It may be an exaggeration to say "everything old is new again," but certainly the return of design elements from eras past remains a perpetually hot trend. However, today's "something old" is most frequently amped up with a stylish, contemporary, ultra-hip interpretation, making the "retro look" a lively and charming hybrid of the best of yesterday and today.
Mid-century Modern design relies on bright, cheerful colors, fun and funky materials and a host of accessories, from the charmingly old fashioned to the totally "kitschy."
To capture this look, 21st century Contemporary design often includes actual furniture and accessory pieces or at least a design imbued with the personality of rooms from mid-century Modernists. This is what has come to be known as "the retro look."
However, "retro" slang for retrospective doesn't solely relate to styles from the 1950s (see Chart, Page 90). Rather, a "retro" look is merely one relating to or revisiting styles and fashions from the past, with these designs usually being considered nostalgic and old-fashioned.
For North Americans, rooms from the 1950s are most often identified as "retro." These designs are known to be bursting with exuberance and self-confidence exhibited in bold colors and patterns which result in a definite "hipness" about them. With its colorful energy and strong sense of fun, is it any wonder that this look is finding a resurgence with today's consumers? Both new materials and technology and furniture and accessories from the past can be used to contribute to this look, which can evoke a warm sense of days-gone-by something today's consumers seem increasingly interested in as the world grows more and more high-tech.
But, to truly create an authentic feeling retro kitchen, it's critical to first understand the mood of the country during the time period you're seeking to recreate.
Design doesn't exist in a vacuum, and every era impacts and even defines the popular design styles of the times. That's particularly true in the case of 1950s-style design, where the joie de vivre is a reflection of an era borne out of the Allies celebrating the end of World War II. This coincided with the design world's experimentation with new war-time resin-based plastic materials.
Combine this happy period in time with new materials and the scramble to accommodate newly formed families and the result is the appearance of a very free-spirited, avant-garde design style a style whose resurgence continues to energize kitchen design even half a century after the fact.
While we often think only of mid-century Modernism with "kitschy" oddities, there really were two versions of this style. One style the lesser known one was directly linked to the furniture designs coming out of Scandinavia something we see echoes of today in the designs showcased at the popular furniture retailer, IKEA.
In Northern Europe, Scandinavian firms won acclaim for designs that adapted and softened the International style with traditional Scandinavian values. Teak-styled wood furniture was coveted in Denmark and Finland because people longed for the warmth and security of these strong, blocky pieces of furniture with their textural upholstery.
Perhaps our continued desire for the sense of security at home is what continues to prompt interest in this style, which is evident even today, as represented by such custom furniture stores as Copenhagen and the well-known furniture mass merchandiser, IKEA.
With the focus on natural woods like teak and plywood, these settings worked with vibrant maple red, faded
chartreuse green, chestnut orange and willow yellow. Expanses of glass (with little molding) were seen against
soft wood and terrazzo stone floors in this look.
The other, more well-known face of mid-century Modernism grew out of the new chemistry world. This style totally rejected naturalistic colors, and introducing in their place a host of brightly colored, cheerful plastics in candy pinks, blues and turquoises.
Laminates led the way in the 1950s as the new material to be used on countertops, and even on cabinets.