Other projects have taken priority over the blog the last few weeks. I finally bit the bullet and ripped out about half of our kitchen, including an inconveniently placed island. Obviously, I don’t generally like to get rid of old stuff, but early-80s kitchen units just don’t do it for me (plus the doors were hanging off in places). It’s also been my ‘little’ sister’s thirtieth birthday, a board game convention (where my role was solely babysitter – I have no patience when it comes to learning rules), prep for a new intern at work, and a very good course on writing research proposals that was held in the lovely English village of Great Missenden. Oh, and I’ve been trying to get to grips (not totally successfully, but it’s all alright now) with self-hosted WordPress for our work blog.
So thank you to Her Royal Highness for giving us an extra bank holiday. I am choosing to honour our head of state by still being in pyjamas at eleven in the morning and writing to you about late-1950s single-room living.
My now-husband and I spent our first few years of living together in an Edinburgh flat that was under 300 square feet in size. As Miss Minimalist shows, this can have definite advantages, but given that many of our friends lived in the traditional high-ceilinged, bay-windowed tenements found in parts of Edinburgh, we did often attract questions along the lines of ‘How do you do/bear it?’. After a while, we were fairly ruthless with de-cluttering, and my dad and I did spend some time planning the kitchen area and bathroom to fit in what we needed, but otherwise it was just a case of cramming regular furniture into a small space.
From reading Beryl Conway Cross’ Better Home Making (George Newnes Limited, London, c. 1960), it looks like modest living spaces were common in post-war Britain: there’s a whole section on single-room living (plus another on making a caravan your permanent home). Low housing stocks seem to have bred a pragmatic, imaginative approach, and I love this two-page spread on the Bachelor (“girl or man!”) Flat:
I particularly like the desk-stroke-dressing table, and the linen shelf that slides under the bed (not shown but described).
I also like this use of a room divider:
I have no idea whether anyone actually put plans like this into practice or whether, like IKEA’s storage innovations, it was a nice idea that required a little too much commitment to realise. Still, it’s a living situation many young married couples would have managed. (I remember someone once telling me that her parents thought themselves very lucky to have two rooms to live in when they started their married life in the UK in the 1950s.)
I suspect I wasn’t the only kid who had a bit of a thing for concealed beds, day beds and bed settees, so I’ve enjoyed these pictures of space-saving sleeping areas too:
I started this post talking about ripping out part of our kitchen. In terms of a replacement, we’ve gone for some freestanding IKEA units which are sturdy, easy to install (no installation) and which blend with the rest of the existing units until we’ve time and money to finish the job. However, I did explore how realistic and affordable it would be to install something like the English Rose fitted kitchen. I decided that we’ve neither the time nor the money right now for the metal restoration that would be required, but it still seems like a good reason for a picture of what looks decidedly like an English Rose kitchen:
Enjoy the rest of your Jubilee Tuesday! I’ll try and return to the postcard series soon.