Retro Design Help

family room

Family Rooms, Dens, and Studios
Sunset Books

Are you a retro hipster writer looking for that special space to create the next great American novel? This book has lots of ideas for converting that corner, basement, or garage into your studio. Most of the ideas are for small offices. I counted no less than 10 pictures of typewriters artfully placed on neat desks. I am convinced no one really does actual work in these spaces; they just look too tidy and are created to make people like me feel bad for not staying better organized. But I digress.

While decorating is a matter of style, there is a function to specialty rooms that need to consider changes in technology. While the concept might be okay, modern offices – even home offices – have a completely different set up for modern technology. Where do we put the printer/fax? How about all the electrical requirements for modern tech? I don’t think an extension cord is the answer.


family room back cover

workout room


billiards room



  1. I am hypnotized by the “put your child in a windowless box stuck on the ceiling” design. I can’t stop staring at it. It’s like something you’d see on a biography of a serial killer. Or maybe a survivalist website.

  2. Please tell me this was not still in a general collection somewhere?
    These ‘Sunset’ books were great in their day, but that day is long over and said books should have been tossed a good 20 – 30 years ago!

  3. I’m terrified by the idea of an office in the hall! All it takes is a clumsy spouse or child or pet barrelling down the hall to knock the poor worker out of their chair and cause a bad accident. Not safe at all.

  4. “Sunny yellow color”? IT’S BROWN. It’s all brown.

    Sliding barn doors are something you’d see now, so that’s interesting. So is hiding your son in a crawlspace above the fireplace.

        1. Maybe earlier. The 70s were all brown, avocado green and harvest gold. Yick. I can’t remember what they called the brown. My apartment kitchen in the 70s was that awful brown.

    1. It was the fashion, like pinks and aquas in the 1950s. My mother was thrilled, since her favorite palette of mustard, orange, and brown became trendy. What are people in the future going to say about the greige gamut of oatmeal to dirt that is popular today?

  5. At my last apartment, I set up my desk, laptop, and bookshelf in my spare bedroom and called it the office. You know who used it more? My cat(her litter box was also in there).

  6. I can’t stand multi-level floors like that. We recently looked at a house built in 1980, single story, that had three different “floor” levels, not counting a raised breakfast nook at the back of the kitchen. All I could picture was children falling down the stairs constantly, or me getting drunk and falling down the stairs.

    1. It was trendy then — in the neighborhood where my mother lives in Florida, a lot of the houses have dangerous step-downs. Some of my mother’s friends have actually filled in the floors so that they are one level and safer for everyone, especially the elders who may be a little shaky on their feet.

      But how glamorous it was in those great old movies from the 30s and 40s! I always wondered what happened with the other floors — did they have lowered ceilings to match up with the sunken living rooms above?

  7. “Children love to dive off and roll down the seating area” Yes, but who would like to pay the ER bill?

  8. This is actually a valuable book in that it shows the evolution of color. As we all know, prior to about 100 years ago the world was black and white. Then sepia emerged. These images show multiple shades of brown. And now we have all the colors! 😉

  9. I remember when conversation pits were a thing. I bet that blurry projection TV was expensive back in the day. And SO MANY fake plants!

  10. I can see the parents thinking a family gym is a great way to bond with the kids every day. But I can’t see the kids using it with the parents beyond the first day, if that.

  11. My hallway really does have three sets of electrical outlets (convenient for vacuuming and the lamp I keep there), but it was built in ’06 when we had more of a need for that. I still don’t think I’d want to set up my office in the hallway, though.
    I had a regular babysitting gig in the ’90s with a family who had a room almost exactly like the one with the pool table in the picture. Their Tiffany lamp had the Budweiser logo made out of colored glass. I dreamed of one day having a room like that in my own house.

  12. I’m fairly certain the pool table on page 41 is currently in my basement, re-felted a mere 8 years ago….great to have it when tornado sirens go off. That thing ain’t movin’!

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