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Australian House and Garden, 1965.

1960s House and Garden

I hoard printed material. I love it all. I have a Kindle for reading fiction, but I like my magazines, graphic novels, and art and design books. I have several collections going of useless little bits of ephemera — postcards, public transport tickets, low-denomination bills from other countries. (I even made a deck of cards out of discarded cigarette labels.) If it’s a piece of paper with ink on it and it looks cool, I want it.

Recently, I picked up two vintage Australian shelter magazines: an issue of Home Beautiful from March 1964, and a House and Garden from October 1965. Look at the richness of that cover image! It’s too perfect to exist. It’s no such place. It’s utopia.

I’ve done some reading on the post-war suburban boom in Australia, and they’re very similar to the quintessential American suburbs. During this period, Australian society changed significantly and so did the dwellings that people lived in. The population swelled and diversified, and the dream of having your own house on your own little parcel of land became attainable for the masses. This 1964 issue of Home Beautiful is aimed at the rising middle-class; it features a lengthy article about what to look for in a brand-new tract home, along with ads for modern synthetics like wall-to-wall carpet and vinyl flooring.

There’s groundbreaking mid-century architecture to drool over, to be sure, but I find these modest, everyday homes fascinating.

It’s neat to see which styles endure and which ones don’t. This lounge actually reminds me of our old apartment, which was built in the late 60s. It had ceiling beams and brick walls, though it didn’t look as nice as this — and it certainly didn’t open up onto a cute terrace! This place looks so cozy and homey, and the furniture would be bang on-trend right now.

Most of these lights look like they could still be in production.

Two small images for my inspiration folder: simple saddle stools at the kitchen counter, and this mid-century brick fireplace column. I feel like our own living room could use an architectural feature like that.

Oh wow, I really want this “Danish Storage Wall.” It may be a flat-pack, low-end piece of furniture (“burnieboard” is just branded masonite) but it looks so dang stylish. Come live in my kitchen and serve us drinks.

Not every decorating idea is timeless, though. I’m sure that someone, somewhere, totally killed it with their gold-and-chartreuse wallpapered ceiling, but I look at this and I can’t help thinking, that’s a lot of look.

Two things that have been around in Australia for at least 50 years: long stainless-steel sinks and power outlets with switches.

These sinks are still the standard in most kitchens I’ve seen. I’m neutral on them, as the basins aren’t very wide and they’re only six inches deep, but they’re certainly long-lasting. As for the power switches, they still aren’t common on US outlets, so it surprised me that they’ve been the standard over here for 50 years. That’s awesome.

I’m sharing this ad because of its mixture of elements. A bold geometric composition, photos of the woodgrain textures, and a slick little pen drawing in the middle. The sixties!

This carport design is utilitarian – it is just a carport, after all – but the row of ceiling light fixtures and the flowerbeds make such a difference. I hadn’t thought about doing anything to our carport, but this plan is making me consider adding more plants all of a sudden.

The Australian take on mid-century modern reminds me of southern California (and, I guess, the desert) more than anything.

It doesn’t surprise me that Australian homes and gardens share similarities with those in California, especially since there’s a great deal in overlap between climates (desert, Mediterranean, temperate/coastal) and the same environmental concerns. When I’ve done research on potential garden plants, I’ve found that a lot of recommendations for northern Californian gardens apply to Tasmania. Same with the Pacific Northwest. Basically I’m treating southern California as a spiritual middle ground between the two places I call home.

That’s all, so I’ll just end this here with a cat and a toilet tank.


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