From sketch to advertisement: Louisa Kostich Cowan’s 1954 bedroom design

louisa cowan designHere’s a before-and-after of a different stripe: Up top, the original rendering for a 1954 Armstrong Flooring advertisement by Armstrong’s Louisa Kostich Cowan. And just below it: The rendering as it was actually built out and featured in publications. Hey — I spy George Nelson Bubble Lamp Pendants — don’t forget to enter our giveaway for one, contest ends tomorrow [Thursday, Aug. 27.]

louisa-cowanAbove: This photo of Louisa Kostich Cowan’s rendering was taken by Al Reist of Reist Auctioneers, who ran the Cowan estate sale auction this summer. I connected with him, and he gave permission for us to feature it here. I had such a lovely talk with him about these drawings — like all of us, he was mesmerized.

mid century modern bedroomAbove: This photo is taken from a very large image in my personal collection. So interesting, how Armstrong decided to keep the basic design, but changed up the palette. I will guess: Armstrong may have already had the orange lounge chairs, so to economize they reversed some things. Or perhaps, they decided to address other colors they were marketing this year? In any case: Such a beautiful bedroom!

  1. RAnderson says:

    Yes the commercial stuff is as good as anything from “back in the day”. We put Armstrong commercial sheet vinyl (not tiles) in a small light green random pebble-ly pattern, in our bathroom 10 years ago. We were looking for something to go with the mint green and black tiles in the main bathroom of our 1955 modest ranch. It’s the kind of stuff put at the entrances of stores, banks, etc. and it’s solid, that is, the pattern goes all the way through. Expensive, but it’s a small room, so the overall cost was not huge. Even with animals, kids, and not the greatest maintenance, it still looks as good as the day it was put down. Highly recommended!

  2. We’re in the flooring business. It’s true, they don’t make ’em like they used to. If you buy your flooring from the big box stores, you can pretty much count on that. Flooring that looks the same and even has the same name is often a lower grade. The quality of the installation also matters, as well as the subfloor. With that being said, you CAN get good quality flooring that will last you until you are sick of it if you pay. You really do get what you pay for. Flooring companies do make good quality vinyl. Check out the higher grades of vinyl plank. Some of these are a lot nicer even than the laminate. In fact, I don’t like laminate at all. I have vinyl plank in my mud room because my husband got them leftover from a job otherwise I never would have picked them. We live on a farm so it gets a lot of traffic. It has held up great and it always looks great. I was shocked. In my kitchen I put in commercial VCT. It might have been AZRock brand; I’m not sure. Cream and what I call Depression-green. Wanted a 1940s look. It is fabulous. I do wax it. But that’s what we did in the old days too. There was a lot of upkeep you had to do on the floors in the old days that we don’t expect anymore. The VCT doesn’t look like it’s ever going to wear out. For a nice midcentury look, think about commercial cork flooring. Again, installation is important. It needs many coats of finish on it.

    1. Birgitte says:

      Thank you for great advice. I will for sure look into getting it from a commercial place instead of big box. We have access to professional buffing machines etc. so the upkeep is no problem.

      What about Marmoleum tiles for commercial use? Any experience?

  3. Birgitte says:

    Okay, I have a question. I love the look of the Armstrong flooring, but how is the quality of it today versus the amazing indestructibility it used to have? A long-time local business replaced original lino tile (lasted 35 years) with AZRock lino tile and it does not look that great 5 years later, even with professional cleaning and buffing.

    Is the Armstrong quality the same?

    1. pam kueber says:

      Birgitte, I do not know. The VCT tiles seem pretty darn indestructible. The sheet: I tend to think that if you want indestructibility, look to their commercial lines.

      I bet these have some sort of rating to assess, as well.

