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Bright Ideas for Your Home Circa 1950

A while back my husband purchased a box full of vintage Christmas decorations at an auction. As we were sorting our holiday finds – some of which hadn’t even been opened before – I came across this old handbook. And what a clever little find it was.

Handbook of Bright Ideas for Your Home

Easy ways to add beauty inside and out… with the help of your hardware store.

Bright Ideas for Your Home

The booklet has a copyright of 1951 and is in pretty good shape for being over 65 years old. I think it might be something that was published inside The Saturday Evening Post because of the little cartoons inside it. I did a little research to see what IRHA stood for.

I learned that IRHA (or Indiana Retail Hardware Association) is now NRHA (or North American Retail Hardware Association) and they help independent hardware stores, home centers and lumberyards become better and more profitable retailers. And, this little booklet was likely created to provide inspiration and ultimately drive people into their local hardware stores.

Also, to my surprise, I learned that both the NRHA and The Saturday Evening Post were headquartered right here in Indiana. I’ve lived here my whole life and didn’t know this little detail.

What I love about this booklet and why I’m sharing it with you today, is that I was truly amazed at some of the bright ideas… and how relevant they still seemed today, nearly 70 years later.

So, I’m going to share with you 5 times this booklet was on-point with relevant home ideas and a few times it wasn’t.

Fast Leg-Work

I dream about scoring old pieces of furniture from the 50s, so I thought this one was appropriate. And the advice is sound: update an unpainted piece of furniture by adding wrought iron or shapely legs and switching out the hardware.

Bright Home Ideas

Easy-peasy. Obviously not every piece of furniture can pull off “shapely” legs but new hardware is usually a good bet. And what’s more trendy right now, than mid-century modern wrought iron legs!?

Keep Up a Good Front

Hide unsightly radiators with an attractive cover of wood and punched sheet metal. Then paint to blend with your decor.

Bright Ideas for Your Home - Radiator Cover

Our house didn’t have radiant heating, but if it did, I would definitely used this idea to camouflage some of them into something cuter and more useful. I’ve seen this done well many times in issues of This Old House magazine.

Bright Ideas for Your Home: Radiator Cover

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Travel Bureau

Don’t hide your travel photos in a drawer or album. Arrange them on a map around the area you visited, and place under a cut-to-size glass on your bureau or coffee table.

Bright Ideas for Your Home - maps

I can appreciate this because I love DIY projects with maps. Now, most of us don’t have glass-covered coffee tables anymore, but this idea would work just as well inside an old picture frame.

We love framing vintage maps inside old windows… you could stick a few vacation photos between the glass in this project too! I have gobs of old maps and I’m always looking for crafty ways to display our photos… this tip is a winner!

DIY Vintage Window Map Display

Pans Going to (Flower) Pot

Make a pretty planter out of a simple baking dish. Attach fancy brass pulls and see how your plants are enhanced.

You know how I love repurpose and upcycle projects so this advice makes good sense to me. But, I might switch the brass pulls to bronze instead. 😉 We’ve repurposed a few old buckets as outside planters in much the same way. (See more in our Summer Backyard Tour)

Summer backyard home tour

Get Out of a Mess

Put old cake tins under the legs of tables and chairs when you are removing paint or varnish from them. Less mess and catches waste.

Bright Home Ideas - Get out of a mess!

I don’t often remove varnish, but I have painted dozens of projects and never thought to do this. What a genius idea.

I can’t wait to use this because I’m a super messy furniture painter. If you look around our driveway or basement floor, you’ll see the tell-tale marks of many four-legged items I’ve painted in the past. I’m sure my husband would appreciate me using this tip too. Ha!

And, here are some not-so-bright ideas for your home.


Traditional Venetian blinds always remind me of my grandma’s house. She had them in EVERY window of her house. But thankfully she didn’t take this advice, which suggests that you paint a contrasting color on one side of the blinds as a “conversation” piece. Yea, that would be something to talk about… perhaps when you weren’t around.

I’m not even sure how you would go about painting something like blinds without making a complete mess.

Soak Up Compliments

Conceal an “old-fashioned” tub behind a piece of plywood and cover with easy-to-apply plastic tiles.

NOOOOOOO! I guess it proves that everyone eventually gets tired of something. But, to cover up a claw-foot tub with plastic tiles? Nope. And, I’m sorry if you have an old claw-foot tub covered in plastic tiles. Blame this little booklet.

Put on a Door Show

Have an old-fashioned unattractive paneled door in your bedroom or study? Sand it down and apply bird or botanical prints to the panels. Laquer over the prints to protect surface.

botanical print

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

There we are with that word again… old-fashioned. I guess everything has its season, doesn’t it? Our home has those so-called unattractive paneled doors and I LOVE them. I would also be very disappointed if they were lacquered with prints of birds. Thankfully they aren’t.

Honestly, I don’t have anything against botanical (or bird) prints. There are lots of lovely ways to repurpose them or use them. I’m just not sure that lacquering them on a wood door in your home is the best choice. I have been sanding down an old cabinet before, only to find similar picture cut-outs glued to the front. Apparently there were people who liked a good door show. 😉

I hope you enjoyed this journey back in time. It’s fun to see how much has and hasn’t changed.

For decades people just like you and me have been finding ways to add personal touches to their homes. And I take comfort in that. It’s also a good reminder for those of us trying to undo some of those personal touches, too. You know, like the plastic tiles and things glued on doors.

Kristy Robb

Bright Ideas for Your Home Circa 1950

Reader Interactions


  1. 1

    How awesome is that booklet.
    I had no idea about the Saturday Evening Post and NHRA being in Indiana either.
    I grew up in Putnam Co and now in Boone. Thanks so much for sharing.

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