Looking at the interiors of homes is the most problematic area of looking back at eras. There are a number of reasons for this which I will soon discuss. Fortunately for us, one of the easiest eras to spot from the inside is the 1950s. The neon pastel colors, the double beds for the master bedroom, the blond furniture in the main rooms, the linoleum in the kitchen, the entirely ceramic bathroom, the small refrigerator and the ubiquitous opaque, to the floor, print drapes.
I think our memories are still pretty good from that point forward as we moved through different phases of our housing lives. But here's what's problematic about housing decor. People differ substantially as to their aims on interior decor. For some people this is a major artistic statement about themselves. Thus, the way the house looks is very much a statement they are making about themselves and their taste. There are more women than men in this group. The other group is focused on comfort and ease. They don't care all that much how it looks although they may be just as clean. What they really care about is how they feel when they are using their living space. The more relaxed they feel, the more content they are. There are more men than women in this group.
There are hybrids as well who reach some compromise between the two poles, especially if they are married and have opposite aims. The first group remains up to the minute on decor but the second group is almost impossible to tell the passage of time by their decor unless you study their gadgets. This is because they rarely if ever toss out anything which makes them comfortable. The English are much, much worse about this than we are. Holding onto furniture which is just about falling apart all around you is almost a sacred trust to them, with the upper class being the worst.
We had neighbors decades ago who were both on the same page as to their decor aims. The two of them spent all of their free time redecorating their home. They also did major conversions of the kitchen, deck, pool, and other features. It took them several years to achieve their aims. They held a party upon completing their work and everyone loved what they had done to the house. Six months later they filed for divorce. I spoke to the woman and she told me they discovered when they were done fixing the house that they had nothing else in common. Having been raised in the real estate business, this was not that strange for me to hear. Housing, just like aging creams, is often seen by people as hope in a bottle (ad men's phrase), that their lives will be perfect if they can only have the perfect skin or the perfect house or fill in the blank. All successful salespeople know they are not selling just skin cream or shelter. They are selling hope.
So decor alone has to be one of the worst ways of telling an era unless you know that the owner is one of those into making artistic statements au courant. Many other people are not going to change much for decade upon decade. Some of these people also had parents just like them. Thus our interior collages above, about our growing up eras, may not have been in the second group's houses. Indeed, their parents could have been holding onto furniture for decades before the 1950s and then passed it on to them! So, everything else we've examined in earlier blog entries is a better indicator of an era than interior decor.
However, even the biggest Life of Riley comfort type does not class his or her gadgets with furniture. So looking at their gadgets is a much more reliable way of telling an era.
There is one gadget that has been with us Baby Boomers from the beginning and I consider it the Holy Grail of gadgets for most Americans. This is the tv set. I have two collages of tvs. This first one is pre 2000, going right back to the first tv set. The smaller the visual area in proportion to its cabinet, the older the set.
Computers have only been in the home for a few decades but they look completely different as time marches on. The more computers and mobile devices a family has, the easier it is to date their era. Apple has always led in distinctive design so let's look at Apple computers from the start to present day.
This is Apple in the 21st Century. It has gotten more and more mobile and with more and more screen space. Many of the devices have virtual keypads so no space is lost. If you buy Apple, it is unlikely that you have only one of these products or that your children and grandchildren do. Thus, walking into your house is a time line from one room to the next.
Phones changed a great deal as well with perhaps myself as the biggest lamenter of this development. If I could keep every other computer device I own but phones could go backward to being like in an earlier era, I would be blissful. However, it may be people's behavior on phones which really annoys me, not the phones themselves. I suppose we could thus add on here that one could chart the change in eras by the levels of obnoxious behavior which grew apace with having a mobile phone which fit in your hand and worked everywhere. Phones today are really computers which is why I also show the iPhone with the Apple products.
Appliances and fixtures in houses are also good indicators. Generally, they too have gotten smaller but more powerful. The photo shows today's pod coffee maker next to a 1970s Mr. Coffee and an early microwave from the late 1960s to a present day microwave oven. Gadgets also are becoming more ecology oriented and thus more efficient. Those who value their comfort over their interior decor artistic statement are usually the first in line to improve their appliance and fixture comfort. They can afford it since they don't buy furniture! I was just reading this week that the huge bath tubs in modern homes may be on their way out as they are very water wasteful. Other new water gadgets will be offered instead.
Just like cars had to change substantially for the fuel crisis (and they are nowhere changed enough) so too one fixture and appliance after another will be used in replacement in housing interior decors. There are some severe droughts occurring in the West so expect there to be many ecology water oriented fixtures and gadgets for homes there. This does mirror what we saw in clothing which was likewise designed anew for the changing roles in society.
As for our younger people, your children and grandchildren, they cannot be carting around heavy furniture with them as they are expected to lead increasingly pick up and go lives at their own expense, not some company's expense. There is one word that covers their needs completely: Ikea.
There is an Ikea app for iPad and iPhone. Go to the App store to download it for free.