Think about the future!
January 17, 2021 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Help maintain that healthy tingle. Midcentury designers created the ultimate electric home for Westinghouse and Betty Furness can tell you all about it.

Fascinating how much of this actually happened, just not quite the way envisioned here. Still waiting on that magical “Wall of Light”. Just imagine how that house’s meter would spin.
posted by kinnakeet (29 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I remember Betty Furness as the consumer reporter on the local news in New York when I was a kid.
posted by octothorpe at 9:21 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Here in So. CA you can still find many a house of a certain age with that medallion proudly indicating it being furnished with the latest electric appliances, in shiny anticipation of the more futuristic gizmos depicted in the video.

Most of those original electric appliances made little sense here, and have long since been replaced. And would be absolutely absurd with the fantastic devices shown fully implemented. It never gets cold enough to justify the heat that would have been produced with all that stuff.

That decor is totally awesome, tho.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:03 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Don't go looking for the house today. It was exterminated by the Daleks.

Should have built a staircase.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 10:06 AM on January 17

Until now, I didn't know how much I needed a paint spray booth in my climate controlled workshop. Flying cars have nothing to offer in comparison. I enjoyed the journey back in time.

This type infomercial was a big draw back then because it was somehow seen as educational. The big chemical companies all told us how much better life was now that all could be eradicated with a simple spray; our vehicles were on the travel-way to the future; medical centers would cure all.

It's still surprising how much of this future technology is around in some form; however, it didn't cure the social problems and inequalities (and that wasn't even a goal back then.)
posted by mightshould at 10:51 AM on January 17

I don't have time to watch the whole video, so can someone point to the mark where Monsieur Hulot enters?
posted by gusottertrout at 11:20 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]

More from Youtube:

From 1967 [1:09]

1999 AD - from Philco-Ford (1967) [24:33]
posted by Fukiyama at 12:31 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

This is fun.

I've been on a big midcentury modern architecture kick lately and while that's more about exteriors (houses mostly), it's fun seeing these interiors. I love how forward-thinking this is and how many of these things we have now.

I may have to make a smaller version of that light wall. I think with some LED lights and some translucent plexiglass and a frame, I could rig something up. Hmm. I feel like a really useless project coming up.
posted by edencosmic at 1:38 PM on January 17

Oh, but that barbeque in the middle of the living room doesn't seem like a great idea.
posted by edencosmic at 1:40 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

But....The grill in the middle is awesome!
posted by mightshould at 2:30 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Some of the gadgets are pretty common now: doorbell cameras, microwave ovens, centralized climate control, automatic sprinklers, media rooms. sidewalk heaters.
posted by octothorpe at 3:01 PM on January 17

I would love to have an indoor grill, provided restaurant-level ventilation. It would be glorious.

A lot of new higher-end appliances include gas powered griddle/ grilling surfaces. No direct flames, though.
posted by porpoise at 3:23 PM on January 17

It's like they predicted the future where nobody would want to leave their house. Not even to go to work!
posted by jeremias at 3:54 PM on January 17

I want kitchen Microfilm Cookbooks readers!
posted by brewsterkahle at 5:14 PM on January 17

Just imagine how that house’s meter would spin.

It was going to be too cheap to meter soon, what with the all that abundant, clean nuclear energy just around the corner …
(laughs uncontrollably in former generation engineer)
posted by scruss at 5:26 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Westinghouse made power plants too.
posted by octothorpe at 5:52 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I think people might underestimate the appeal of the All-Electric Home in 1950. Compare it to the home from A Christmas Story, set in 1939.
No more coal furnace! A refrigerator, rather than a retrofitted ice-box! A radio smaller than a laundry hamper!
Also remember that this 1950 prospective electric home buyer might be 35? Which means they were born in 1915; and will remember a childhood where there were still a few horse drawn streetcars, and that summer when the streetlights were changed over from town gas to electric. Or out west, when they started paving the streets in the first place. In college they had sent telegraph messages home via Western Union wires; now they were having the neighbors over to watch color movies shot with their own camera.
Y'know that saying about 'the first generation to be worse off than their parents?'
This type of marketing was for the first generation of Americans where the universal cradle to grave life experience did NOT occur in basically an ambient background of wood smoke and horse shit.
Those people thought it was going to be a great big beautiful tomorrow, indeed. How could they not!
posted by bartleby at 7:27 PM on January 17 [13 favorites]

