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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY TO THE CARIBBEAN BY CLIPPER, c. 1950s

Long Island Luxe: 1952

Long Island Luxe: 1952

April 10, 1952. "Jose L. Sert, residence at Lattingtown Harbor Estates, Locust Valley, Long Island, New York." Gottscho-Schleisner photo. View full size.

 

Before you give up on Sert

Check out his later house.

For those obsessing over the brick floors, you'll be glad to know the Cambridge house had hardwood floors, so perhaps Sert came to agree with you — or maybe his wife Monxa did. (That's her reclining on the backless sofa.)

Those who detest the sofas in toto, however, will probably snort to notice them in his later house. So I guess the family liked them?

Currently, the house is owned by a Harvard historian of science, but you can see what it looks like here.

Worth a detour, as they say, if you find yourself in the Cambridge area. Although I have to say, heaven help you with the one-way streets in this part of town. But it's not far from Julia Child's house, if that's a draw.

Museum-like

Homes aren't really homes when they resemble displays in a store. This is too ordered and defined to be 'lived' in. Like pictures from Architectural Digest of homes that don't show any human reality like magazines askew on a table.

Don't lean back, buddy

It's a bit of an optical illusion. The shelf is really the top of the couch seating. It's not sticking out beyond the back of the couch.

Wide open spaces

Modern architecture... bringing families together.

The only item not pictured is the miniature trolley car required to drop Mom & Dad at opposite ends of the couch.

Torture furniture

I dislike everything about this room, but most of all that unredeemable furniture. I don't think I've ever seen a more rigid, cold, sterile, repellant and unwelcoming living room and I would not want to "live" in it. Why were these people punishing themselves?

Pedestrian

Pedestrian is the design. Excellent is the photo by Gottscho, especially since this photo was taken years before digital manipulation. Gottscho was very good.

The big map on the wall is a geologic map. The light in front of it probably belongs to Gottscho and was used to brighten up areas of the room in different shots.

Caution Pedestrians

You could have broken an ankle in spike heels on that floor.

For Mid-Century modern neat freaks only

This is the kind of decor that only people who fold their dirty laundry, to put it in the hamper, and iron their bed sheets, can have. My mother would have loved to live in a place like that. She was enough of a neat freak to pull it off. But she never got to because she didn't give birth to another neat freak. She gave birth to me.

Ultra-modern fifties

There seemed to be a great need in the 1950s to appear ultra-modern, perhaps to escape the depressing 1930s & 40s, even though it often resulted in uncomfortable impractical designs. Chrome and bright colors replaced the drab browns, greens and grays of the war-years. Blonde furniture was everywhere, but a short-lived fad and already very dated by the 1960s.

Stereo records weren't introduced until 1957 and stereo radio until 1961 so it's not surprising there are no stereo speakers here.

Unhappy

For a brief moment I thought that "Unhappy Hipsters" had gone retro.

Lady's slippers

Hopefully, they're next to her on the rug, so she doesn't need to walk barefoot on that very uncomfortable-looking herringbone brick floor.

Lamp

Everything about the lamp says photo equipment: photoflood reflector, stand, inline on/off switch.

History being made here

How fortunate for us the photographer was present for this first known instance of someone actually reading a coffee table book.

Don't lean back, buddy

- or that shelf will catch you right in the neck. Not a very practical layout.

Not for real life

I guess this room has a certain elegant charm, but it just looks so bereft of comfort and practicality. Even the fruit is purely decorative, as evidenced by that rotting banana.

Totally Angular Dude

The only thing that looks inviting in the whole room is the bottle of Chianti.

Knotty Pine

Fortunately Knotty Pine was a short-lived fad

Check the map

Medellin, second largest city in Colombia, could there be a connection?

[Going by some of the objets visible, the residents appear to be aficionados of native Latin American art. -tterrace]

The Floor

It makes me dizzy.

Sert got it better next time

Jose Luis Sert (1902-1983) became dean of the graduate school of design at Harvard in 1953, not long after he designed this house. The house he built in Cambridge is (in my eyes at least) a marvel of a small courtyard house set in a crowded, but leafy neighborhood. The Cambridge house is definitely in the Modernist tradition, but looks a lot more liveable to me. Sert, being Catalan, had strong Mediterranean influences throughout his buildings. Joan Miro was a buddy of his, and Sert designed a museum for his work.

A Built-in Radio

Building a radio chassis into a built-in piece of furniture such as shown here was apparently a popular practice for interior decorators at this time. The home magazines regularly featured such installations. The radio appears to be an E. H. Scott model 510, which would have been a newly introduced model when this photo was taken . E. H. Scott made some of the finest radios of the 1930s, but he (Earnest Humphrey Scott) left the company in the mid 1940s. The company retained his name, but the quality of the product declined. The model 510 was a relatively unremarkable radio.

BTW, E. H. Scott was unrelated to Hi-Fi pioneer H. H. Scott (Hermon Hosmer Scott).

Classic Milan style

Looks to be straight out of Domus magazine.

Dig the Hi-Fi!

I would love to live there. Among other things: the hi-fi (the box at the far and, with the knobs) has a hinged top. The lid swings up and back, revealing, I bet, a turntable, or even cooler, a big Grundig reel-to-reel tape player.

I wonder about the lighting, though. The only visible light fixture is the big upward-pointing thing, which doesn't appear to be turned on. But there are no shadows. Are there huge soft-lights being used by the photographer? Or is it just lots of windows, facing north, off to the right?

For those who love

- the waiting room look.

Ick

The uncomfortable seating - check.

The abstract "art" - check.

Textured, sculpted, layered floor coverings - check.

Hanging mobile - check.

Fifties' interiors sometimes are so bereft of warmth. The only worse decade was the 70's.

P.S. - It also just occurred to me, that's a HI-FI tuner...only one set of speakers!

[You've unwittingly aggravated a tterrace pet peeve, one that dates back to introduction of stereophonic LP records and the dual-inventory system it required for a few years. The new-fangled ones had "STEREO" in big letters across the top of the album covers, whereas their monophonic "standard" equivalents had no such prominent designation, though they often continued to promote the last big recording technological advance by maintaining their "High Fidelity" markings. Thus, in the public mind, "High Fidelity" and "Hi-Fi" came to mean "not-stereo," or in other words, monophonic. Which it doesn't, of course; a recording can be both high fidelity, i.e., having a wide frequency range, low distortion, etc., and also stereophonic, i.e., with left and right channels. Phew. -tterrace]

Calder Mobile?

Is that a Alexander Calder Mobile in the upper right corner? If so, it would be worth a ton of money today.

Dream Home

That's my kind of place! Sadly, I'm too much of a surface person to ever live in such minimalist splendor.

Cool, but --

The man looks a bit uncomfortable.

 
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