A new coffee table book showcasing a cool and kicky collection of 1960’s images from House & Garden magazine’s archives is far removed from the interiors of my childhood.
House & Garden: Sixties House by Catriona Gray (Conran, RRP £30)
With pictures of Britt Ekland’s Mayfair pad and a foreward by Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki, Catriona’s Gray’s new book, Sixties House, is required reading for anyone drawn to this decade of counter culture.
Of course we are all familiar with the old adage ‘if you can remember the Sixties you probably weren’t there’. Well I wish my memories of 1960s interiors would vanish into a psychedelic haze, but alas I can recall the precise details of rhubarb coloured candlewick bedspreads, scratchy fibreglass curtains and fitted carpets with patterns that looked like a flashback from a bad acid trip.
Growing up in Inverness, the closest I got to the 60’s style of Catriona’s book, was a Fablon covered coffee table with splayed legs. Fablon I hear the under 50s ask? Let’s just say that if you can remember where you were when JFK was assassinated then you’re old enough to know that Fablon is a self-adhesive home improvement product and not 1960’s beat combo.
Back then, it was a real life kitchen sink drama when these sticky-backed plastic decorative sheets were used to cover kitchen splashbacks, worktops, shelves, tables and even doors to add colour and pattern. My young uncle (a Jet Harris lookalike) took it the next level by pimping the dashboard of his Mini Traveller in monochrome marble effect Fablon.
This scene from the 1960 movie Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with Albert Finney and Shirley Anne Field jiving the night away, shows a parlour that is poised for modern makeover.
This Blue Peter approach to home decorating was a breath of fresh air in the post-war austerity kitchen as it was cheaper than Formica and didn’t require the services of a joiner. You could even colour co-ordinate it with your kitchen cabinet and the off-cuts were ideal for covering school text books.
Fablon was its commercial name, and just as Fray Bentos was shorthand for corned beef, so any kind of adhesive patterned plastic was referred to as Fablon; except by Valerie Singleton who made copious use of it for doll’s house interiors and sewing boxes but was banned from mentioning the brand name on the Beeb.
This democratic decorating device was freely available from ironmongers and Woolworths, and in our brand new ‘electric flat’ no surface was safe from this Elsie Tanner School of interior design aesthetic. Visit www.vinylwarehouse.co.uk or www.homebase.co.uk for of-the-moment Fablon and much more.
It when I saw John Lennon lounging in his sunken bed in The Beatles movie Help! that I knew that a more sophisticated alternative existed.So all credit to Catriona for curating these 1960’s images from House & Garden magazine featuring homes on the right side of groovy.
You can marvel at the Martini modern metallic PVC shutters in Mary Quant’s Chelsea flat, and salivate over Britt Ekland’s floor-to- ceiling louvered door dressing room in the Mayfair apartment she shared with Peter Sellers. No doubt both properties came with parking space for a Mini Cooper.
Here’s some images from the book.
All images courtesy The Condé Nast Publications Ltd.
A triptych of framed prints is the crowning glory of this trippy 1969 dining zone where purple wallpaper reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s velvet flares, and acid green lino provide a colourful punch to the whiter shade of pale kitchen units.
This 1969 table covered in brightly coloured Spanish tiles from Casa Pupo is emblematic of the trend for ceramics during the Sixties, be it rustic tiles for kitchen splashbacks or bathroom walls. Visit zazzle.co.uk for original tiles.
STOP PRESS As I write this, I’ve just received a press release heralding a candlewick comeback; help ma boab, it’ll be Avocado bidets next. But this reimagined range of tufted accessories by Studio Anna Gravelle are tastefully executed in a kaleidoscope of hot colours. Candlewick Storm stools (£550, urban living interiors.co.uk).