“It was about a woman in a small town who bought a vacuum cleaner. Her name was Mrs. Jones, and up until then she, like all of her neighbors, had kept her house spotlessly clean by using a broom and a mop. But the vacuum cleaner did it faster and better, and soon Mrs. Jones was the envy of all the other housewives in town—so they bought vacuum cleaners, too.

The vacuum cleaner business was so brisk, in fact, that the company that made them opened a branch factory in town. The factory used a lot of electricity, of course, and so did the women with their vacuum cleaners, so the local electric power company had to put up a big new plant to keep them all running. In its furnaces the power plant burned coal, and out of its chimneys black smoke poured day and night, blanketing the town with soot and making all the floors dirtier than ever. Still, by working twice as hard and twice as long the women of the town were able to keep their floors almost as clean as they had been before Mrs. Jones ever bought a vacuum cleaner in the first place.”

posted by porpoise at 7:49 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I now live in a totally electric house, with a heat pump, solar panels and solar hot water, and two electric cars. Not the silly weather station, but, it's pretty fucking awesome...

And it's a 60s Midcentury house. I do not have a Nest video doorbell, but, whatever
posted by Windopaene at 8:42 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Is that when houses developed "$THING Centers”?
posted by clew at 8:54 PM on January 17

The indoor barbecue (either one of them) - is going to kill everybody way before they get to appreciate the electric massager.

I now live in a totally electric house, with a heat pump, solar panels and solar hot water, and two electric cars. Not the silly weather station, but, it's pretty fucking awesome...

My tentative business idea is to offer services of my 1950s family (all in suits and dresses) together with my light orchestral compositions arrangements to purveyors of Mesh Routers, Powerwalls, Peloton machines...
posted by rongorongo at 11:09 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I love this sort of thing so much! Especially kitchens (here's another favorite, A Step-Saving Kitchen from 1949) I wish they had taken more time showing the fridge and the 6-second oven (presumably microwave), and I really wanted to see the fire pit lit.

I especially liked how she said "the touch of a button" at least once every 15 seconds, but when it got to the "beauty" section, she proudly pointed out the new "fashion" control plates, which are so beautiful without any buttons or switches.
posted by Mchelly at 11:32 AM on January 18

I now live in a totally electric house, with a heat pump, solar panels and solar hot water, and two electric cars. Not the silly weather station, but, it's pretty fucking awesome...

I too live in a totally electric house. Geothermal heat pumps, electric appliances, and a brand new PHEV minivan. It's... well it's different than we grew up with, and I have no idea if we're actually saving money on utilities, but it's pretty awesome. Still working on the solar, though.
posted by zrail at 6:01 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

I especially liked how she said "the touch of a button" at least once every 15 seconds,
You are going to be wanting to see this particular video accompaniment to Nintette's "Push a Little Button". - it was taken from "Design for Dreaming" by General Motors .
posted by rongorongo at 9:43 PM on January 18

Did anyone else thing things were going to get freaky when they brought out the hidden movie projector?
posted by mikelieman at 12:47 AM on January 19

That's one of the first future videos I've seen where literally everything in it came to be common consumer goods, even if a few like radiant heated driveways and sidewalks are still mostly bastions of the very wealthy.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:58 AM on January 19

Everything seems to be set at least six inches too low for the actors. My back aches in sympathy.
posted by aramaic at 10:29 AM on January 19

Mchelly: Especially kitchens (here's another favorite, A Step-Saving Kitchen from 1949)

I don't know if the USDA was aware of the studies the Bauhaus movement did on kitchen design and layout in the 1920's, but it was certainly a precursor. We were shown this movie during our visit to the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau. These studies were what lead to the ergonomic and modular kitchen design known as the Frankfurter Küche , and from there to probably every modular kitchen today.
posted by Stoneshop at 11:09 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]

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