Furnishing a house, 1960s style

dinner set

The dinner set I won in a magazine competition.

A magazine clipping tumbles from a November 1964 letter from England to my parents. It’s the picture of a dinner service I won in a menu-planning competition. Looking at the geometric pattern on the dishes, I realize that the way we furnished the row house we bought that year has many elements of what is now recognized as a distinctive 1960s aesthetic: bold shapes and strong colors.

"Armada" fabric

Barkcloth fabric “Armada” designed by Nicola Wood for Heals. Image found on www.ebay.co.uk

Having limited funds, Tony and I refurbished or made many pieces of furniture. The dining table he made was a heavy white plastic-veneered slab with straight, varnished wood legs. He built, and I upholstered, a sofa and side chairs with squared-off, simple lines, a copy of a set we particularly liked, but whose price was prohibitive. I made all the curtains from fabric purchased at Heal’s of London, the store that carried the trendiest of household furnishings. I wrote:

8 August 1964

The sitting room curtains are quite magnificent – deep orange flame colour, with a pattern called “Armada,” the formalised ships’ hulls giving the impression of a dark horizontal stripe.

A shag (another 1960s design element) area rug that matched the curtain’s colors helped warm up the coldness of the room. After battling the developer over the house’s color scheme, we had compromised on gray vinyl tile floor and plain white walls. In the kitchen and dining area, we covered the white with a geometric wallpaper. A photograph reveals more geometrics: the gray and white kitchen curtains, the cups and saucers on the counter.

Kitchen at Harcourt Close

Kitchen at Harcourt Close. Photo by Tony Eppstein

We still have one platter from that dinner service I won. A few other items, mainly metal, have survived the years. A pewter jug purchased on board ship during our emigration from New Zealand to England still sits on our kitchen windowsill. To the right of the dinner service picture, behind a porcupine of cheese chunks on skewers, are familiar objects: salt and pepper shakers just like the ones we still use every day. I guess we, like these furnishings, can all be labeled “vintage.”

pewter jug

Pewter jug by Royal Holland Pewter. Purchased in 1962. Photo by Tony Eppstein.

9 Responses to “Furnishing a house, 1960s style”

  • Kate:

    I see that even “way back when,” you had exquisite style.

  • I remember the China I chose as a nineteen-year-old bride in 1955. I thought it the height of glamor–deep aqua border, white center, grayish stylized flowers in the center. I grew to hate the stuff, and passed the set along to a (hopefully) grateful niece.
    Love this piece.

  • Josephine:

    I’m sure your style would be seen as up to the minute today. I have ended up as the family “conservator” of all my mothers China including a full set of. A Noritake dinner set from the 70s which isn’t fashionable but gives me great pleasure from the memories of family and especially of my mother. It’s actually quite stylish and she was very proud of a set she could afford to buy once all us children had left home.

  • Jenny Woolf:

    Very stylish, I like soe of the square looking furniture of that period very much!

  • Nona:

    Charming piece, Maureen, and it prompted my own memory surges of sewing orange burlap curtains for an apartment in Berkeley and knotting macrame plant holders for a flat in Melbourne. How clever of you to have picked pieces so classic you still have (and want!) them around. Thanks for a pleasant trip down Memory Lane.

  • Joan Hansen:

    I possess older than vintage stuff since as a younger woman I enjoyed antiques of a sort.. You and Tony are a creative pair and I am sure you always had a lovely home. My generation was so different, because we started with very little and made do as we went along. Today the youngsters want everything to start and have no patience to wait. I enjoy your blogs.

  • Judi:

    I recognize and love the dinner service the pewter jug and the salt and pepper shakers. I agree that the “armada” pillow cover in blue is perfect for the futon

  • How lovely to have proof that you picked materials, colors, and design elements that have stood the test of time! Call them “vintage” if you like–I prefer “classic” or “timeless.” Such fun to read this as we decide what stays and what goes in our current surge of redecorating! Wish us luck!

  • Alice Richards:


    I find that fads and design trends come around full circle after a few decades.
    I relate to the simple design and bold colors of the sixties and paintings of Kindinsky,Hoffman,Clifford Still,Wayne Thiebaud etc.their designs are still relatavent to this day.
    Happy Memories!


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