Welcome again to Back Issues, a summer series wherein Curbed raids the blissfully robust archives of House Beautiful, the grande dame of American decorating magazines, and retrieves the best bits of bygone decor. Have an old issue in the attic you'd like to share? Whip out the scanner and please, hit up the tipline.
While the editorial content of decades-old magazines is often unbelievable in and of itself—the utmost flower power of 1970s, the kid-friendly bars of the 1930s, and the uncompromising color-coordination of the 1950s, to list a few—it's hard not to get a little side-tracked by the print advertisements of old, particularly when they're so complete absurd. "Gleaming" asbestos? Check. Pink sheep? Yep. Wall-to-wall carpet in the bathroom? Why not? Cigarettes for weight management? Well, duh. Below, a collection of the silliest print ads from the annals of House Beautiful. Do have a look.
? What, exactly, is fancy beautiful? Perhaps it's a carpet that's "sculptured" to "make any room look like the Taj Mahal." Perhaps it's when textiles are "dyed to colors that span the spectrum and then some." Or—and let's hope this is the case—the phrase is synonymous with regal-looking sheep absolutely rocking head-to-hoof fuchsia.
? "So deep, it's almost intellectual." (Sept. 1973)
? "Ah, yes. Everything has gone according to plan. Two coffees all for myself. The bed's made with militaristic precision, and yet, I am still in it. I've got a cloth napkin that matches my bed linens. BWAHAHAHA." (Aug. 1973)
? Finally! All our prayers have been answered! Our bathrooms can be covered in wall-to-wall, peacock-colored carpeting! It is the End of the Naked Bathroom, indeed. We've been wondering when someone was going to cover that all up. (Aug. 1973)
? Ah, the days when Asbestos fiber was known only for its ability to transform the "grease and smoke-stained walls of yesterday" into "a bower of beauty and pleasure to the particular housewife." (Feb. 1929)
? Um. Yeah. This is just weird. (May 1937)
? Take it away, effusive ad copy! "There is a charming legend which relates how, when Time was young, Arolus, god of winds, blew upon the rainbow and colored all the world. Just so the skillful colorists of Mohawk take the wools destined for Mohawk looms and with their brilliant dyes work their tonal wonders, preparing a breath of living color for your home. (Feb. 1929)
? And you thought your standing mixer was too much to fit into your home. "Each unit is complete in itself—may be used alone or in a unit combination, installed in recess or set against the wall." Color options? "Cactus Green, Travertine Ivory, Pastel Green, Dove Gray, Shasta White." (March 1929)
? Ooh la la. Is that linoleum, Margaret? Aren't the "patterns so rich and lovely"? Don't you just "marvel at their smartness"? Don't you just "want them for every room in the home"? Don't they just "laugh at dust and dirt"? (March 1929)
? Not sure what's funnier: the fact that Lucky snagged super famous composer George Gershwin to be an endorser, the fact that cigarettes are being branded as an appetite suppressant—"I just smoke a Lucky whenever I crave over-rich pastries which fatten"—or the realization that it was not, as the first-ever episode of Mad Men would have us all believe, a 1960s Don Draper-type who came up with the catchphrase "It's toasted." (March 1929)
· All Back Issues posts [Curbed National]