Portraits of a decade: A new book of historic illustrations offers decorators authentic Sixties inspiration

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The Independent Online

During the 1960s women's magazines were booming. Woman, for example, was selling 3.5 million copies per week – the maximum its printing presses would permit. And – riding on the boom, was the art of illustration, which, due to the prohibitive cost of photography at that time, filled the pages of these publications.

Romantic fiction was also a staple, and the combination of the two disciplines resulted in a prolific output for the illustrators of the day, who specialised in depicting young women in passionate clinches with sharp-suited chaps on reproduction rococo beds; newlyweds sharing breakfast on classic Bentwood kitchen chairs; brooding Don Draper types, swirling whiskies on a Florence Knoll sofa, a voluptuous Joseph Henry Lynch painting, perhaps, symbolically in the background.

And now, a new book, Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s (Fiell), is the first collection of this gloriously stylised representation of the era. As the book's editor, Rian Hughes, writes in its introduction: "The artwork married an idealised and romantic image of high society ... often consisting of a young couple juxtaposed with decoratively drawn, stand-out design elements like plants, lampshades, elaborately wrought headboards, banisters or furniture ...

"It was a fantasy world completely at odds with a society still grappling with outside toilets, tenement housing and barely post-rationed food."

The book provides a wonderfully authentic snapshot of a design period so often reduced to cliché with mod-themed telephones, ugly orange wallpaper and space age shapes; the illustrations also provide a lot of shopping inspiration. Here's how to recreate some of the looks.

'Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s', edited by Rian Hughes (£25). To order a copy for £22.50 including free P&P from Independent Books Direct, visit Independentbooksdirect.co.uk or call 08700 798 897.