Other joinery

Houses of the 1940s-60s typically had extensive built-in storage. Native timbers were used for skirtings and architraves, with plain profiles.

Built-in storage

Built-in storage was included in most houses during the 1940s-60s. Hallways included both a coat and a linen cupboard and all bedrooms had a built-in wardrobe. The bathroom contained a small medicine cabinet. All storage units were plain and utilitarian, for example, wardrobes in the bedrooms had a single shelf above a coat rail.

During the 1960s it became popular for wardrobes to be fitted with sliding rather than hinged doors, often incorporating mirrors within the aluminium frame, or concertina type doors.

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Kitchen joinery

The kitchens of houses built during the 1940s and 1950s typically included considerable  built-in storage including a sink bench unit, a built-in cupboard unit, and a food safe.

A hot water storage cylinder cupboard, generally with enough space for drying or airing clothes, was often in located in the kitchen in early houses but by the 1960s was located either off the laundry or the hallway.

During the 1960s, kitchens became more open to the dining area, often incorporating a breakfast bar with cupboards below and more overhead cupboard space.


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Cupboard units

Cupboard units were typically constructed from 3 x 1½ ” (75 x 38 mm) and 2 x 1” (50 x 25 mm) framing. A toe space was generally formed along the full length of the bench.

Cupboard backs and drawer bases could be 3/16” (5 mm) plywood or hardboard, and cupboard doors were frequently from solid laminated coreboard, but a framed door with hardboard or plywood panels could also be used.

Shelves were generally 1” (25 mm) dressed timber boards laid at suitable spacings on 2 x 1” (50 x 25 mm) timber rails.

Drawer sides and front were ½” and 7/8” (12.5 mm and 22 mm) timbers respectively, with each drawer back housed into the sides and the bottom grooved into the sides and front and strengthened with glued blocks. The sides were either dovetailed or rebated into the drawer front.

Drawer handles were typically a type of knob/pull handle with a spring catch inside the cupboard or a surface catch operated by a turn or slide.

The 1960s saw the development of pull out wire baskets and proprietary drawer slides for use with conventional framed joinery carcase by companies such as Allenson.

Bench tops

In the 1940s and 1950s, a stainless steel sink was typically fitted into the terrazzo bench top or integrated in a stainless steel bench top. Chrome plated hot and cold taps were fitted over the sink.

From the mid-1960s, Formica laminate became available and was increasingly used for bench tops with a stainless steel sink insert.

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Skirtings and architraves

Skirtings and architraves had a smaller profile and were generally plainer than those of earlier house styles.

Rimu timber was most commonly used, as other native timber became difficult to obtain – although supply of miro, tawa, matai and beech were available during the 1940s. By the 1960s pine was used when paint finished and rimu when clear finished.

Profiles were nominally 4 x 1” or 3 x 1” (100 x 25 or 75 x 25 mm), dressed timber with either rounded or angled profiles that were referred to as the ‘Government profiles’ (Figure 2).

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Although most 1940s-60s houses were single-storey, there were some two-storeyed state developments usually closer to town centres such as Waterloo in Lower Hutt. Later in the period, the first split level designs appeared.

Staircases were plain and built from the same interior timbers as the rest of the house – generally rimu.

Handrails and balusters were often framed and lined in a solid wall construction in the 1940s, but open balustrades were common in later houses.

Timber was clear-finished with varnish.