The classic Peter Allen song tells us ‘everything old is new again!’ and this is definitely true of furniture designed in the 50’s and 60’s. In Australia we call this design style Retro, in the US it’s Mid (20th) Century Modern and its back with a vengeance. This may in part be due to the popularity of the Mad Men TV series but also because the furniture is beautifully crafted and essentially modern looking.
In Australia during the 50’s, 60’s and even into the early 70’s, brand names such as Parker and Chiswell were the premier manufacturers of this style, as well as celebrated Australian designers such as Grant Featherston. The original pieces were often referred to as Danish and Danish Eames style. Internationally, designers such as Ray and Charles Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner and Harry Bertoia created pieces of furniture, lighting and accessories that remain hugely popular today.
What makes Retro so recognisable?
• Tables, chairs & buffets were made of polished timber (often teak)
• Simple, clean lines and uncomplicated shapes of upholstered furniture and timber pieces
• Practical and unobtrusive design
• Tapered legs with a round profile on tables and chairs
• Linear, low-line cabinetry, such as buffets
• Tables were frequently round extending to an oval or rectangular with rounded corners
• Dining chairs had elliptical upholstered pads on back & seat
• Chairs and sofas were upholstered with leather or PVC, wool or other natural looking materials
If you’re a real fan of Mid Century Modern furniture you may want to create your whole look around this design style. In this case, you’ll need to make sure the major pieces of furniture in your room are either originals or reproductions of this period. If you want an authentic look, you’ll need to follow through with decorative accessories and soft furnishings as well. However it’s also ideal for introducing a piece or two into an otherwise contemporary space. It won’t dominate the modern décor, but will still create a point of difference as the style is so recognisable. The clean lines work harmoniously with a contemporary style, slightly offset by the softer lines and ‘natural’ materials & finish. As well as looking great, the pieces were exquisitely crafted from high-quality materials, and locally produced at a time when furniture was built to last a lifetime. Original pieces are in huge demand in the marketplace, however not everyone wants to pay for an original as there are often additional costs for restoration of the finish as well as reupholstery. Fortunately there are also some great copies out there.
Where can you find it?
Parker Furniture are still designing furniture that can be custom made to your specifications, while other retailers are producing modern replicas. Also you can try classified websites such as Gumtree and eBay in the hunt for that fabulous original. One other avenue you mightn’t have thought to try is your local op-shop/charity store. I’m talking about the big warehouse stores, which have everything from clothing to vinyl records to dining settings. If you’re lucky you could find amazing pre-loved pieces in perfect condition for a fraction of the price!
Love Mid Century Modern design, but don’t know where to start? Give Design My Home a call on 0416 190 792 or email email@example.com to book an appointment.