Tuesday, July 12

Finding The REAL 1950s....

Ranchie put a thought-provoking post up the other day, discussing personal taste/style in 50s home decorating, making the point that we should all decorate our homes the way we like...and too bad if others don't approve.

Right on, I say!

You can read her post here. A second interesting point was made therein, which was that homes in the 50s were nowhere near as 'atomic' as we like to think they were, and in fact a whole 'retro' (as we might now call it) thing was happening back then too.

Personally I love the atomic 50s look- black hairpin legs on anything, plastic ribbon lamps, kidney shaped anything, harlequin colours, teak furniture...the list goes on!

But I don't like every single thing just because it's 50s, and neither would anyone else. Then, as now, people had to work within the limits of their budget, the shape and size of their house, and the many other constraints life places on us.

And it got me to thinking...let's have a look at what was REALLY happening in peoples homes in the 50s. How much 'cool atomic 50s stuff' did the average family have in their house? And if 50s/60s/70s is considered retro now, what did retro look like in the 50s??

Lots of fake wood laminate (yuck) but the print atop the dresser on the far left looks groovy

Nothing much for me here except maybe the leopard print stool

I like the white chair but that's all. Notice the Victorian style copper log holder-retro!

Don't mind the lounge but everything else is pretty awful

Love this blue sofa and I'd have it in a flash but the rest of the room is blah

I love the pole lamp and the t.v., again notice 'retro' Victorian style brass fire dogs & tools

Awesome t.v. but that white armchair would fit right in to any shabby-themed decor right now and is a copy of a much earlier style

A few cool pieces here but nothing outstanding, where is the Danish modern??

Very big on indoor plants!

I love the curved sofa and the radio but again theres not much atomic goodness here

A boring room, and more indoor plants!

The sideboard looks like it might be okay but you can see where the Brady Bunch got it all from

colonial revival, blue chintz and mustard walls...you're welcome to it!

Wood panelling yet again, and kitsch-o-rama pineapple candle holder

No thrilling furniture here, but I do love the purple window seat and light shades above it

I like the built-in sofa but that's about all!

Now let's have a look at what one could buy for the home in the 50s. These pics are all taken from American 'House Beautiful' magazines from 1959.

Decorative cane, I love this but it's not exactly atomic, is it?

This is an ad. for carpet-finally a bullet planter!

love this patio set

More 'retro' colonial revival, and it's still being produced today

Teak tables...but not as WE know them!

I think Ikea still make similar to these

Finally something we might consider atomic!!

Retro alert! But not my style...

And again! Tell me, would you have this in your 50s-themed house??

Oriental-the 'new trend'

Yup, this is what I like

This stuff has apparently never waned in popularity. I love the round seat and the overall fancy style

Love this


Apparently 'French Provincial' was a catchphrase even then-who knew?


and from Australian House and Garden, 1956

classic anodised lamp

Desk area

Awesome patio screens and furniture

love this shelving unit

All that wood panelling had to come from somewhere...But at least she looks good!

I'm not sure about this flooring-do you like it??

So tell  me, what is your taste in 50s home decor? Or maybe you don't like 50s at all...


Straight Talking Mama! said...

I love the 50s as you know, but I'm not obsessed with atomic 50s, I love it, but as back then, I can't necessarily afford it! So I mix & match.

Loo xx from Jumbles and Pompoms said...

This was a fascinating post, Kitty and I found myself, rather like you, not loving a lot of the decor. Like Straight Talking Mama, I love aspects of the 50s (mainly their dresses, actually!) but prefer a mix with a bit of 70s, modern and ethnic stuff thrown in.

Lisa said...

Great, great post!

I have to tell myself often, when desperately trying to make decisions over a wagon-load of Goodwill finds before bankrupting myself at the cashier's, that even if I was an adult in those key Camelot era years, I wouldn't have been able to buy EVERYTHING, limited either by income or space or taste. It's hard to put back that fifth or sixth sixties' motel ashtray, because you have ten more from the same time period at home... what if you never see another one again! Quantity, more than taste level, usually keeps me the most reined in. I buy dresses, tchotchkes, cameras, telephones, and wall art almost irregardless of need, but I do have to draw the line at furniture, or larger obkects... until I find something that supercedes the things I already have, in-home, by a country mile, I just have to consider the house a closed unit!

Something I think the set decoration people from Mad Men did a particularly superb job at was mixing different eras of furniture to create a "realistic" version of people's homes in the early to mid 60's. Peggy's mom's house, for example, is full of things from the forties', fifties', and sixties', because you wouldn't just go toss everything else out and buy all new in the first year of each decade, now would you?

To reiterate, GREAT POST! Really set me thinking.

Vintage Coconut said...

Very great post Kitty!
I think tha little desk area that is attached to the wall is such a cute idea!
I like the stuff that looks unique all in itself. You see the stuff I buy! lol
I have to admit there was alot of blah things in these pics. But there was some things that caught my eye also. One of them was the pineapple candle holder!

La Dama said...

What a beautiful post amor.
yes, vintage now unfortunely it is all so expenive and hard to find.

Mick said...

I like to ride the fine line of period and familiar! Most of the Furnishings in the Casablanca are more traditional and by that I mean (BY NO MEANS EARLY AMERICAN. The paint colors are period, Lemon yellow walls with White trim in the lounge (circa 1941), 2 tone Charturse and Ming green in the kitchen (1943) and the bedroom is painted Turquoise (as it was added in 1956). I like Mahogany wood and have it where I can, but in the "den" in the 1956 bedroom we have a black leather couch, and hairpin-legged kidney shapped coffee table in there. and 2 steps away are 2 more traditional beds. While Perfectly Period is nice, I've learned that "its my home, not a meuseum" So I just take this and that of what i like and play with it until it works :)

sacramento said...

