The living room – a casual feel-good space.
There’s definitely been a shift since the 1950s to a much more casual lifestyle and more flexibility in how we live in our houses.
Innovative designers and architects from the 1930s onwards began to re-think how houses served people’s needs. They started to create more open-plan living spaces inside, and opened houses up to the outside with walls of glass. By the 1950s and ’60s, progressive design had filtered beyond architecture and became accessible to more people.
Designers began using new materials: chrome, plastics and fibreglass. They also experimented with new techniques, resulting in plywood and moulded forms. Innovative designs, especially in furniture and light fittings, were often well ahead of their time and were suited to mass production. Today, many of these pieces have become classics, their timeless modern looks perfectly at home in contemporary interior settings.
While open-plan rooms are now common, we’re looking again at how they were handled in the ’50s and ’60s. Room dividers and open shelving are back in fashion, often used to create a separate zone without blocking light. Interesting pendant lights with retro profiles are replacing banks of ceiling lights. And greenery is again taking its place in our living spaces.
While the architecture is of the Victorian era, the furnishings have a modern look. The armchair references 1950s plank design chairs, and the solid-coloured, textured rug also has a ’50s/’60s feel. The oversize mirror throws light into the room.
If you want a mirror to throw light, but not be too much of a feature itself, choose one without a frame or with bevel edging.
There’s a serious dose of retro here with the ’70s macramé and plenty of rugs and throws on the sofa. The classic print of an Asian girl is by the artist Tretchikoff, who was hugely popular in the 1950s and ’60s and the lush plants bring a little – or maybe a lot! – of the outside in.
A plant hanging from the ceiling is a cool retro idea and saves space. Keep things orderly (see the neatly stacked magazines) – collections don’t have to mean clutter.
The fiddle leaf fig fills the corner and softens this room’s look, linking the artist-owner’s painting, the zigzag orange Jieldé lamp, spindle-back bench and elegant low-slung grey sofa. The bullet planter is an iconic retro shape – there are modern takes on this, though you may pick up an original online or at a garage sale.
Putting a plant in a raised pot gives it extra height and presence in the room
This pink Panton chair seems as much like a sculpture as a place to sit. It’s cleverly positioned next to an ethnic table, a perfect marriage of old and new.
Even a striking piece of furniture or an interesting object will look better if it’s carefully positioned.
This is an edited extract from Modern Retro Home by Jason Grant published by Hardie Grant Books
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