekend? Actually, it could be any time, I'll just do it on the weekend.

    There's a theme in those arrangements ... dangly, sticky-out bits. I love those old Home Interiors books as well. They are spot-on and smashing.

    Love your posts. As per usual.

  5. You have to love a bit of ikebana in your cabana. It's funny how those houses are so very vogue again although the cook books can be hit or miss.
    The retro cook off sounds a hoot! I'll iron my apron in readiness!

  6. I loved the flower arrangements of the 50s and 60s. My great-aunt owned a florist shop, and my grandmother worked there with her. They turned out some of the most lovely arrangements that looked just like the ones in your pictures. I love looking through those old books too!

  7. Those trailing branches were all the rage. Quite sculptural, really. Count me in for the cook off. My GC retro pineapple cookbook is crying out to me...! xx

  8. So, I love flower arranging. Some years ago I took SEVERAL classes on flower arranging and purchased numerous books. And, I like buying vintage vases, in order to give flower arrangements as hostess gifts. I enjoyed seeing these pictures a lot of 50's flower arrangements and what the styles were. It has never OCCURRED to me to start collecting vintage decorating books (hand smacking forehead). What a good idea!

  9. My mum has a huge collection of those type of books gathering dust in her library, can't say I've even flicked through them.
    A cook-off sounds fun, count me in :)

  10. [sigh] - the lack of shelves.

    yes, everything comes back. isn't that a reassurance?

    what's this retro cook-up all about? can i be a silent observer? will youse make me hungry for it? [kitchenless as i still am, but there's perhaps light at the end of a certain tunnel.]