In fashion as in home decor, there are cycles. Trend setters had foreseen it a while ago, and it’s now everywhere: the 1950s are back in fashion and in design! Even TV succumbed to this trend with the world’s famous TV series “Mad Men”.
Furniture with enveloping shapes, graphic patterns, bright colors: the 1950s style still has the wind in its sails. A happy way to introduce fantasy into our homes. The challenge, though, is to resist the temptation to copy what you see in magazines and paste it to your home.
Furniture, painted paper, textile… Here are a few tips on how to revisit the 1950s style and adapt it to fit your home.
What is the 1950’s style?
Situated right in the post-war period until the 1960s, the 1950s were marked by the revolution of style and shapes in furniture design and decoration, but above all by new industrial techniques (use of steel, aluminum, molding techniques). The 1950s also brought great names in design (which still serve as reference in this field) such as Eames, Panton, Le Corbusier, Motte, Jacobsen, among others.
The United States played a leading role in the creation of this style, thanks to “The American Dream” which was conveyed worldwide through movies and commercials: a nice cozy and warm interior, with a fully equipped kitchen, and state of the art technology (at that time).
American icons represent the glamour and a dream for the many: an idealized image created in the collective mind. Individuals want to follow the same patterns, drive the same cars and of course chill out in the same cozy and design interior. It is the advent of industrialization and production of furniture series.
Features of the 1950’s style
The style of the 1950s is characterized by furniture with slender lines, vintage footed compass tables, objects accented by bright splashes of color, and by using materials like tubular steel, Formica or even molded plastic.
Major designers and cult items of the 1950s
Whether reissued by major manufacturers or sold at flea markets, the most famous creations of the 1950s still enjoy from their success. It must be said that these years have been particularly prolific in terms of furniture creation.
Here are some of the top names in the design industry from the 1950s (this is of course a non-exhaustive list):
Charles and Ray Eames (US)
Charles Eames was one of the most influential designer of the 20th century. Keen on engineering and manual labor, he specialized in molding and processing techniques in his creations.
Arne Jacobsen (Denmark)
With a career combining controversy and artistic genius, this Danish designer created his own movement, combining modernist ideals and love for Nordic naturalism. Arne Jacobsen is recognized worldwide for its architectural designs and prototypes of furniture, fabrics, wallpaper and silverware. Arne Jacobsen laid the foundations of Scandinavian organic modernism and his influence is still very present today.
Jean Prouvé (France)
An ironworker, entrepreneur and activist in favor of industrializing the construction process and using aluminum as a material, Jean Prouvé was also an architect and a self-taught furniture designer.
George Nelson (US)
An architect and graphic designer with a penchant for playful shapes and use of new materials for furniture. An environmentalist before his time, and agitator of ideas, his ideas have marked his era.
How to recreate a 1950s ambiance
The 1950s are back under the limelight, that’s for sure. However, is it a fad effect created by the “Mad Men” series or will this trend last in the upcoming years? Only time will tell.
But so far, emblematic pieces have continuously raised a strong enthusiasm among collectors and enthusiasts at auctions. And this passion is spreading today to the consumer market, as manufacturers reissue iconic objects, which also inspire contemporary creators.
Chrome, glass, vinyl, plastic and light wood are materials of choice to create furniture with modern and futuristic lines: kidney-shaped tables, stereo console and TV receiver in imposing case, sofa and armchairs with tapered legs. The Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames is the epitome of modernism in design. Made of a shell of molded plywood (veneered in rosewood, cherry tree or black lacquered), with an aluminum base topped with leather upholstered cushions, Eames’ Lounge Chair is still produced and reissued.
Abstract art, impressive lamps, sofas and low armchairs mixing wood and fabric, characterize this style inspired by the aerodynamics of the first satellites. The retro style of the 1950s is particularly suitable for the living room and the kitchen. But nothing prevents you from implementing these decor ideas to other parts of the house like the bedroom or even the bathroom! If you like solid colors, gloss chrome and bright prints, you will be thrilled.
Get inspired… but don’t overdo it!
It’s OK to fall for the 1950s, but beware of not overdoing it by revamping your whole house, otherwise this effect may get quickly tiring! The idea is to capture the era in one room of the house or to choose some key emblematic elements to arrange everywhere around the house: a rug and a ceiling lamp in the lounge, colorful fabrics in the bedroom, a chair in the corridor, and so on. It is best to mix furniture and iconic pieces with more contemporary items, like IKEA furniture.
In order to find real vintage pieces from the 1950s, one does not have an infinite number of options: The first and most obvious is to visit the attic of your family homes in search of old chairs stacked in a corner. You can also ask your neighbors if they have old furniture they want to get rid off. The second one is to actively search flea markets & garage sales (don’t forget to get there early to get a chance to find a hidden gem and to follow these few basic tips). Last but not least, the Internet is a great resource to find vintage items; they might come at a price, but you won’t have to wait or dirty your hands to get what you’re looking for!
Remember that with a good look we identify what we turn without ruining our interior into a colorful apartment for 50 years!