A 1952 etiquette book with surprisingly relevant design tips

By Leigh Kamping-Carder  | November 4, 2014 - 3:59PM

The best design advice stands the test of time. Or so it seems from the Complete Book of Etiquette, a “guide to gracious living” published in 1952 and recently unearthed by Apartment Therapy. (The full text is available through the Internet Archive.) Sure, we’d skip the suggestion to incorporate all the primary colors into the decor scheme for the living room, but plenty of the rest of the pointers seem almost contemporary:

  • never let a professional decorator impose his style on yours, even if that means mounting an airplane propeller in the study of your “Sutton Place brownstone”
  • decorate slowly, letting the home grow on you, rather than furnishing every square inch at once
  • mix pieces from different time periods, like a contemporary sofa with an antique chair
  • don’t stress if the furniture hasn’t all been freshly upholstered; “genteel shabbiness” is not a sin

Most importantly, as the book itself puts it, “Do not be misled by the vagaries of fashion in decorating. A good room can remain exactly as it began for many, many years, with occasional necessary refurbishing.” Whether you stay put in the same place for many, many years? That’s a different question.


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