Welcome again to Back Issues, a summer series wherein Curbed raids the blissfully robust archives of House Beautiful, the grand 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.
In the immortal opening words of House Beautiful's 1973 small spaces issue: "Space—more precious than rubies. Small space—the most precious of all." To fête this year's issue, "The Magic of Small Spaces," now on the newsstands, here's a direct comparison to the photos and copy from the same issue 40 years ago—you know, back in the days when the utmost of stylishness involved Marimekko pianos and "sapphire cut velvet." Perhaps unsurprisingly—and particularly with the micro-home craze these days—the fundamentals of small-space decor have withstood the test of time, despite the fact that 40 years has utterly transmutated how those fundamentals translate into actual rooms. Both issues tout the powers of pattern and mirrored walls. Both issues drench their pages in jewel tones and lush (read: lacquered, silvered, zebra printed) finishes. Ah, but only one issue boasts a deep-seated sectional with moss fringe—any guesses which?
Using pattern in 2013:
? "Whittaker gutted the kitchen, replacing the dark cabinetry and terra-cotta tiles with white cupboards and carrara marble. 'The room now feels twice as big,' she says. The rose cumming Zebrine wallpaper is in the client's favorite color: navy. the slim white table provides extra counter space and doubles as a breakfast nook ? 'When you're working with a small apartment, why not make the kitchen feel like another decorated room?'"
Using pattern in 1973:
? It's no revelation that 1970s decor is a bit crazy-go-nuts when it comes to pattern. More proof, this way.
Decorating a tiny living space in 2013:
? "'The furnishings evoke the Art Deco period, but this apartment is not a period piece,' [designer Philip] Gorrivan says. He designed a deepseated sectional upholstered in Rubelli's Superwong and trimmed with Houlès's moss fringe." See? Fire engine red and fringe is still around!
Decorating a tiny living space in 1973:
? "A mix of piquant, spicy tones flavors this small 10 by 13-foot guestroom/upstairs sitting room ... The key to spacemaking here, [designer Thomas A.] Blaser's organizaiton of furnishings around the convertible sofa."
Using mirror in 2013:
? "Antiqued mirror, hand cut in an emerald shape and inlaid with brass, visually doubles the width of the entry. A silver-leafed ceiling enhances the light. Maxime Old designed the console in the 1930s."
Using "a ravishment of mirror" in 1973:
? "And a toast now (in a Baccarat goblet) to the charming and gracious tight-squeeze style of '70s dining." "In this jewel-like dining alcove at one end of the living room of a Manhattan apartment, designer Renny Saltzman enlarged the space with a ravishment of mirror. Counterpoint to the glitter of mirrored walls and contemporary crystal and silver, the bright colors and heavy textures of a Navajo rug, and green leather chairs."
Bedroom decor in 2013:
? Ah ha! Orange velvet! See, there's a little touch of '70s, even now.
Bedroom decor in 1973:
? "Take a low-ceilinged room that measures 10 by 14 feet, think bold stripes only and then leave all the rest to Designer Angelo Donghia's imaginative eye. Walls are in carnelian red and floors lacquered a pastel shade and then stenciled with an American Indian geometric pattern to set off this bedroom's scheme."
Using color in 2013:
? "'Every room has its own piece of jewelry,' Gorrivan says. The Hervé Van der Straeten mirror is like a brooch, accenting the dining area in this Manhattan living room."
Using color in 1973:
? "One approach, shown here, dramatizes a 9 by 12-foot sitting room with a memorable use of color and whimsy. Owner-designers Ron Seff and Kuhn Coldwell glazed the walls malachite green, added malachite mottling with a felt-tip pen, opened up the ceiling with a painted sky, made the room a green unity."
Small-scale dining in 2013:
? "Subtly striped walls add charm to a narrow space, and the cohesive palette makes the small area seem larger."
Small-scale dining in 1973:
? "White trellis work on a blue background sets the garden mood and, used in this framing effect, lends a sense of distance to the white glass curtains beneath the hydrangea-patterned tieback glass-topped table and four curvy chairs, which enhance the visual spatial flow. Cozy exotica warms and strengthens the room above—in its everyday guise as a young New York couple's den and in its part-time appearance as a dining room for four. The visual excitement comes from a melange of Indian patterns, these set off by sunlight-filtering tortoise-shell bamboo blinds."
1973 Bonus Lightning Round!:
? "To extend the space upward, decorators Zajac and Callahan composed the room around underscored period pieces, set against a background of architecturally heightening Art Deco wallpaper, with prints hung low on one side of the fireplace for eye appeal."
? "Blue does it. A cool, retreating color, whether as bright as a jewel or subtly muted, it functions beautifully to open up a tiny area. The proof: the ultra-blue four by six-foot entrance hall in the New York apartment of Designer Robert Metzger (far left). Walls emphasized in a radiant sapphire cut velvet abut architectural trim painted to match."
? "Subtle tints of pastels amplify the fresh, open look of a small city bedroom. The scheme for enlarging? A generous use of sheets for walls, bed and at windows. The prints, adaptations of the stylized motifs of African art, are the creations of the Bedford Stuyvesant Design Works."
· A Small Manhattan Apartment With Surprising, Vibrant Colors [House Beautiful]
· A Small, Bold, and Stylish Apartment in New York City [House Beautiful]
· A Sunny and Small Georgetown Row House [House Beautiful]
· All Back Issues posts [Curbed National]
· All 1970s posts [Curbed National]