Vintage Kroehler “Do It Yourself Decorating Aid” — spin the wheels, design your room

When readers uploaded 249 photos of their vintage art and wall decor this past weekend, I became very excited (and agitated — greedy) when I saw this big set of Kohler Do It Yourself Decorating Aids that Michael won at an auction. He now has these displayed in his rumpus room. The story on these seems to be: Homeowners considering buying a set of furniture could use these in the store to “dial” a design and color. There are dial-a-designs for small, medium and large rooms. Wow. These must have cost a fortune to produce. I asked Michael how much he paid, and I am not sure he wants me to say. He sure scored a wonderful treasure — these need to go to a museum someday! Read on for more info plus more of Michael’s photos. Thank you xoxo Michael! –>

Michael writes:

Hi Pam,

Here are MANY different pics of the salesman’s kit.

I bought the kit at a local estate auction. The green wooden case contains 8 decorating boards (22″ x 27″) and 6 blank furniture arrangement/placement graphs(?). Each of the boards presents a different “predominating color”: sage green, turquoise, beige, black-charcoal, rose to red, toast, brown, and gold. There are 3 different room sizes presented: small, medium and large. Each board has a different style of sofa and 3 or 4 “dials” that can be turned to reveal two different styles of accent chairs (a squared off arm chair and a rounded “shell” back chair) in some of the eight Kroehler colors. The kit is dated 1958 on the case itself and all materials.

I did a very cursory search for information about Sterling McDonald and Adele Whitfield.

McDonald apparently was a Chicago industrial designer and President and Director of the Institute of Interior Decoration; Whitfield was a “decorator and color stylist,” also based in Chicago.

I have mounted four of the boards above our Kroehler “turquoise” sectional (more of a spruce blue/green in my opinion), leaving others in the kit against a wall. Guests love to have a look at them and choose a favorite color combination. The tag on the sofa lists Kroehler manufacturing plants in Montreal and Stratford, ON. Stratford is about 45 minutes from where we live (and probably why this kit was found locally).

I’m just glad someone else thinks it’s as cool as I do! Thanks for your interest.

Take care,

Amazing. Thank you, Michael, you lucky and hard-working-shopping duck! Super duper extra cool that you have a Kroehler sofa. The Retro Decorating Gods definitely delivered this find unto Just You.

My archive of wonderful oddities — “woddities” — from midcentury America just grows and grows! See them all by clicking here. 


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  1. Annie B. says

    Oh my mercy! What treasures you have, Michael. Who cares what you paid for them – they’re worth every penny, as far as my opinion goes. What a true “woddity”. If they were mine, I’d probably wear them out “playing house”.

    That’s one amazing sofa and cocktail table, too.

  2. RangerSmith says

    OMG that sofa is amazing! Very sharp of Michael to display those decorating aids on the wall, I would have never thought to do that.

  3. says

    Those are SO cool!! And how fabulous to display them on the wall. These posts are seriously making me itch to paint our walls so we can finally start decorating the house.

  4. Thomas says

    How interesting that these were posted just two days after I picked up a 1958 Kroehler sofa and matching chair…..

  5. Michael says

    It’s so much fun when others share your enthusiasm for an unsual vintage find! I remember when I first saw the kit at the viewing session for the auction (tucked in the back beside a dresser); my heart skipped a beat- I just thought it was so cool.

    Although I had no idea what I would do with it, I was really hoping my $110 absentee bid would be enough to purchase it (I couldn’t stay for the sale). Needless to say, I was very happy to learn the next day that it was mine for $50 (plus a 15% buyer’s premium).

    The Kroehler sofa actually found me a couple of months later (through an online ad), and at the time I purchased it I didn’t even know what it was. It was a vintage sectional and the right colour, so that was all I cared about!

    The boards are really cheerful in the space and a great conversation starter. I’ll often hang out downstairs listening to the hi-fi, marking essays (I’m a high school English teacher) or working on a vintage Edna Looney Christmas ornament kit (another obsession), and sometimes I’ll “spin the wheels” and change up the accent chairs to whatever suits my mood at the moment…

  6. Chutti says

    These are fabulously cool. Beyond cool.
    And may I say I am pleased that you still “play” with them???
    Unique and valuable as they are, it is great that you are actually enjoying them.

    Like others, I would be playing house with them too. Neat-o!

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Allen says

    These decorating tools are very cool. But when I saw the room and how they were displayed I was quite amazed. The room made me say WOW in a gasping sort of way. Great job Michael and what a wonderful place to grade papers. Don’t ever take it for granted!!

  8. Rick says

    Those are really a super find (and acquisition)! Great hanging graphics; what DID you do to hang them? Congratulations; super looking room!

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