(Good?) Housekeeping

decorating cover

The Good Housekeeping Complete Guide to Traditional American Decorating
Good Housekeeping

Submitter: This book came in on a hold.  Published in 1979, our records show that it’s been out 14 times since 2002 and it’s one of two copies in our system.  I think it should be weeded. Lol.

Holly: They never end, do they?  These decorating books from the 70s are generally just taking up space in our collections.  This one is a little different only because it puts the word “traditional” in the title.  At least they’re not trying to be modern.  They’re trying to be traditional.  Still, the information in the book is dated, like a section on new technology that makes synthetic flooring look like natural flooring.  I guess that WAS new in 1979.  Now it’s pretty standard and information about it wouldn’t be worded that way.

I just moved into a new house and painted over a hideous lavender wall.  I mean, to each their own, so if you like the way these traditional American rooms look, knock yourself out.  The next people to live in your house will do what they like.

This book is only relevant if you have an excessive amount of shelf space, if it doesn’t smell like 1979, and if 14 circulations in 9 years is reasonable for your collection objectives.  That’s not a bad statistic in my library!  The question is, are people checking it out because there are no other options or because they’re really interested in the subject?  …And if they’re just interested, give them something newer on the subject.

patterned room



  1. Ug. Dark wood paneling. One thing from the ’70s I hate. Always had to turn all the lights on to get enough light to read by. It was such a blessing when I convinced dad to paint my paneled walls white.

    My current room is a really light lilac purple, with a white ceiling. I’ve added a couple of pictures recently. One of Elvis Presley and one of Gene Kelly from Singin’ In The Rain. Still cannot find an 8×11 or 9×5 of Buddy Holly nor Glenn Miller, however. 🙁

  2. That green room reminds me of my bedroom when we moved in – wallpaper on the ceiling? And everything coordinated so it was hard to tell where the door began and the wall ended. At night, it was nearly impossible…

  3. I for one would check out any of the older decorating books because that is how I want my home to look. Old full of vintagey goodiness. I still say there is a market for people like me so i don’t think libraries who do have the space should be so quick to get rid of it.

  4. I just withdrew a 2003 style book. I thought it was too out of date, man this one has that one beat.

  5. I do have to say that retro styles are in. And don’t forget people who are into vintage stuff. For instance, I collect vintage pressed glass. All the furniture and lamps in our home come from thrift and antique stores.

    Not saying all these things in this book are good ideas. I hate dark wooden paneling and the polka dots make me ill. But I’m sure someone can get some ideas from this book that they like by combining the elements they like and not copying the rooms exactly.

  6. This isn’t that bad. If you have a 70’s era traditional style home, you might be interested in this. It’s certainly not at the level of James Lilek’s “Interior Desecrations.”

  7. Where I live, many homes are old and decorated in historic/vintage fashion. I could see keeping this book
    if you have a small community library where the area and homes are historic in nature and people are
    looking for ideas. Otherwise, if you are short on space you may want to weed. A dining room set like the one pictured, was “stolen” for 70.00 at our historical society’s country auction last week.

  8. Too much panel in one room, too much calico wallpaper in another. If they were mixed together it would be OK.

    I want a loft like that!

    Quilt for a tablecloth? What about washing it? Is it an antique being misused, or new (and horribly expensive in 1979) or the product of your own hands? In no case does it seem suitable for a tablecloth.

  9. I liked the breakfast nook, too. The other pictures strike me as fairly ghastly, but that one’s not bad.

  10. I have a 1971 split level with 8′ ceilings and small windows. Books like these give me insight: what were they thinking? What looked good then? What still looks good? What will always look good? From these pictures: a loaf of bread – warm, welcoming, looks good, classic. Sold!

  11. First of all, darken room as much as possible using dark furnishings, wallpaper, flooring and panelling. Then block any remaining light that might chance to stray in by covering windows with un-openable curtains and large potted plants. Lastly, fill every available spot of the already too-cramped space with folksy Americana so you can’t sneeze without knocking over a Bicentennial mason jar or some candle shaped like an apple pie.

  12. Ah, yes, the dark rooms… the carpet you could twirl around your fingers and hold on to…. says something about those parties we had back then, doesn’t it?

  13. Dark wood paneling. Avocado-green appliances. Over-watered Boston ferns dangling in every corner. Ersatz Keane paintings in every child’s room. Seals & Crofts gently emitting from the hi-fi. Bookshelves stuffed with the works of Robert Pirsig and Richard Bach.

    Wall-to-wall shag carpeting.

    You can save your stories about three tours in ‘Nam, fella! I survived a childhood — in Southern California — during the 1970s!!!

    For those of you unable to grasp the atrocity, James Lileks has cataloged the horrors quite well:
    Behold: Interior Desecrations.

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