Wednesday, 30 March 2016

One hundred years of one house in Well Hall part 9........... bold new designs and a bit of Formica

This is the continuing story of one house in Well Hall Road and of the people who lived there including our family.*

I have yet to know who was living in our house in the 1950s, but I often wonder what they would have made of the new household designs which were featured in Woman’s Own for January 12 1956.

Of course they may never have taken the magazine but they would not have escaped the exciting new ideas for transforming their early 20th century house into one which fitted with the 1950s.

Looking at them today they seem quite ordinary and just a little old fashioned but back then they were at the cutting edge of all that was new and innovative.

The basic designs were all there two decades earlier but were way out of reach of most working people.

But by the mid 50s that was changing.

It was partly as a result of the growing prosperity, along with new mass produced materials like plastic and Formica and the ever present offer of hire purchase, which meant for a “few pounds down and the rest over easy instalments” bits of the new life could be pretty much within the reach of every one.

All of which marks the 1950s off as more of a mould breaker than perhaps “the swinging 60s.”

Here were bold new colours, exciting fabrics and designs which relegated the old heavy furniture many peoples’ dreams to a place in a museum along with the odd dinosaur and other ancient relics.

And along with all these were those sheets of hardboard, which were cheap and could be applied to everything from period doors to the space in front of ripped out fireplaces.

For a few bob you could obliterate the beautiful features around doors create flat level spaces and add wonders to the fitted kitchens.

In 294 the master bedroom had lost its fire place and in its place a gigantic headboard with drop down drawers and a reddish swirly affect which I thought was the pinnacle of modern design.

But then I was only 14.

Sadly the DIYers responsible had also managed to take out the other upstairs fire places leaving just one small fine cast iron one downstairs.

Now it is pointless to rail against this vandalism.

At the time it seemed new and different and after six years of a bitter and hard war along with the preceding period of grim austerity all this was what we deserved.

And I have to admit I mounted similar attacks in the 1970s on good taste pulling out old features which gave the house its authentic feel and covering the walls with wood chip.

All of which means that I would have been no better in 1956, but just maybe now I might have cherished what was already there and just added the odd new idea.

Location;Well Hall, Eltham, London

Pictures; from Woman's Own, January 12 1956

*One hundred years of one house on Well Hall Road,

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