The realtors who fielded a 96-year-old woman’s request to help sell her home likely didn’t think too much about it at first. Even seeing the exterior of the place would likely not have been cause for excitement. Inside the house, though, there was an unbelievable blast from the past.
Way back in 1942, a seamstress became a homeowner in the Bloor West Village neighborhood of Toronto, Canada. At the time, she was only 24 years old, and her country was still in the middle of fighting in World War II.
But when the woman wasn’t sewing or tailoring, she engaged in an arguably even more creative hobby: interior design. And soon her humble two-story home would, it seems, become the place where she was to put her skills in that field into practice.
The seamstress wasn’t alone in making over her house, however. After World War II ended, the economy boomed, and people around the world increasingly used their incomes to spruce up their homes with all of the must-have decor of the 1950s.
Perhaps the era’s overarching trend was color – and lots of it. But while some homeowners opted for bright red, green and yellow shades with which to prettify their places, others chose palettes of softer pastels. Shiny chrome appliances and checkerboard tiles on the floors were also typical of the period.
All of this seemed to have inspired the seamstress who had moved into the Bloor West Village home. And not only did she showcase many of the 1950s trends in decor within her house, but she also left the resulting design seemingly untouched for many decades to come.
Of course, interior design fads came and went over the decades that the Canadian woman spent in her brick abode. So, by the time she decided to sell her home and move into a retirement community, no one would likely have been able to guess what her property looked like inside.
One step inside the front door, though, and visitors would have seen that the seamstress’ place was out of the ordinary. Ornately decorated paper – its light blue shade typical of a 1950s color palette – covered the walls of the hallway. Also decorating the entrance were a gilded mirror and similarly gold-colored candelabra.
And the blue-toned wallpaper provided a link to the living room, where a slightly lighter hue covered the walls and floors. A brick fireplace was also in the same color, allowing the pink armchairs and Victorian-style sofa to really stand out from their surroundings.
Meanwhile, the carpeted flooring carried into the dining room, which had a patterned wallpaper of its own. This time, though, the soft blend of peach and minty pastels seen all around were much more muted in their hues than those seen in the entryway.
And in the kitchen, there was more than one technological remnant from the 1950s. The homeowner still had her dusty pink rotary phone on the counter – and it worked, too. The Moffat stove, which had been installed in the mid-20th century, was also functional.
Furthermore, the style of the breakfast nook evoked another classic source of design inspiration: the American diner. A rosy U-shaped bench wrapped around the wrought-iron dining table, and this very much resembled the plush booth seating typically seen inside a 1950s burger joint.
In the master bedroom, meanwhile, the seamstress turned interior designer had opted to include a splash of yet another color. Deep purple carpeting sprawled across the floor of the sleeping quarters, while a lighter lavender hue was evident on the walls.
What’s more, the same bright purple tone had made its way into the study. Yes, while today’s homeowner may be more likely to plump for soft, soothing shades in any designated work spaces, the seamstress had gone all out with grape-colored flowery wallpaper and carpet in a similar tone.
But that wouldn’t be the end of the pastels. On the contrary: the guest bedroom, for one, was drenched in a sweet candy pink. And, reportedly, this had been the 96-year-old’s best-loved space in the entire house.
Plus, a dusting of pink could also be seen in the family bathroom. Other eye-catching features in there included a curved countertop and cabinets, while the gold features throughout provided little touches of luxury.
However, there was one place in the home that may have been decorated after the 1950s had passed. In the basement, wood paneling lined the walls, its knots and glossy finish in definite contrast to the cream-colored floral couch. Both of these features were much more exemplary of 1960s style.
And when images of the Toronto house hit the internet, many appeared to be in awe. One commenter wrote underneath a Daily Mail feature on the house, “Eat your heart out, Don Draper.” As you may already know, Don Draper is a character in the AMC TV series Mad Men, which is predominantly set in the 1960s.
Another person added, “This is not my taste. But it goes to show that when something is well done in the first place and kept clean, it will always look nice. This lady really had an eye for order, balance and color. I find it cheerful yet relaxing.”
As for the homeowner herself? Well, she had hoped to receive $699,000 for the place when she put it up for sale. And in 2014 she had a simple explanation for the design choices that seemed so out of the ordinary. “I’ve always tried to be an individual and follow my own style,” she told HGTV Canada.