KEEPING AHEAD of the JONSES (Mar, 1941)

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ONE sure sign of spring is that annual urge to “do something” about the house and furniture.

Perhaps it’s because we stay at home more in the cold season and get a bit tired of looking at the same walls, floors and furnishings. Whatever the reason, the recent growing demand for change in the home has stimulated the invention and manufacture of more and different furnishings, gadgets and building materials than ever. Hundreds of these innovations will be found in your favorite department store, furniture showroom or building supply house this spring with possibly one exception, and this exception is likely to produce the greatest change of all in the home when it is ready for market.

The research experts of one of the greatest electrical corporations in the world are perfecting a newly patented method of turning glass bricks, such as home owners are now installing as walls for brightening up hallways and foyers, into electric lights. The use of spot illumination by electric bulbs will start to vanish from the modern homes. The very walls which make interior lighting necessary will provide it. In daytime by glass walls admitting sunrays. At night by the flip of a switch lighting up walls themselves.

Illumination may be made dim or bright, as desired. Pleasing combinations of soft colors may be made at will.

The glass bricks will be hollow with the air pumped out and an ionizable gas such as neon, argon, xenon or mercury vapor substituted at low pressure. Thin metal plates will be imbedded in the mortar to serve as electrodes. Fluorescent paint in the mortar or on the surface of the glass will give a luminous glow and diffuse the lights throughout the wall.

Ultraviolet lights will turn any room into a health-giving solarium and the home can be made germproof by rays already used for the purpose.

The use of luminescent material in carpets and floor paints, already on the market, will permit the floors themselves to help light the room, cutting current costs. Ceilings, pictures and even furniture can be made to glow.

The window, as we know it, will no longer be necessary, since its principal functions, supplying light and air, can be supplanted by the new glass bricks and air-conditioning equipment.

Another revolutionary illumination control device, so small it can be hidden away under a couch or on a shelf, will be on the market this spring. Using the photoelectric cell, it turns on the lights in dark hallways, staircase wells and corners as evening shadows fall, and turns them off again early in the morning. Circuits can be so arranged that lights on the dark side of the room will flash on at dusk and those near windows will remain off.

Fluorescent tubes, which have been favored for permanent wall fixtures, will appear this spring in a great variety of portable lamps.

Making attics into bedrooms, and cellars into playrooms will get a new impetus from manufacturers of wallboards. These materials now not only come in curved surfaces, making rounded corners and artistic niches simple, but in reversible color combinations with different hues on each side and the color material built in, not painted on. Surface problems of wallboards have been solved so they will take wallpaper, paint, calcimine or enamel. Gypsum layers make some fireproof. Plywood, now bound together with plastics, is stronger than natural wood, and the finishes are more uniform.

Automobile slip-cover material is being applied like wallpaper or with zippers or buttons, on living and bedroom walls, because of durability and the pleasing effects of the fine, woven stripes. Leather is finding favor as wall covering in better-class homes, particularly in libraries, where it harmonizes with bookbindings, and in powder rooms, where it gives the whole room the effect of a cosmetics case. Cork layers on the walls and floors of children’s playrooms deaden noise and lessen the danger of a hard bump from a fall.

Folding walls are being used to cut portions of living rooms with kitchenettes, bedrooms with studio couches, and alcoves. Some of these extending walls are masked with heavy textile material when pulled out. When pushed in, the concealing cloth looks like drapes.

One recently designed living room has a nicely finished, glass-paneled wall which turns out to be a garage door. When a button is pressed, the door slowly rises and vanishes into the ceiling and the family can walk right into the garage, get into the car and drive off.

Windows are being converted into doors by replacing the wall below them with two sections on hinges. A sawed-down door can be used. This gives the family a new, around-the-corner entrance and exit to porch or terrace. When the hinged section is closed the window is still a window. It’s called a “jib window.”

Slanted glass roofs are being installed on porches, and curtains of running water are permitted to flow across, shading and cooling the porches while providing a restful atmosphere. The water is collected in drains at the roof’s edge and pumped back to the highest point to flow down again.

