The Mad Men ad men were very busy gearing up both the set design and … enthusiastic models … in my 12 Hotpoint kitchens from a 1961 hardware store calendar. At first glance these scenes all appear a bit silly. But thinking more about “why”, I remember that, through most of the 1950s, advertising images were mostly illustrations  — not photographs. Toward the end of the 50s, magazines started switching to photography. When I went to that Al Parker exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum exhibit two years ago, I learned all about it. I recall that the change had a lot to do with printing technology (register? plates? I forget.). So, imagine: If these had been illustrations, they would have seemed idyllic, idealized. But as photos, the realism gets in the way, and the representations seem stagey, silly even, instead. I sense a definite shift under way, as art directors try to figure out how to move from the “old look” to the “new look.”

Staging aside, the kitchens are fabulous, don’t you agree? Looking at the first, blue kitchen, I have the opportunity to mention: I like louver doors. I also like how the brown of the ceiling beams is continued in the wall color… and look at the wood floor, nice. In our knotty pine example, above, the brick veneer walls are fabulous, and hey, turquoise appliances look good with knotty pine, don’t they? Boom. Pow.

What the heck are these two lovelies doing? Oh: Sewing. See the machine behind the woman in the little black dress. Rejuvenation: No need to replicate the clown-nose cabinet pulls, thank you very much.  Oh my, the valances — imagine the dust and the grease, and the little bobber-doodles decorating the table — why? That said, the color composition here is lovely, the fridge is integrated nicely into the drywall, that oven and stovetop look pretty great, and look, those are windows flanking the sink, overlooking the city skyline where the redhead is planning her night on the town. Note: All of these images also have been loaded into the 1960s kitchens, bathrooms and more gallery, where you can see them 1200 pixels wide. Batch #2 of our 1961 Hotpoint calendar kitchens tomorrow.

  1. Arcalus Bo says:

    These images are remarkably similar to the genre-defining illustrations (worked up from photgraphs) in the late-1940s and early-1950s Youngstown Kitchen catalogs and ads – so they are more than a decade behind the times in that respect. I’ll be writing about one of these images in the next A Page from History feature in Old-House Journal. You can see more of these Youngstown images on American Vintage Home’s Flickr page here:
    But be sure to come back to Retro Renovation!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Yes, Bo, that is what I was saying in my post: That the 1961 Hotpoint photos look very much like the illustrations in the decade prior — although the poses are in ’61 are much more cheeky.

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