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Paul MacAlister and his famous Plan-A-Room vintage room planning kit

After I showed the proposed room layouts for my Mahalo Lounge, which I had drawn up using Powerpoint and Excel, I heard from reader Dan:

Your room planning method is so old fashioned! What you need is the exciting new Plan-a-Room Kit (Patent Paul McAlister Associates) that includes an acetate grid marked at 1′ = 1/2″ and an assortment of about 70 standard furniture pieces. Makes furniture arrangement fun and easy!

I have some photos of this fun little kit I think you would enjoy. I picked it up in a thrift store ages ago, and have never seen another one.

Thanks
Dan

Hi Dan,
The sad thing is, I probably have one of these somewhere. Sure. Send photos. Hey, can you make up the design for my room you like best????
 
Best, Pam
Dan replied tout suit:
Here is your Mahalo Lounge, rendered as well as possible within the limitations of Plan-a-Room.  Those numbers on each piece (handwritten) correspond to a grid in the box to show how to repack the set.
 
I’ve enjoyed your site for some time now.  I grew up in the era you celebrate, and it is such a pleasure to see a new generation developing an appreciation for  a time when folks really did seem to have more fun with their homes.  Keep up the good work!
 
Dan
Me back:
Oh my word — this is fantastic! I will surely feature it. Probably next week, though, as I am drip drip dripping out the Mahalo Lounge stories. Many thanks!!!

Now I need to look for one of these for myself! Best, Pam

Dan:

Delighted you enjoyed it. Best of luck with your project.

A Plan-A-Room Kit for sale on ebay right now!

But wait! Of course I went looking, and I see there’s a Plan-A-Room Kit for sale right now on ebay — I used one of these photos (not one of Dan’s) as the lead photo in this story. Seller antiquephoenix gave me permission to show more photos of >>the set he has for sale right now<<:

But wait, again! On Monday morning this week (a bit after my convo with Dan), as I was finalizing this story, I started searching for more information about Paul MacAlister. BOOM! The Google popped up with three Mint In Box complete sets from his estate for sale on ebay since I’d looked the last time, or maybe I was just searching using the wrong terms before. New Old Stock! From the estate of Paul MacAlister himself! I bought one. Then I bought them all. Then I also bought a bunch of sundial cards, also from his estate, different seller. All this, before 10 a.m. Monday. Monday! Don’t ask me what I am going to do with all this stuff. It’s for my Museum or maybe one for a giveaway one day soon. What do you think? A NOS Plan-a-Kit for a giveaway one day soon? Is anyone reading this far? 10 comments saying “Yes, A Giveaway, Pam! Yippee” and I’ll do it. 

Paul MacAlister – Interior Designer

Back to searching for more info about MacAlister. Seems he was a very interesting and creative person. He started out with excellent bona fides. He was the first at Yale University’s School of Architecture to receive a degree in Interior Design and Architecture.

But he also played a lot with miniatures. The most amazing MacAlister collectibles seem to be his full, miniature room sets — created for his TV show on WGN in Chicago. Yes, he had a TV show about interior design and home planning — the first in the nation. Apparently, for each episode he would make a new room set.

He seems to have made all the furniture in the rooms. After he died, there was a quantity of furniture that was sold as part of his estate. The seller of my Plan-A-Room sets sold a lot of it five years ago. Obviously, I am quite late to this party.

MacAlister also illustrated bookplates. There were the sundials. The biographical references also say he designed wallpaper and textiles. He wrote a book in 1954 (affiliate link). Super creative!

The Plan-A-Room kits were quite famous, it seems — used in some 1,500 schools and colleges nationwide as well as among decorators and designers. 

Thank you, Dan, for turning me on to Paul MacAlister and his legacy!

  1. kevin says:

    dont even bother with the giveaway…i’ll just send my address and slap the stamp on it!… (pleasee? maybe…?)

    cant blame me for trying!

  2. Alison says:

    Pam you have sent me down memory lane! My grandmother was an interior decorator back in St Joseph MO. She ran her business out of an old house from the 1870’s that had once housed the city museum. After the museum moved out, she rescued the house from Urban Renewal and restored it to it’s former glory when it was first built as a private residence. She had one of these kits and I spent many weekends playing with it for hours on end when we’d go to visit her. Loved the wooden furniture! It beats a doll house any day!

  3. Laurie says:

    I just found one of these sets while cleaning out my grandparents’ home. My grandfather was an architect. He graduated from Cornell in 1932. I wonder if he used it in class. I love having more information about it’s value, before I list it on ebay.

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