Scenes from the 1970 Encylopedia of Home Improvement

How to Be a Retronaut's gallery of images from the 1970 edition of the "Encylopedia of Home Improvement" are like shots from a never-aired episode of The Brady Bunch where the family took over management of The Madonna Inn and did a little light redecorating.

Encylopedia of Home Improvement, 1970


  1. and didn’t people smoke in the ’70s?!  Inflatable furniture seems a poor choice…

    (the shagapsule of course is timeless)

      1.  I had a transparent turquoise inflatable armchair through high school and college. It was amazingly sturdy. Eventually I gave it away, not being into turquoise inflatable furniture so much anymore.

        I kind of wish I still had it — but there’s no way it would stand up to my cats.

    1.  I keep a copy of Lilek’s “Interior Desecrators” here at work, so that if I ever feel bad about working in a bland little cubicle I can see that things could be far, far worse.

  2. You know what’s weirding me out? There are no computers… The red and white desk with the backless seat seems to need a laptop on the desk. It’s a very bizarre feeling.

  3. I’m pretty into that bathroom, to be honest. Giant cylindrical space ship shower!

    I was confused about the silver cylinder pillows though. I think they have a hood-type hair dryer above them, and you’re supposed to lounge around on your futuristic pillows and read magazines while your hair dries.

  4. I’m sure some naysayers will scoff at these interiors but I can’t help but love this if only because this was the first view of the world I had. I was born in ’68 and all this was totally normal to me. This is what the world looked like.

  5. Christ I miss deep-pile shag carpeting. I’m sure it’s a mofo to clean but you really don’t need to worry about a lot of furniture when you have that kind of flooring. When I was a kid getting contact high (you may call b/s but I was a really hyper kid and then I’d get dragged to a grownup party where everyone was smoking weed or hash in some small apartment and boom I’d pass out on the shag rug)  it was such a warm and inviting place to take a nap.

  6. Note that these are “aspirational” designs. The kind of thing set designers and decorators working for people with lots of money would pay attention to.

    Except, maybe, for avacado colored appliances and tasteless knick-knacks, this kind of over-the-top stylish decor rarely made it into “normal” people’s homes . . . that is, the middle-class and working class homes of friends and relatives I’d visited. “Normal” to me meant wood paneling, upholstered furniture with bland plaid burlap-ish fabric,  kitchens with Formica surfaces.

    1. I knew somebody who had what I think was that very penguin mural. They were painting it themselves, so maybe they just projected it out of the book.

  7. I am really liking that cylindrical bathroom… at least in theory. but I have an irrational love of non-rectilinear design.

  8. The first thing I thought of seeing the cylinder bathroom was Lego Star Wars. 

    The second thing I thought was knee-deep shag is an invitation to infestation.  Especially in a bathroom. 


    1. Wall-to-wall is great in the bathroom. It soaks up all the juices so you don’t have to mop.

  9. Of course, that bathroom isn’t REALLY cylindrical. They’re just wasting a god-awful lot of space with bulkheads and curved panels.

    Can you imagine CLEANING that place? Dealing with funky shower-mist-moistened shag carpets and mildew growing in the cracks and crevices along the bulkheads?

    Instead of making our houses look like space stations, Designers should be making our space ships look like houses.

  10. As soon as I saw this I thought of Lileks as well.  

    I’ve been looking at various interior designs of late and a lot of the modern stuff feels sterile to me.  This bathroom looks like a trainwreck in motion but by golly it’s got some life to it.   I’ll give it that.  

  11. The bathroom reminds me of the scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the moon shuttle, where the stewardesses walk up the walls in the round hallway, wearing velcro boots. Anyone else?

  12. My mother had these encyclopedias, and as a kid I loved to page through them. The “space bathroom” (posted under the topic of “fluorescent lighting”) was one of my favorite pictures. But even back then I wondered how people could actually use a room like that.

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