Tuesday, 6 March 2012

March inspiration - mid century modern

The mid century revival has been gathering momentum for a few years now, but with last years Festival Of Britain anniversary celebrations and Terence Conrans distinctively 50s inspired collection for M&S, along with 'British Design 1948-2012' opening at the V&A later this month, it's showing no signs of slowing down. It got me thinking about why we are so obsessed with this particular era of design. Maybe it's that so many iconic designs were created in this period, or that the graphic lines of print designs, or the comforting fluidity of the furniture shapes still seem so contemporary? Maybe, in the midst of a recession, we need the injection of bright optimism that 50's design encapsulates? Whatever it is, there are plenty of contemporary designs out there heavily referencing the 50s and a huge amount of dealers in original 50s pieces, so there's no shortage of mid-century items to incorporate into your home.





1. 'Brown Bop', 'Taste Of Honey' & 'Rockin Around', Wayne Hemingway for Crown Paints, 'Vintage' range.
2. 'Forest' furniture fabric by Lucienne Day from 'The Fifties' pattern book, V&A Publishing
3. 'Square Deal' furniture fabric from 'The Fifties' pattern book, V&A Publishing
4. 'Abode Pink' & 'Malt Chocolate' by Dulux Paints
5. 'Palisade' furniture fabric by Lucienne Day from 'The Fifties' pattern book, V&A Publishing
6. 'Fireside' & 'Smoulder' by Crown Paints.
7. Vintage napkin holder (I think!) bought from a flea market in Berlin last year.
8. Original 1950's dessert bowl (one of a set of six I inherited from my great aunt).
9. Original 1950's milk/cram jug bought from North London Vintage market last year.
10. 'Midnight' & 'Ochre' paints from the Sanctuary range at Homebase.
11. Terence Conran designed furniture fabric from 'The Fifties' pattern book, V&A Publishing
12. 'Isosceles' furniture fabric by Lucienne Day from 'The Fifties' pattern book, V&A Publishing
13. Cuno Fischer fabric design from 'The Fifties' pattern book, V&A Publishing
14. 'Penny Black', 'Genuine', 'Smoke' & 'Smoulder' all by Crown Paints.


There are several ways to get a bit of mid-century modern style into your home, either using modern pieces inspired by old designs, or by purchasing vintage items. Another option, is to invest in a contemporary reproduction. These are produced under licence from original designs, so they are not vintage, but they are still 'the real deal'. Be aware of fakes, a useful guide can be found in issue 1 of Est Magazine here. It's also worth reading Elle Deco's 'Equal Rights For Design' work before you think about buying an unlicenced reproduction. Read about it here

My pick of the best 'new vintage' pieces is below.


1. 'Festival' cushion from the Mini Moderns Shoppe
A quick and inexpensive update that will look great in a plain white room.
2. Marian Mahler design on canvas (V&A Collection) from £275 from Surface View
Can't wallpaper? Consider investing in a large scale canvas that you can take with you.
3. Charles Eames side chair, licensed reproduction from SCP
A great investment as this classic design fits with so many looks, and will last for years.
4. 'Godwin' chair by Terence Conran from £749 at M&S
This, is a future classic and it's worth the investment. It will fit with many schemes, won't date, and even if you live in a furnished rental, it's not so big that it's difficult to make the room for.
5. Anglepoise lamp in production in the 1950's £140 from Anglepoise
Use as a bedside lamp or a desk light. Also available in Jet Black & Vanilla Cream colourways.
6. 'Tried & Tested' print Wayne Hemmingway Vintage from £25 from East End Prints
The easiest way to get a bit of 50's style is to hang a print. There are lots of options from Waynes range, but this is my favourite.
7. Sanderson 'Dandelion Clock' print mug £7 from John Lewis
Inexpensive, gorgeous and a great addition to any kitchen. 
8. Steepletone retro radio from Steepletone Jukeboxes
Look at that 50's car dashboard styling. Great in retro or contemporary schemes.  
9. Feldman apron £15 from the V&A Shop
Home textilesare another great way to add a bit of pattern, without being overpowering. This has a matching tea towel as well.


Real vintage pieces can be expensive, especially the furniture, but consider that they are likely to be well made and if they've survived the last 60-odd years then they are a worthwhile investment. Smaller items like ceramics and tableware are much more affordable, especially if you're buying what were once mass produced items. 


1. Jessie Tate Zambesi Tureen for Midwinter Pottery £120 sold on Bath Antiques Online
Choosing something large like a vegetable tureen means that you can make it the centrepiece of your plain white set.
2. Atomic hooks £40 from Your Vintage Life
An absolute classic, the 'atomic' motif was applied to lots of home wares. I've always loved them as hooks though.
3. Set of 4 early G-Plan chairs £395 from The Old Cinema
This is a great price for a set of four chairs. G-Plan is enjoying a huge revival and these would look great in any kitchen or dining room, even with a modern table.
4. Original 1950s wallpaper €49 from Vintage Wallpaper
Vintage paper is worth considering for framing, or papering a panel to prop behind your bed. A surprising amount of the real thing is still out there.
5. Vintage poster £245 from Pedlars
Pedlars have a constantly changing array of vintage pieces, this music poster is great in eye catching pink.
6. Walnut occasional table £140 from Minimode
Considering that you'd pay similar for a dining table on the high street, I think this is not only more stylish, but a better investment. Match with vintage chairs or something more modern.
7. Chrome cased tea set £38.50 from Mark Parrish
An absolute bargain from this well known vintage dealer. The chrome keeps the look modern, mix with modern cream mugs or vintage teacups.
8. 'Avalon' chest of drawers £130 from eBay
eBay is a great place to find second hand furniture. If you're unsure of provenence do some research & ask the seller lots of questions.
9.Homemaker table ware £POA from Ian Broughton at Alfies Antique Market 
Alfies Antique Market is THE place for vintage goods, there aren't many places where you can find such a complete set as the one pictured here.




If you don't fancy tracking down original pieces your self or are concerned about authenticity, you could also head to one of the Modern Shows (above) where dealers galore trade in furniture, ceramics and all manner of mid century design. If you're new to buying antiques they're a friendly bunch so don't be afraid to ask for advice. For a list of dealers go here. Also try the North London Vintage Market click here to find out when the next market is. Less about furniture and more about smaller items, you can find some gorgeous bargains. 

I think the thing to bear in mind with mid-century pieces, is that they mix so well with contemporary schemes, making them easy to live with. You can be fairly minimal, or go for all out pattern and bright colours, depending on your taste, there really is so much scope.


For more information, head over to Millers Antiques and look out for their new book due out in October. Another good reference guide is published by Conran Octopus.



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