Wall switchplates have not only blossomed out in hundreds of hues to match wall finishes, but they come with a variety of outlets for radio power, ground and antenna connections as well as lamps in the same plate. A tiny masked lamp may be thrust into a switch plug, faintly lighting the floor of a hallway.

Two new window devices make washing easy. In one, the window is divided into six panes top and bottom. One pane in the bottom section slides up so the arm may be thrust outside. The other type has a sash within a sash in the top section and the interior sash can be pivoted, again leaving the arm room to reach out.

Venetian blinds have come down from the luxury level and may be bought for two dollars a window, made of heavy cardboard, reinforced with wood strips. They can be washed and neither rain nor sun will harm their finish. Tape which holds the slats need not be replaced when soiled. New decorated tapes come with clips to fasten over old tapes.

Furniture is feeling the urge toward change. A modernistic end table, shaped like a U laid sideways, can be used to hold a typewriter for a writer who prefers the ease of an upholstered armchair. What appears to be a graceful desk becomes a sewing machine when opened. Tables fold into the walls of tiny, city apartments.

Natural wood and novelty finishes are being photographed upon furniture surfaces. Covering picture frames, lamp shades, wastebaskets and table tops with textiles zippered on is becoming a fad. The number and variety of tables, chairs, window seats, divans and cabinets which can be whisked into beds at night is growing steadily.

In the bedrooms, doors are wallpapered to increase the apparent size of the room, closet shelves are lined with quilting and leather, and window draperies are looped through rings on each top corner so that one piece of material covers both sides of a window and hangs gracefully across the top. Curtain rods are made in zigzag sections so curtains will fall into pleats.

In the kitchen, tables can be hooked onto the sink when in use and folded up for concealment in wall or cabinet. Electric dishwashers on wheels can be rolled from sink to closet. Garbage receptacles made of waterproof paper can be discarded; foot pedals open and close them. New stoves have control panels as elaborate as autos.

A two-foot rubber clothesline with rustproof hooks stretches eight feet when desired. A new mending tape can be ironed onto a torn sheet where it hardly shows. Plastic shelf edging can be wiped clean and lasts indefinitely. Kitchen doors are glass paneled to eliminate dangerous collisions.

A circular food bar has been devised for large kitchens so most operations like mixing, kneading, toasting and percolating may be done without taking more than a step or two. It is also arranged so that dad can cook his breakfast when the family is away without moving from a swivel chair on rollers. The ingredients and cooking equipment for his breakfast read from left to right around the circle.

In the bathroom, shower hooks come in bright-colored plastics. Wide edges on bathtubs make comfortable seats while dressing. Clay is replacing iron as bathtub material and it has a glasslike finish. A new cabinet contains a heating element to keep the room warm in the winter and to dry out wet towels and washrags. In the summer it is a storage receptacle for linens. Bathroom linen closets have glass doors and plastic index tabs for shelves so that the number of sheets, towels, etc., on hand may be determined at a glance.

Shower curtains are coming equipped with little chromium-plated magnets which, attached to the bottom are attracted to the tub, thus holding the wet curtain away from the body. And to cap it all, the new bathtubs come snugly covered in overcoats of scuffproof, acidproof and waterproof material so that they cannot be damaged in delivery. After installation, the overcoat peels off and there is the new tub, sparkling and clean without a scratch.

Indeed, the revolutionary spirit of change will be knocking at everyone’s door this spring.

1 comment
  1. Neil Russell says: March 13, 20086:27 am

    That guy pumping the insulation is most likely working with the miracle material “Zonolite” it was billed as “the insulation that pours”, of course it was mostly asbestos, good insulator, but there’s that breathing thing.

    Funny about them suggesting injecting inert gas into glass blocks to aid illumination, today the best windows use argon or krypton to provide a moisture barrier and to hold back ultraviolet penetration.

    I love the picture of the small sliding panel to aid in cleaning the windows, if they hadn’t come out with the “tip down” function in windows today we might still see something like that!

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