Reconstruction of urban life after World War II extended into the 1950s, and those years were full of innovation. Much had to change, including the design of our homes. New thinking proposed that light, air and space would make residents happier. Indeed, it would make them better people! Out with the oak smoking chair, floral wallpaper and heavy curtains. Welcome rattan furniture, white walls and fresh colours.
To introduce residents of The Hague’s new expansion districts to this modern interior design, the ‘Goed Wonen’ Foundation organised the ‘Goed Wonen’ exhibition on Erasmusweg from the end of September to the end of October 1950. The newly built houses at numbers 663 and 671 were set up as model homes and opened to the public.
Mainly for housewives
Apparently, newspapers in 1950 assumed that home decoration was mainly determined by women (housewives). The Catholic newspaper Het Binnenhof discussed the exhibition on the page ‘Even onder ons van vrouw tot vrouw’ (Just among us from woman to woman) and the Protestant newspaper Trouw on the page ‘Trouw voor de Vrouw’. Het Parool took a slightly broader view, reporting on the page ‘ Voor de vrouw (maar niet voor haar alléén)’ (For women (but not only for them)).
Good Living at Erasmusweg
What did visitors, including reporters, see in the model flats? In the Erasmusweg 671 flat, the colour light grey dominated: the painted walls, the linoleum on the floor and on the table top, and on one of the cupboards. Comment from the reporter from Het Binnenhof: ‘This gives a cold impression, which the carpet under the seat by the window does not really eliminate’.
The interior of Erasmusweg 663 had a warmer feel, with a mat on the floor in the dining room. And no black dining chairs with wicker seats, but four more comfortable chairs with seats upholstered in light grey fabric.
In both flats stood a rattan sofa with a cushion for some colour and probably comfort.
Each house was heated with a coal stove, as the Groningen natural gas field had not yet been discovered. But there was just the one stove, in the living room. In winter, frost would have covered the single-glazed windows in the bedrooms. The descriptions also mention coal shacks on balconies.
The most multifunctional room in the model houses was the shower room, also washroom. It housed the modern multifunctional ‘lavet’ sink.
Architect Hein Salomonson designed the interiors of both houses. He did so in collaboration with the home furnisher ‘My Home’, also known as the firm ‘Bas van Pelt’. This firm has been around since 1931 and can still be found at Lange Houtstraat 15.
Was there an alternative?
The Good Living Foundation promoted the new home design as a liberation from old, dark, overpowering furniture and fabrics. But reporters reviewing the exhibition noted sharply that homes built in 1950 were so small that much more traditional furniture could not fit inside. A sideboard, in any style, would take up half a room. And no dining area would fit next to a three-seater sofa with two armchairs.
The lack of cupboards was certainly a drawback in the new interiors. But on the other hand, flower and plant lovers would be happy with the wide window sills in all rooms.
The exhibition attracted quite a few visitors. On 7 October, the 4,000th visitor was welcomed: Mr. Van Rijsdam from Valkenboslaan. He received a lamp and a subscription to the magazine ‘Goed wonen’.
Are you interested in architecture from the post war reconstruction period? I can do a bike tour along properties in this style. Send me an email so I know if there are enough applicants to organise this tour next spring. firstname.lastname@example.org