House and Garden in the early 60s

One of my obsessions? House and Garden Magazine in the 1960s. This is probably not the time to start rehearsing in detail the brilliance of the magazine’s fantastic editor, Robert Harling, who brought to it such extraordinary eclecticism, skill, knowledge, and breadth of understanding of traditional and contemporary design, typography, materials and the sheer, zany, rich complexity of the English Interior.

One of the most memorable days of my life, with my friend Maisie’s mum (whose aunt Phoebe was married to Robert Harling) was visiting their extraordinary house in Surrey for lunch one day, when I was about 25; a perfect pink-red Georgian Gothick rectory, filled with Ravilious and Bawden and Piper and remarkable furniture and decorations.

Anyway, perhaps because I’ve been thinking about my new flat recently, I’ve been leafing through some 1960s H&G to get in the mood; and in particular, some of the fantastic books they published alongside the magazine at the time.  A few images to tempt you. I’m not sure I’ve known anything more inspirational, have you?

Will someone please write the definitive history of House & Garden and Robert Harling? Please?! (Alan Powers are you reading this?).


Is this not one of the nicest rooms you have seen?  You can read about the owners, Hans and Elsbeth Juda, here.

I love the red wishbones (well, you might have guessed that). Although now I am stalking an olive green one too.

A typical classic double spread; black and white enriched by engravings and typography.

The Bannenbergs in Chelsea. Oh man. I’m now actually thinking about house plants for my new living room (and I never thought I’d write that).

A spread on Wedgwood – note the Ravilious Mugs in the middle…

A young Michael Heseltine at home (and another young Thatcherite politician, Kenneth Baker, on the right – weird)

‘Kitchens are also rooms’. Note the author. It’s good to see that Lord Rogers started with kitchens, like the rest of us!

and good to see that he’s been writing about the same themes since 1963 as well!

The following rooms are from the Book of Small Houses:

And the following from the Book of Interiors:

The Marquess of Bath at home. (that’s his hound, not the Marquess). I love this room. Where on earth do we get that chintz?

The Hornbys at Pusey House, Berkshire. Remind me, wasn’t Pusey for sale last year?

Oving House, decorated by Felix Harbord.

Wellingham House, Sussex, owned by Ian Askew. For some reason I thought this is an early room by Hicks & Parr, but they don’t get a mention in the text…

The Entrance Hall at Lee Place, Oxfordshire: English heaven. Seagrass squares: get yours here. If my shop existed for only one reason, it’s to create a national revival in seagrass square flooring. Brown furniture. Squashy olive green sofa. Early Georgian stone fireplace. White walls. A jar of daffodils.

The Queen Mother’s Castle of Mey. Another piece of heaven; austere comfort.

I love the primrose yellow armchairs and wine bottle green lampshades.

Do you not want the pink, grey and white rose chintz?

A sitting room by Olive Sullivan; are you getting the house plant vibe? A Gio Ponti rug, Ward and Austin chest, and Elizabethan portrait print.

Nancy Lancaster at Brook Street: more richly coloured than we’ve seen it elsewhere.

Mrs John Profumo in Regent’s Park.

Mr Profumo’s study. “A quick glance into Mr Profumo’s own study provokes the wish that more masculine, magisterial, ministerial rooms were half so attractive! The Pompeian rose walls, on which are hung collections of white seals and cameos mounted on a darker pink background, make  a mellow background for work and discussion. The curtains are in ochre yellow. Needless to say, the desk is large, and if you look carefully you will see a highly decorative as well as highly confidential red ministerial despatch box on it, doubtless often impelling the owner of this charming house away from the family circle to the chores inseparable from high office”…. The Profumo scandal hit the following year, 1963.

Architect Basil Spence in London,

And at Beaulieu.  I love the model ship and white boarded walls.

Grey, yellow and olive green in Mme Andrée Bessire’s sitting room in Paultons Square.

Totally cool.

Totally crazy.

Beautiful line drawings and typography.

The dining room from the House & Garden ‘House of Ideas’ 1957. When did a show home look this good? (We’re designing one for our development in Chichester at the moment… help!).

Such visual feasts make my own book feel a little inadequate. We talked about zany typography  and line drawings, but somehow it never happened. Grr… next time. Who could imagine that 50 years after they were published, these houses would look so new, so fresh, and give so much inspiration?

Anyway, I hope you were sitting down when you were reading this blog, with a nice calming cup of tea. When we’ve recovered, I’ll post some images from the Book of Conversions, and Holiday Houses. But those are for another day…

1 comment

Hello, it was lovely to read your blog, all those lovely 1960s interiors. My wife and I are about to move into a house built in 1964 designed by Fry, Drew and partners. The October 1964 edition of House and Garden featured the development. Although I have a scan of the article I am searching for a copy of the magazine it self. Do you or any one you know have a spare copy of this issue please? Thanks Ed

Ed Thompson

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