1950's Design Ideas For The Living Room

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Retro decorating is becoming a popular trend in general, and the lively, family oriented optimism of the 1950s works particularly well for a warm gathering place like a living room. Create a wholesome, friendly space for your family to spend time together by designing a 1950s themed living room.

Finding Fifties Living Room Furniture

You may be able to find genuine vintage 1950s furniture in good condition by exploring antique shops, thrift shops and even garage sales. If you're lucky, the seller will just be looking to get rid of these gems and they'll be yours at a very affordable price.

Even if you aren't able to find genuine period pieces, you can still get that 1950s look by choosing modern furniture with features that were popular in furniture during this time. A number of diverse influences simultaneously contributed to the unique style of the 1950s. Here are some of important 1950s decorating elements to look for:

  • Scandinavian influence: With clean lines and light colored woods, these pieces had an elegant simplicity without over-embellishment.
  • Modern technology: The birth of the space age influenced 50s furniture, making the strong statements of chrome legs, Formica tabletops and vinyl chairs popular.
  • Organic shapes: Curved furniture, now known as the Eames style, was also very popular at this time.
  • Emphasis on entertaining: During the prosperous 50s, people found themselves with more free time to socialize. Furniture designed for entertaining guests, such as home bars became popular.
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Decorating with the Colors of the Fifties

The varied influences of 1950s style created its diverse signature color palette. The Scandinavian influence brought its characteristic colors to living rooms with subtle shades of:

  • Cream
  • Brown
  • Green
  • Gray.

Innocent pastels that reflected the pure optimism of the 50s were also big during this time period, with favorites for decorating including:

  • Mint green
  • Pale yellow
  • Turquoise
  • Pink
  • Baby blue.

Finally, the influence of the new scientific, modern age contributed intense, stronger colors to mix, with shades such as:

  • Electric blue
  • Hot orange
  • Red
  • Bright yellow
  • Basic black and white.

Understanding Fifties Fabrics

To drape your living room in the style of the 1950s, see if you can find some of these classic patterns and themes for your upholstery, curtains and tablecloths:

  • Atomic design inspired by planets, galaxies and outer space
  • Abstract designs
  • Boomerang patterns
  • Polka dots
  • Stars
  • Checked patterns
  • Stripes
  • Floral prints
  • Fruit prints
  • Tropical prints.

Walking on History

You've got a number of options for an authentic Fifties floor:

  • Wall-to-wall carpet: This innovation was new in the 1950s and considered an exciting, modern decorating choice. Homeowners enjoyed the wide range of colors and textures available for this luxurious, warm floor covering.
  • Area rugs: Rugs covering sections of hard floor were popular in clean shapes with solid colors or geometric patterns.
  • Hardwood floors: Classic, earthy hardwood floors were still popular during the 1950s in planks and parquet, and in a range of woods and stains.
  • Linoleum: Up until this time period, linoleum was a boring, basic flooring material, even if it was easy to clean. During the 1950s, however, its manufacturers updated this product, introducing bold patterns and bright modern colors. Homeowners often worked with alternating colored linoleum tiles to create checked floor patterns, with red and white and black and white being widely used choices.

Accessories and Accents That Take You Back

To complete your 1950s styled living room, use accents and accessories to help coordinate your look. With the strong emphasis on quality family time and gracious entertaining during this time period, warm and cozy fireplaces were a focal point of many living rooms. Natural materials such as stacked stone or brick often complimented the clean lines of 1950s design.

Here are some other smaller accents and accessories that will enhance the look of your 1950s design:

  • Clocks: Sunburst and atomic clocks of metal or wood were living room basics at this time.
  • Plastic accessories: For the first time in history, decorative plastic accessories became available to the public. Pastel and brightly colored plastic items were both popular.
  • Lamps: 1950s lamps weren't just for lighting; they were an important part of overall room design in shapes that were abstract, geometric or sculptural. Lampshades were often fabric or fiberglass parchment.
  • Home entertainment: Televisions built into large, wooden cabinets were all the rage. Hi-fi stereo equipment also was a prominent living room feature. If adding vintage equipment isn't for you, modern reproductions boast the latest technical advances while preserving that vintage look.
  • Stand-alone pieces and framed prints: Animals such as poodles and gazelles were popular in table or shelf sculptures and miniatures as well as framed prints. Fruit, cityscapes and landscapes, both realistic and abstract were often found in paintings and prints of this period.

If you enjoy retro decorating, you've got lots of creative opportunities. By visiting thrift stores, antique shops and even modern shopping centers, you can recreate the safe, warm family oriented feeling of the 1950s right in your own living room.

Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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