Vintage “Easy Steps To Successful Decorating” Book

Yesterday I visited a favorite nearby thrift store. Past trips have yielded a lovely French vintage tea towel and a nice green McCoy pottery planter. This time my eye spied a decorating book with a tattered but intriguing cover. For a laugh I picked it up. After one minute of flipping pages I went from “this is a crazy thing” to “I MUST OWN THIS”.

The book is “Easy Steps to Successful Decorating” by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Yes, the best selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, of A Woman of Substance fame. Before she wrote The Emma Harte Saga she was apparently an expert on interior design. She is quite lovely and well composed on the cover as you can see:

"Easy Steps to Successful Decorating" book cover (1971)

Nothing says “trust me to drape your room in fabric” like the old hand on chin pose. The book was published in 1971 and while that misses the clean looks of mid century modern, it does fit exactly into the swinging, psychedelic remnants of the late 1960s. There was just so much going on in design during this time. Nothing was too much and everything could be paisley.

If you dream of living like Austin Powers I cannot express how much you need to own this book. It is full of  practical advice on everything from choosing floor coverings, to wallpapers, to room plans that help you place your glass coffee tables and giant wicker chairs. There are numerous black and white, as well as full (and I mean FULL) colour photographs. Ms Bradford writes well (as you would expect from her success) and true to the book’s byline she explains all the details to achieve similar looks.

Let’s take a gander at some of the photographs shall we? If you feel like tripping out at any point just look away from your monitor until you calm down.

Yellow and White wallpapered Bedroom 1971

This is a bedroom. For sleeping. If you manage to even find your bed you will be in a position to stare up at the odd concentric rectangles. Sweet dreams!

White carpeted 1971 Kitchen

This is how I know people did drugs in the 60s – they put carpeting in the kitchen. Carpeting that looked like ferns. Grab a bowl of fruit from your tiny round island that features and even tinier round sink. Water your many plants. Can you possibly fit more lattice work into your ceiling?

Groovy Living Room with stripes (1971)

The sofa in this photograph is easy prey for stronger furniture. It must blend into its surroundings to survive. It distracts you from itself with zebra print pillows and short tables that are hard to reach from a seated position.

Green and Orange Retro Living Room (1971)

I think this is a living room but it also has a dining room feel. Lots of seating options (none of them comfortable). I am actually quite enamored with that cheetah statue, and the combination of green, gold and brown reminds me of my Vernonware dishes.

Far out Vintage Living room with tented ceiling (1971)

I get a Roman Emporer by way of Liberace vibe from this room and it is MAGNIFICENT. Everything in this room is crazy. There is no sane. Sanity cannot exist in the space that uses tenting as wall cover.

By this point I hope some of you are saying  “but what about the children?” Oh don’t worry. The kids were not left out of the design ideas. They have their own section of the book which features amazing examples like this:

1971 Child's bedroom

Imagine if your child was hyperactive before they went into their room to play.

"Teenage Haven" Bedroom from 1971

This is described as a “teenage haven”. It is not an adult film set. Do not be fooled by the sunken living room area or the fake chinchilla bed spreads. Is that an ash tray on the table? Yeah. Nothing inappropriate will happen here.

So there is a lot more to this book but you get the idea. It’s choke full of the crazy, or the retro vintage goodness (depending on your tastes). While I may not typically go for the geometric, eye confusing prints of 40 years ago, I will say that some of them beat the heck out of beige. And I will be keeping an eye out for one of those large plaster cheetahs. That cat would look so groovy in my living room.

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