What a fantastic post. Well...I am not quite a 50s lover, more of the 40s or 80s...

Vix said...

This must have taken you ages!
Some things I love, the Lloyd Look patio set, the leopard stool, the orange tub chair, the Danish Tilt-back chair and the wicker one just underneath but by and large the room sets look very fuddy-duddy and not unlike many of my friends' parent's houses.
I agree, we should just decorate our homes in whatever takes our fancy regardless of era, same as the clothes we choose to dress ourselves in.
I don't want to re-enact any one era but enjoy the best bits from all of them. x

SusieQT said...

Great post! Many of those images- especially the chinz and french provincial stuff- look like my in-laws' house (furnished in the late 50s.)

Very true that the "atomic" look was not mainstream by a long shot. As a matter of fact, I have never seen a tiered lampshade or kidney-shaped table in any period mainstream decorating mags, like House Beautiful or BH&G.

1950's_atomic_ranch_house said...

Yes! Exactly the point I was making! Except I couldn't find as many examples as you showed, which is a better example.

One is hard-pressed to find a single two-tiered lamp, a starburst clock or kidney shaped table, even back then!

Mom bought a big, heavy solid wood colonial revival dining table for the living room, because that's what SHE loved growing up in the 30's-40's. It was retro/vintage when she got her used set from an antique store back in the 70's.

But gee... Those rotating porch screens... Never seen anything like them!!! I sure could use those on my sun baked back porch!!

Coedith said...

So true! Vintage living is as individual as the person. As you saw from my last post, I personally love early American/colonial revival. Not many do, but hey more for me!

Zootsuitmama said...

I'm with Mick, it's my home and I get what I like! I personally love atomic, too, but - I sometimes think it would be cold and strange, like a 2001 Space Odyssey to have it all so mod! Kitchens have to have a touch of my Grandma in them!

Zootsuitmama said...

PS-When Mom had her blonde stuff, we had a pair of black and gold lamps with double ringed shades. I broke one of them after watching Peter Pan with Mary Martin, and jumped off a chair thinking I could fly!

delia hornbook said...

I did like this post blimy it must have taken you ages. I think when you look at different countries during the 50's each one was very different especaily judging by those magazines. I think the 50's is a whole combination of many things and it really is a different personnal taste for everyone and we all have very different ideas. I like the brightness of the formica but i also like the wooden furniture to which is why my home is a mixture of all it with a mix of 60's to. I visited an avid 50's collecters home at the weekend and to me it screamed 50's and 60's from every corner and wall it was so bright and fun, plastics, formica, wood, and just colour every where. But i think we should design out homes the way we want to the way we see it during that time because i think we all see it differently. And your home should be inspiring and cosy just for you. dee x

Lyndel said...

Brilliant post, thanks for taking the effort. You are of course correct, not every 1950s home was 'way out' and 'up to date', most just lived with what was cheap, or hand-me-downs from the in-laws, and that was what the majority of homemakers were comfortable with. This week I found a lovely booklet "At Home with Colour" from Taubmans paints, Aust. and most of the furniture was hideous, and yes 'brass in the fireplace' there too!
Thanks for sharing Kitty.♥

Helga! said...

I love it all,but wheteher or not I could LIVE with any of it is a different matter!
I mostly like an Asian inspired interior,or totally 70's,or almost anything really! I'm so mixed in my taste!
Now,I was a bit behind and have just seen your Friday frock and nearly choked over how fecking HOT you look!!! OMG! Love the frock,love the pose!!! Soooooo SEXY! EEEEK!

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

OMG how long did it take to collate this vast selection of pics???? NZ in the 70s was still deep in the 30s and 40s with interior style, with a mish-mash of cheap, ugly 50s and 60s stuff. None of the kind of amazing-ness you see in Dr No or Thunderball - my early 60s interiors reference movies!!

Frocktasia said...

I love this post Kitty, thanks for taking the time, you're a doll :)
Many of the pictures remind me of my grandparents house...back in the late 70s, probably because they'd decorated it back in the 50s & just left it like that or maybe Sweden was just a few decades behind in the interior decor stakes? We had some of those stacking stools, very practical for a big family in a small flat. I think that if I was LOADED, I'd have a house with feature rooms...yes, I realize I mark myself out to be a total tack-monster but I rather like the idea of a 20s bedroom, 50s kitchen, 70s lounge ;)
BTW, on the subject of houseplants, I've rescued three of them from the streets of London this week.

Tasha said...

YES! My partner and I discuss this quite a bit. I really love a lot of what we now thing of as stereotypical atomic 50s furnishings. I love the aesthetic, even if I don't have all that much because it's so expensive, hard to find, or just doesn't go in our condo (in a boring building built in the 70s). But I also know that it is not the full reality of interior decorating from that time period.

We have a home decorating book from the 50s that is exactly like the photos you shared. I'd say 90% is not even close to "atomic". Victorian, rustic-cabiny, Colonial, you name it, they had it. Matching colored furniture, built ins, floral patterned curtains, big comfy chairs, walls of books, etc. All things that go against what one would typically thing of as the mid-century modern interior.

I love seeing the reality of life in different decades! The 50s wasn't all about kidney shaped coffee tables, Eames loungers, hairpin legs and one piece of perfect art on the wall. Not even close. And while I love all of those things and more, it makes the era much more appealing to me knowing that there was so many other things going on then, actually! And I think it makes it more accessible, too.

Pearl Westwood said...

What a great post, it really was eye opening!