Remember that feeling of when, as a child you started the new year at school? Full of anticipation with shiny new shoes and a packed pencil case, full of tales of a glorious summer holiday in 6 weeks of hot sun. Well now is the time to feel that optimism again. Just swap the new stationary set for bright retro home accessories that will keep you happy until you get those Christmas decorations out.
So, turn back the clocks this Autumn with our great ideas to inject colour into your life and your home.
Curtains, cushions, wallpaper and rugs all made a major design change in the 50s with the introduction of bright patterns in contrasting colours. Patterned wallpapers next to different patterned curtains with clashing bright carpets was the new style. But this was all still quite expensive and in reality only the brave had this look in their homes.
However, this all changed with the arrival of Habitat in the 60s. It brought affordable and funky style to the baby boom generation who were leaving home and discovering their own individuality. With money to spend and an optimistic outlook for a brighter future they wanted their own homes to be colourful, psychedelic and fun. Living rooms were often orange in theme with now matching accessories; the clashing style of the 50s was left behind.
With this generation marrying and settling down in the 70s, more muted tones in browns and golds with organic patterns and shapes were introduced. The art nouveau revival seen at Biba, had an impact on furniture, fabric pattern and prints which meant that William Morris designs made a major come back.
As the days get shorter, draw the curtains early evening and snuggle up on the sofa. Add a splash of colour to your lounge by hanging retro curtains and scattering cushions in bright oranges, yellows and purples. The funky flowers will remind you of summer and take you back to the days before Ikea and mass produced style. We live in a generation of magnolia walls with taupe eyelet curtains…buck this trend by injecting a burst of retro zing against a white wall to bring a smile to your face after a long day at work.
The revolutionary design of the Ericofon brightened up Swedish homes from the late 40s. This was the first marketed phone incorporating the handset and dial together (maybe a forerunner for the mobile phone) and came in 18 colours but interestingly, never black. In Britain, however, we continued with the serious black bakelite phone well into the early 60s.
A phone was something you hired from the GPO, it was for the adults and most homes didn’t even have one. The arrival of the BT 700 series in the 60s changed the face of our communication as well as brightening up our teak telephone tables. These were called the “modern telephone” and were available in 7 colours. Only a third of us were brave enough to have a coloured version though, the popular still being black and cream. BT introduced the idea of swapping colours to bring a change to your décor but as this cost money our parents chose a safe colour. Phones continued to develop with new colours and space age shapes though the 70s and 80s with the Trimphone and the Genie, before returning back to the more serious black of phones today.
A retro phone really stands out in our modern world, a key piece of retro heaven with an old fashioned ringer. Sit and chat to your friends on the landline, remembering how this was the way you arranged to see them, long before texts and Facebook.
Vases and Bowls
Handblown glass has been made for centuries, but after the war designs started to emerge in new shapes, styles and colours just like other homewares. From the 60s onwards we bought into a new funky look with heavy vases and bowls. Murano glass from Italy with its new fluid cased creations and the kitsch look of English Chance handkerchief bowls all brightened up our G Plan sideboards.
The cased Murano form from Italy has a clear glass casing that houses a brightly coloured shape within it, creating a beautiful layered effect. Adding extra colours into the mix meant that when the sun shines through it, different colours are seen reflected through. The most famous and desirable was Flavio Poli’s “Sommerso” range.
Here in Britain in the late 50s, Chance Glass introduced the handkerchief bowl. Based on the early Murano style, these contempary versions captured the spirit of the 50s with candy colours and kitsch patterns. They were also mass produced with set patterns (gingham, polka dot, swirls, stripes and textures) available in a variety of colours.
Create a statement this autumn with a retro glass bowl in the centre of your coffee table, a group of different shapes and sizes in a cluster on a shelf or simply choose an elegant bud vase on your dining table to introduce a blast of beautiful colour to your home.
The final touches
Forget Back to School, now is the time to add some retro style to your desk be it in your home or at your office. Bridge the gap until the Christmas holidays by introducing a 60s phone, a floral cushion for your chair, a West German pot for your pens or a 50s magazine rack for your papers. Impress your work mates this Autumn with your bright accessories like you used to impress your school friends with your matching rubber and sharpener!
Enjoy….It’s not long ’til Christmas!
(This is my first article for Vintage Life magazine written back in 2010)