Yep. I love ’em. No, I mean really. Cheery little canvases with simple animal scenes or landscapes made out in brilliant, chunky blocks of color. There’s nothing better. I am currently in search of an old kit after a recent search found a sad, modern offering of Thomas Kinkade-esque compositions that look nothing like their ancestors.
Developed in 1950 by engineer Max S. Klein, these kits contained an outlined composition, with each space numbered. The number corresponded to a paint color to be used for that area. Suddenly, everyone could be Rembrandt. In fact, the paint kit box tops themselves decreed it so!
By 1954, Max Klein’s company, Palmer Paint (under the Craft Master label) had sold over 12 million kits. Of course, the pop culture phenomenon was panned by art critics, who pooh-poohed the trend as an uncreative wave of mindless consumerism. Especially since trade-show demonstrators promised to reveal how easy art could be, for absolutely anyone.
The hobby continued to explode, and seemingly everyone, from every walk of life, had their home walls adorned with their own paint-by-number creations. Businessmen – even U.S. presidents – were getting in on the action, feeling a sense of bewildered pride toward their new creations.
In the end, the kitschy paint-by-number art movement of the 1950’s came to represent a calmer, more prosperous, postwar America, content to explore the leisure life had to offer. Today, contemporary artists, like Jenn Jarnot or Trey Speegle, utilize the innocent simplicity of these works to make modern statements.
Additionally, these “original” creations are now being coveted as wonderful expressions of mid-century Americana. Since the 1990’s, they have been popping up again, either discovered in a relative’s attic or more recently sold on Ebay and Etsy. And they are not just paintings anymore. They are being re-purposed and re-imagined as new creations, used to lovingly remember a simpler time in history. Buntings, fabrics, and phone covers adorned with the vibrant works, often incomplete to partially reveal the numbered composition beneath, are now being seen. A new revival of the amateur genre has come to 21st century pop culture.
So come on! Because this bandwagon promises to be a fun ride…
For many college students, it’s time to head back to campus. They pile crap into dorms or share rooms or rent off-campus. Between classes, they rarely take the time to recognize the need for a little aesthetic order to their mayhem. Males are the worst offenders. Back in college I saw more beer bottles used as home decor accessories than I care to remember. One kid had his grandma’s China and treated it like Chinet, but if you knocked his bong over, you were asked to leave.
Then comes that first real job. Maybe you’re living in a new city. Wearing a tie and occasionally shopping at Banana Republic. Moving up in the world. Congratulations! Unfortunately, you’re still stuck with some of that crappy college furniture and fond memories of the time you reigned supreme at the Beer Pong Championships. Things need to change, starting with your domicile.
Come on guys! Class it up! You appreciate a nice Port wine? Awesome, but try drinking it out of something you didn’t create in your 7th grade ceramics class. I get that you like Pink Floyd, but your blacklight poster – alright Buddy, I won’t mess with the poster, but you get my drift. Want to REALLY impress the ladies? Man UP!
Numero Uno – Get yourself a Chesterfield. The classic leather tufted sofa makes a great centerpiece for your room. Something you can smoke a cigar on and not look like a douche. It may even class up your Playboy collection.
If you must, you can even try a more modern version…
Think industrial. If it looks like it belongs in a factory it might as well belong to you. You’re manly and rugged too, aren’t you, Skip? A big drafting table makes a great desk.
Want a bar set-up? Try it on an antique steamer trunk with a simple accent lamp or an industrial cart.
Large-scale art, a darker color scheme, and pretty soon the females will think they’ve just wandered into Batman’s lair. Good for you.
Let’s be honest. It may be tempting, but we can’t all raid Restoration Hardware for all our furniture and accessories needs, nor should we. So take some time to find some truly vintage, one-of-a-kind items for a fraction of the cost of the modern versions.
And remember. No matter how much Port, Whiskey, or Bud Light you drink, you’re not this guy.
And that’s a good thing.
For more masculine decor inspiration, see my Pinterest board: Manly Spaces.
Welcome to the past. Where men used to handle their issues with swords, and women rocked white gloves. Birthday parties could be celebrated lavishly at midnight, and one’s penmanship meant something. Sigh…I love this book. It’s like pulling back the curtain on a world I’d love to have been able to be a part of (until I had to deal with my period or getting dental work done). In short, it is a candid reference book of things, people, and concepts that the author, Lesley M. M. Blume, feels should be brought back to popular culture. I couldn’t agree more. Here are just a few entries from the book:
The Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York City. Opened in 1927, it served as a safe haven/charm school/dormitory for young women (and many a young Hollywood starlet) traveling to The Big Apple alone. Ooh la la…For a fascinating look at the history of the Barbizon Hotel, see this Vanity Fair article.
The famous building has now been converted to million-dollar condos and goes by the moniker Barbizon/63. Sigh…
Dunce Caps. Let’s face it. If you don’t know why we need to bring these back, you need one yourself. The End.
Nécessaires. Back in the day (and in this case, I mean the into the late 18th century) when travel was often unpredictable, many wealthy folk carried with them cases containing things like silver cutlery, gold scissors, and toilette accessories. If you do a Google search for “necessaires” today, you will find this has evolved into to the lowly cosmetic bag. Not quite the same at all. Oh, how I wish to whip one of these out at Applebee’s after being supplied with a poorly washed fork. “Don’t worry,” I’d say in my best Joan Crawford voice, “I’ve brought my own.” Then POW! Voila…
The Palmer Method of Penmanship. Handwriting used to mean something. The care and execution of a beautifully written note or letter spoke volumes about one’s demeanor and upbringing. A beautiful cursive form was like sex on paper. No more. It’s all text fonts in weird acronym lingoes and emoticons. Not to mention the outright (yet ridiculously convenient) travesty that is the e-vite. Now, am I a total hypocrite? Well, yes! LOL – I haven’t sent a paper product via US Mail since the 90’s, and I was a little late the party as it was! BUT! I still think we need to stop the chicken scratch and busy typing and go back to the simple, carefully choreographed bliss that was proper cursive penmanship. Because I truly believe that a capital ‘Q’ should look like a giant fancy ‘2’.
By the way, if you don’t agree, check this out, and then go here and practice already…:) Let’s do this.
Tangee Lipstick. Still in production after seventy years, this is that inexpensive orange lipstick that goes on clear and changes color until it becomes the perfect shade for you. I don’t know – sounds like cosmetic magic gold to me, and the reviews on the Vermont Country Store website where it is still sold seem pretty solid. Done and done. I don’t see how any lipstick manufacturers could even compete with this…
Hmm…I’ll keep you posted.
Again, I can’t say enough as to how entertaining this book was, as well as educational. I will be ordering her other editions as well, which include:
I am currently obsessed with antique and vintage framed panoramic group portraits! I want to create a gallery wall full of them…
I love the fun geometry of the long rectangle of the frame coupled with the contrast of the vertical lines of the subjects’ staged black-and-white or sepia-toned poses. They make such an interesting statement on a wall.
I also love the size range of these photographs. Typically, they are about 6-9 inches high by anywhere from 20-40 inches long. Price-wise, be prepared to spend anywhere from $100-$125 each for a vintage panoramic group portrait. Many of them date from the 1910’s – 1930’s, so you may want to re-frame or mat them.
They will also make great conversation pieces for your next gathering as your guests gaze over the hundreds of faces represented in the portraits. Instant charm, guaranteed!