Mary and Russel Wright’s Guide to Easier Living, 1954: Living Rooms

Mary and Russel Wright’s Guide to Easier Living, originally published in 1950, proposed a change in the way the modern home was furnished, organized and managed. Before 1950, many families still had big houses, formal parlors with the heavy and ornate Victorian-style furniture that had been popular for decades, and sometimes even a servant or a “day girl” to help with some of the heavier work. But with houses getting smaller and post-war design leaning toward streamlined, modern and efficient, Mary and Russel Wright’s Guide to Easier Living was a perfectly-timed capitalization on the new and rapidly rising trend of simplicity.

Mary and Russel Wright’s Guide to Easier Living is also proving to be a fun and interesting read for a MCM-minded modern-day gal. You can read the 1954 version online here, if you’d like, or just read on while I share the bits about living rooms that I’m finding particularly interesting.

The Living Room

According to Mary and Russel, you should consider what each of your rooms are used for and optimize them accordingly. For example, here is their concept of how the average 50’s family used their living room:

Activity002 The authors suggest that work-related activities, like dress-fitting and homework, be moved to other areas designated for those activities, if possible. One thing I don’t have to worry about is finding space for square dancing. But my older boy child has a desk in his room, and he’d be able to focus a lot better if he used that, rather than sit at the dining room table and try to concentrate on algebra over the mellifluous sounds of his 5 year-old brother yelling at Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.

Once the room is pared down to just recreation, Mary and Russel next suggest to divide the room by furniture needed for each activity. Here are some examples of potential groupings:


And some basic necessities for a fun and functional living room:


Surprisingly, my living room already fits the bill for much of these recommendations. We’ve got a dining area, bare floors, etc., but we’re due for a new couch to replace our battered, aging sectional. I’m thinking a small couch/chair/loveseat set to replace it, with a couple of small rugs. Then, if we do take up square dancing (or, more realistically, host a holiday gathering with our huge extended family), the furniture can be much more easily rearranged for entertaining.


Recommendations follow for everything from what type of finishes of wood furniture wear the best, the wonders of built-ins and shelving for space-saving, floor coverings, to creating auxiliary “living rooms” to handle those overflow activities we talked about earlier–that one was really interesting.

I tell you, I’m loving this book so far. I just want to share every one of the ideas from Mary and Russel Wright’s Guide to Easier Living that I want to use in my own home, but that would make for a super long blog post. Maybe I’ll share more tips from this book later on, instead. I’m especially looking forward to the housekeeping routines. I’m such a nerd.

In the meantime, happy homemaking!

Sincerely yours,

Bitsy Ann

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