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Design Styles - Retro

Sep 5, 2008
Defining a style is a tall order to fill. For each person a slightly different mental image may be conjured up. When talking of retro style, one might picture a fifties diner decked out in black and white check and cherry red vinyl booths, a fresh mint green kitchen with matching accessories, a minimal sleek space age space, or a "Rat Pack" era lounge.

Retro design encompasses several decades and many different design details, but they all seem to have a uniting outlook. After the gloomy rationing of World War II, people were ready for some bright colors and cheerful design. New technologies developed during the war made it possible to experiment with shapes and colors and affordability. The possibilities seemed endless and so did their optimism.

Here are a few ideas to help create retro style in your space:

-Colors-

It is a safe bet to choose cheerful bright colors or a more monochromatic scheme for more minimal sleek retro design. Common retro colors are pink, jade green, mint green, turquoise, cherry red, black, and sunshine yellow. Black and white checkerboard pattern and red and white geometric motifs were very common. Many mid-century modern enthusiasts prefer a more neutral scheme for a sleeker look. Whatever color you choose be sure that you love it. Just because it fits the style doesn't mean that it needs to be all over your walls.

-Furnishings-

Choose upholstery pieces that are boxy and clean lined. Furnishings were often made of a variety of new materials including formica, fiberglass, plastic, resin, vinyl, linoleum, laminate, and plywood. Other popular materials were aluminum, stainless steel, and polished chrome. Teak, birch, ash and maple were common often with light or natural finishes. Coffee tables were curvy or kidney shaped and dining tables round or oval. Famous chair styles developed in this period include the Eames lounge chair, butterfly chair, barcelona, and tulip chair. Adding a chair such as those mentioned would be sure to give that retro feel.

-Textiles-

Soft textiles in the form of rugs, pillows, drapes, and throws are an easy way to repeat your color scheme throughout the room. Fabric choices are endless and could include a variety of colors and textures. Geometric prints and atomic symbols, along with asteriks, starbursts, bubbles, boomerangs, amoebas, satellites and rockets would all do the trick. Shag rugs and plush carpets are also a great choice.

-Putting it all together-

Now comes the tricky part, putting it all together. It is far too easy to get carried away with retro style and end up with a space that feels to themed. So how do you prevent that? Decide before you start what tone you would like to set. If you want the space to feel like a 50's diner than go for it, but if something a little more subtle is what you had in mind, use retro pieces somewhat sparingly. A little bit of whimsy can go a surprisingly long way. Plus it is a sure way to keep your space up to date while still having that charming retro feel. Keep it as simple as you possibly can.

One of the best things about Retro style besides its whimsy and charm is the ease and affordability with which you can find objects and furnishings for your home. Check out garage sales, flea markets, or thrift stores. You'd be surprised at some of the great things you will find.
About the Author
After being a student of Southern Oregon University's English program, Angela Stephens has dedicated herself to the study of interior and furniture design styles for the past 6 years. Angela established Peniel Products, an online retailer of Home Furnishings and Decor.
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