Wednesday, 9 November 2016
The 1948 Ideal Home
My other bookshop find, a Dover book of recreations of adverts from 1920s Sears catalogues is less 'wow', but still incredibly interesting.
The Daily Mail* started the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1908, with mock-ups of houses, where everything in the rooms could be purchased. The Exhibition quickly evolved into one that didn't just promote style, but introduced new homewares too – the electric kettle in 1920 and microwave oven in 1947 among them. While it wasn't run from 1940 to 1946 owing to the Second World War, the war couldn't defeat it and the exhibition was back by the end of the 1940s.
I was fascinated by adverts like the one below for what came to be known as 'prefabs'; homes prebuilt in sections at a factory and set up quickly on site. The book also has an advert for 'Cornish Unit' prefabs, another style with two stories. Prefabs were built in their thousands between the war and the early 1950s. Nowadays very few remain and a number are Listed by English Heritage. It's striking to see one being advertised as something innovative and highly desirable.
Just look at this Ford car advert: the car is up-to-the-minute, but the house is a few hundred years old. It's not the only car advert in the book, and the one for the Standard Vanguard ("For export only during 1948" - Britain was too poor to keep the things it made, they had to be sold overseas) also shows the car in question outside a genuinely old timber-framed house.
I do love the colour plates in the book. They give a real feel for fashionable colour schemes of the period. And what an appetite for colour there seems to have been: white kitchen units with apple-green trim painted bright pink inside, striped upholstery, usually in a bright colour plus white ("Stripes are the last word in chic where furnishing is concerned."), fabrics with very large-scale prints or woven patterns (such as in the image from a Rosebank Fabrics advert further up the page)... but not wallpaper. Not even an advert for wallpaper. Everything from prefabs to Kenwood food mixers to Max Factor Colour Harmony makeup is advertised in the book, but not wallpaper. I guess rationing was still having an impact there.
*I'm not linking to them.