Design Time Capsule: Organizing Ideas from 1964

Design Time Capsule: Organizing Ideas from 1964

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Carolyn Purnell
Feb 3, 2015
(Image credit: McCall's Decorating Book)

Good advice rarely goes out of style, and home decor is no exception. This month we've been talking about organization and freeing our homes from both mental and material clutter, but this problem is not one new to the 2010s. Here are some insights (and colorful images) that I gathered from McCall's Decorating Book, which was published in 1964.

Above: This bookshelf is elegantly styled, but even if it weren't, it would offer a great organization tip. The possibility of closing the doors means that you can keep much-needed items close at hand, even if they aren't the most attractive, or if you're more concerned with maximizing space than with having a beautiful arrangement. A skirted side table also offers extra hidden storage space. Keeping spare blankets, a magazine rack, or board games underneath would mean that items are easy to access without taking up visual space.

(Image credit: McCall's Decorating Book)

This kitchen hutch offers some unique storage options. Pots and small dishes hang from the back of the hutch, much like they would on a pegboard surface, and on on side of the hutch, the stylist has forgone the hutch's shorter shelves to include a tall wine rack. The asymmetry is appealing, while also offering storage appropriate to the needs of the dining room. Often-used items like wine glasses, salt and pepper grinders, and a crock of cooking utensils are easy-to-reach on the lower shelves.

(Image credit: McCall's Decorating Book)

This room shows that organizing doesn't necessarily mean hiding all your stuff. A sculptural brass caddy keeps magazines near to the sofa, where they will presumably be read, and a chest stands in for a side table, meaning that there's plenty of extra storage space. (Although, you would probably keep seasonal or less-used items there since the surface is being used.) I love the idea of adding a small shelf above a side table for extra storage. Here, it looks layered, almost seeming like a second-tier of the table or like an additional piece of art, and yet it's really practical, with a storage box that could hold remotes, more accessories, and a candle for ambient lighting.

(Image credit: McCall's Decorating Book)

This armoire keeps all kinds of items hidden, but the real inspiration is from the peek we get inside. Specially designed cubbies keep vinyl records separated (and, given how heavy they are, they are near the bottom), a pull-out drawer keeps the player handy, and bookshelves offer storage for books and other items. I appreciate that the shelf above the record player was left partially empty. While a record is on, there is a place to store the sleeve, and there's a surface to use while re-filing music. Since there's been a resurgence in vinyl use, this idea can be easily adapted as is, but even if you don't have a record player, consider this as an option, perhaps for gaming systems, other music systems, or just as inspiration for using dividers, shelves, and drawers to their utmost.

(Image credit: McCall's Decorating Book)

I'm in love with this bold bathroom, and it's a really smart use of space. A clothes hamper is built into the cabinetry, keeping laundry out sight, but near at hand. A shelf above the bathtub also abuts the sink and keeps towels and other necessary items at the ready. A sculptural towel rack doubles as wall art, and a built-in vanity allows plenty of space for getting ready in the morning. Many of the ideas here are built-ins, but you can adapt them to your own use. Think of ideal hamper placement, towel storage, and grooming stations according to where their related tasks take place. If your kids have a tendency to throw their clothes in a corner, put the hamper there. If you want to use fresh towels more often, keep them near the shower. If you have a tendency to hog one area of the counter with toiletries, then turn it into a designated area and use trays, jars, and baskets to keep everything organized.

(Image credit: McCall's Decorating Book)

This "behind-closed doors" media station is a perfect idea for keeping cables, equipment, and media hidden. If you have a spare cubby that would work for such a purpose, think about adding a door or a panel. It opens and closes easily, changing the mood and use of the room in an instant. If you don't have a space like this, depending on how often you use your media equipment, you might want to consider a decorative screen or a curtain. This won't make sense if your living room is primarily used as a TV room, but if you tend to use your TV infrequently, then covering it with something more attractive can be refreshing.

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