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Yellow & Green Brushstrokes(silkscreen)
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Lichtenstein, Roy

Fifties Bar with Bongo Drums
Fifties Bar with Bongo Drums
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Tubular steel and black leather Eames chairs

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Fifties Style

By Juliette Guilbert

Whether your inspiration is the Guggenheim Museum or Marcus Welby’s waiting room, fifties design allows you to mix sophistication with fun in whatever proportions suit your fancy. From Eames chairs to tiki-room kitsch, the fifties can be high, low, or anywhere in between.

If you live in a Victorian cottage with gingerbread trim, carved mantels, and chair rails, you may want to consider another style. But if you are decorating a circa 1961 split-level ranch, why not revel in your home’s mid-century pedigree and furnish it with chrome and leather sofas, atom wall clocks, and amoeba-shaped coffee tables?

In the fifties, radios were cool and chic. As television grew in popularity, radios emphasized style, design and 50's funkiness.

Fifties style works best in an open floor plan with simple, clean lines, a minimum of woodwork, and an abundance of natural light. Blond wood floors or low-pile wall-to-wall carpet and a neutral, pale paint palette (except in the kitchen, where vivid color reigns supreme), provide a fine backdrop for fifties furniture and accessories.

The kitchen is one of the most fun -- and cheapest -- fifties rooms to reproduce. All you need is black and white checkerboard flooring in tile or linoleum, a chrome and formica table with a sparkly-swirly pattern, and simple fitted cabinets. Bright period colors -- red, lemon yellow, chartreuse -- can (and should) appear on the table and countertops, cabinets, or appliances.


Fifties Kitchen
Fifties Kitchen
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In the living room, look for sleek leather, plastic, and chrome furniture by Charles and Ray Eames; Heywood Wakefield pieces in streamlined blond wood; or anything by the influential Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who pioneered the process of molding wood into curvilinear shapes.

Fifties Living Room Ensemble
Fifties Living Room Ensemble
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For a high-modernist look, invest in Arne Jacobsen egg, swan, or ant chairs. The sculptor Isamu Noguchi’s beautifully simple glass coffee table is another haute-fifties design icon.

If you’re more interested in Ozzie and Harriet than Eero Saarinen, pair a boxy sofa, upholstered in chartreuse and balanced on slender legs, with low-slung bent-wood armchairs and a glass or molded plywood coffee table. Add accents like space-age clocks, coat racks that resemble molecular models, spun resin table or floor lamps, wire sculptures, and fabulous fifties ceramic ashtrays in burnt orange or avocado green.

Then shake yourself up a pitcher of martinis!

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