Other joinery

Houses of the 1970s typically had extensive built-in storage.

Built-in Storage

Bedrooms, bathroom and hallway were all designed with built-in storage.

A coat cupboard and a linen cupboard (often containing the hot water cylinder) were generally included in the hallway. Each bedroom had a built-in wardrobe. The bathroom typically included a vanity unit and sometimes a recessed, wall-mounted medicine cabinet.

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Kitchen joinery

Kitchen joinery was fully built-in and typically included a sink bench unit, another bench with overbench, and wall-hung cupboards. If the kitchen was open plan to the dining room, there was often a breakfast bar with access from each side, or a unit that functioned as a room-divider as well as providing storage.


Benchtops were stainless steel and/or plastic laminate (Formica) and had cupboard and drawer storage underneath. It was common for the sink bench to be stainless steel with an integral sink with the remaining benches being Formica. Mosaic tile inserts were often provided in a Formica bench top adjacent to the stove.

Bench tops finished in plastic laminate had a characteristic black edge where horizontal/vertical surface met due to the chamfering of the edge which exposed the back of the laminate.

Cupboards and drawers

Cupboard units consisted of a timber frame or carcase built from 75 x 38 mm and 50 x 25 mm framing, with a toe space along the full length of the working side of all floor mounted units.

Cupboard backs and drawer bases were either 4.5 mm plywood or hardboard, and cupboard doors and drawer fronts were either solid laminated coreboard, framed doors with hardboard plastic laminate, or plywood facing panels or timber rail and stile with TG&V panels.

Drawer sides and front were 12.5 mm and 22 mm timber respectively. The drawer backs were housed into the sides and the sides were either dovetailed or rebated into the drawer front. The bottom was grooved into the sides and front and strengthened with glued blocks.

Handles were typically a knob/pull type with a spring or ball catch inside the cupboard or a surface catch operated by a turn or slide.

Shelves were generally 25 mm dressed timber boards or particleboard supported by 50 x 25 mm timber rails.


The 1970s saw a wide range of hardware such as handles, drawer rails and so on, and the development of kitchen storage systems. Single hot and cold taps began to be replaced by surface mounted sink faucets with individual control of hot and cold water through a single spout. Units could be surface mounted or semi concealed where the body of the unit was concealed and the taps and spout surface mounted.

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Skirtings and architraves

Skirtings and architraves were typically small, nominally machined form 100 x 25 mm or 75 x 25 mm timber, or, after 1976, manufactured in MDF with either a rounded or a bevelled profile. Pine or MDF was commonly used when a paint finish was required, but native timber, typically rimu, was used if a clear finish was required.

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Staircases in split-level and two storey houses were built of timber, generally pinus radiata or, from 1976, MDF.

The stair treads were out of 40 mm boards and the risers out of 25 mm boards. These were housed into timber strings, nominally 225-300 mm wide x 40-50 mm deep using glue and glue blocks to the tread/riser junction.

Handrail and baluster profiles varied. They were typically 780-825 mm high, constructed from timber with a varnished or polyurethaned finish. Stair treads and risers were often carpeted (Figure 1).

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Fireplace surrounds for open fires could be clad full-height with stone or brick. Sometimes, built-in shelves and cupboards were used as features alongside fireplaces as well as providing storage and room divisions.