Hundred-year-old Interior Decorating “Rules”

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, October 8, 1914: <no entry>

Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1914)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I’ll share some “rules” there were  in the October, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal about how to decorate rooms:

There are certain general rules that govern the furnishing of every room in the house, whether it be living-room, dining-room, or bedroom that is under consideration.

  1. Beginning with the floor, see that the covering for this is of a slightly darker color than that selected for walls.
  1. The colors used for your wall, of course, depend upon the amount of light admitted to the room and also upon the exposure. For a south light, which is in itself warm, choose cool colors, light greens and blues; on the other hand, for a north light select warm colors like tones of yellow and red.
  1. Do not use a decidedly figured paper in the same room that you used figured draperies. Figured draperies should be used only with plain paper.
  1. When your paper is figured, be careful not to put too many small pictures on your walls or the effect will be spotty.


28 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Interior Decorating “Rules”

    1. Probably. . . though I’m not sure whether people think about whether a room is on the sunny side of a house when selecting colors. . . .and it seems like fewer people have wallpaper any more.

    1. It is amazing–though I was saddened when I recently heard that Ladies Home Journal is struggling and shifting to a quarterly publication. According to Wikipedia:

      It was the first American magazine to reach 1 million subscribers in 1903 On April 24, 2014, Meredith announced it would stop publishing the magazine as a monthly with the July issue, stating it was “transitioning Ladies’ Home Journal to a special interest publication”. It will now be available quarterly on newsstands only, though its website remains in operation.

  1. I’m not much for rules, but I’m with the “Journal” when it comes to patterned wallpaper and patterned drapes. It’s the home decorating version of “don’t wear stripes with plaid”!

  2. My mother followed all the rules and now some of her things and her methods grace our own home.Thank you for helping me to relive my mothers home and how it relates to ours.

    1. You’re comment makes me think about how we incorporate items from the homes of our parents and other relatives into our homes over the years. It is a way of remembering them, but the items also become a part of our own stories.

  3. I’m sure some of the rules made sense at the time, but if applied today they would seem slightly boring. There is so much more flexibility today in decorating – just as there is in fashion clothing.

  4. I like the dresser, but the comfort of that chair probably leaves something to be desired.
    Just what exactly is Grandma DOING that she doesn’t have time to write???

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