    2. Jay says:

      Regarding the vinyl roll floor goods, the quality is not the same – it’s lighter with less layers of lamination. The flooring guy that came to provide an estimate for kitchen flooring 13 years ago loooked at the existing Armstrong floor, then approx. 30 yrs old and said the stuff never wore out, people would get tired of looking at it, their tastes would change and it got ripped out. I must admit it looked way better for its age then my now 13 year old floor which still looks ok but is showing scrapes and small gouges (normal wear and tear, not abuse).
      Pam, you might be able to atttest to this, but I think vinyl sheeting and tile flooring has taken a back seat to ceramic, wood and laminate planks which today are seen as more lux then plain vinyl flooring – go figure.

      1. pam kueber says:

        Yes, that old stuff seems like it was virtually indestructible and yes, you’d get plain sick of it before it wore out.

        That said, I still think there are likely standards in the marketing materials of these manufacturers to assess durability — and that going straight to look at the commercial lines is the way to go. For example, whenever I go to my orthopediac’s office (broken arm anniversary was this month!) I ogle the floors — they look great and look like they will last a long long time.

      2. Birgitte says:

        Thanks, that helps and is what I suspected. I have old VCT flooring in my kitchen, but I am not a fan of the colonial blue (looks depressing in a tiny kitchen), however it is a high traffic area and I don’t want to spend big bucks on new VCT if it is going to crack after a few years.

        Like I said, the local business put down commercial VCT from AZRock only 5 years ago and it is about ready to be replaced already. So yeah, something must have changed.

        1. pam kueber says:

          Wow. My VCT tiles from Azrock are still in amazing shape. THey look pretty much like the day they went in. I do polish them…

          1. Birgitte says:

            🙂 It may be the subfloor or the amount of moisture it gets (we get flash floods from time to time here in the desert). Or it’s just because it is really high traffic. The floor in that business gets waxed and buffed once a week.

            Our kitchen is the only way to get to the back door etc so it is really high traffic. The current floor has been installed a while (50s? 60s?) and in one spot is showing wear and cracks. If your kitchen is not a “hallway” it will probably be fine for years.

  4. Jay says:

    I like the “after” more for its bolder and more forceful appearance (no gender implied) probably because I like the green flooring (carpet?) and the dark blue/green head wall which really allows the bubble lamps to stand out. It’s interesting to see how the ad progressed from the concept sketch to the final presentation. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kathy in San Leandro says:

      I don’t think that’s carpet — her gold metallic mules are reflecting on the shiny linoleum.

      I prefer the original sketch. The muddy aqua is dreary compared to the vibrant turquoise. And I love those mosaic panels!

  5. Robin, NV says:

    Too bad they didn’t keep the multi-colored panels on either side of the window. The “after” is just a little too dreary without them, IMO.

  6. Steve H says:

    I’m intrigued by the design of the headboard/divider with integral nightstands. I wonder what’s on the other side? Maybe a vanity? I can see this providing a lot of design inspiration for an open studio type of space.

    1. Carol says:

      There is a chair behind the wall, so maybe a dressing area? I saw a photo of a bedroom once and it had a wall like that with the bed in front of it. There was a window wall with built in cabinets underneath that ran the length of the left side. The opening for the headboard wall was by this wall of windows. It was the closet! Pure genius for an elderly person in a wheelchair or walker. The closet is hidden, easily accessible with no visible doors and large enough for a dressing area. If I build again, that’s my closet!

  7. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Pamela, if you get a low-profile platform bed (mine is from IKEA), you will have trouble getting sheets. Most new sheet sets are made to accommodate the huge mattresses (18″) everyone seems to think they need today, whereas our mattress is a comfortable 8″ one. We have one sheet set left over from our former camp trailer, which also had a low-profile mattress in a platform bed, and we have one incomplete set I bought on Etsy. Finally, and this is a tip for all people with this or a similar problem, I found a great company, HardToFindSheets.Com. The fitted sheets are expensive, but you can get one bottom sheet in white or ecru and coordinate it with your other top sheets, new or vintage.

  8. Pamela H. says:

    The design is so timeless! I see similar styling ideas like this on many decorating sites. Love the low profile bed – have actually been looking for something like this online, but constructed of solid wood. I never gave thought to using the bubble pendant lamps in a bedroom setting – they really look stunning there!

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