Furniture Styles

Furniture > American > Modern & Contemporary > Vintage Retro

American Vintage Retro Furniture

Back to the '50s, '60s, and '70s: the Resurgence of Retro Furniture

A nougahyde coach and a kidney-shaped coffee table, kitchen banquettes and sleek chrome kitchen tables. Lava lamps and starburst clocks, blonde Scandinavian-inspired furniture sets. These items, all the rage in the 50s and 60s are back and they're more popular than ever. In fact, retro furniture, both authentic pieces and reproductions, are some of the hottest designs available today. The twenty-year span from the mid-50s to the mid-70s produced a huge variety of design ideas, from Danish modern furniture to inflatable, plastic chairs. Sparked by America's new affluence and optimism following World War II, consumers yearned for anything modern and different from their parents' houses. Out were the dark, traditional designs of the 1930s and 1940s and in came streamlined, Art Deco-style furniture, designed for convenience as well as style, and epitomized in films, such as the James Bond series, and television shows, such as "Lost in Space", "The Jetsons", and "The Dick Van Dyke Show".

Molded Furniture

The age of space travel inspired sleek furniture shapes and styles. You could almost imagine sitting in a house on the moon with the popular one-piece plastic modular chairs and tables. Their brilliant white gave a sleek new technology look to kitchens, living rooms, and dining rooms. Many of these chairs had fitted, padded cushions, in bright colors, for comfort and these "mod" pieces are much sought after today.

Dinette Sets and Diner Chic

Sturdy, chrome dinette sets, bar stools, and kitchen tables are perhaps the most prized of retro furniture pieces. Popular in the 1950s and 1960s, these sleek, Art Deco tables and chairs evoke a gentler, simpler time, depicted on the "Happy Days" TV series. Bar stools and chair seats were covered in colorful plastic print designs and tabletops were generally Formica. Padded, diner-style banquettes, covered in nougahyde, were also prized, with special breakfast nooks built into houses to accommodate them. These dinette pieces are very durable and many have survived in surprisingly good condition.

The Match Game

Matching furniture sets were all the rage in the late 1950s and 1960s. Bedroom suites in blonde wood and of simple Danish modern lines, included beds, dressers, and nightstands, and were a sign of a prosperous newlywed's household. Most bedroom sets of that era featured twin beds with a bed stand between them. Living room sets, with matching upholstered chairs and sectional sofas, were also popular. Dining rooms, formerly heavy and mismatched, now featured lighter woods, such as teak, and streamlined chairs, tables, and china cabinets.

The Entertainment Craze

The new "in" room of the 50's and 60's was the "rec" room, that new suburban gathering place, where you could watch TV, play cards, and entertain guests. Every such room had a built-in or freestanding custom bar with accompanying bar stools. "Easy chairs" and recliners were necessary for relaxing and upholstered ottomans to put up your feet while you watched TV accompanied most chairs.

Retro Outdoor Furniture

The new affluence and move to suburbia in the 1950s and 1960s meant that the average American now had a back yard to furnish. As more and more Americans enjoyed spending time with their families and entertaining outdoors, patio furniture, both wooden and chrome, became de rigueur. Sturdy Adirondack chairs, metal Art Deco molded chairs, and sleek redwood picnic tables and lawn chairs started appearing in yards around the country. Garden accessories, such as redwood planters, statuary, and birdbaths also made an appearance.

Retro Colors

Color was an important component to design in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Post-war enthusiasm in the 50's ushered in splashes of bright red, often paired with black, as well as pink, lime green, and lavender. The 1960s saw a resurgence of vibrant, "mod" colors, such as hot pink, chartreuse, and lemon yellow. The 1970s introduced a palette of fall tones: harvest gold, avocado, and burnt orange. These bright colors were outset by white walls and light-colored carpeting.


Retro accessories are also unique and interesting. Barware, including all varieties of drink glasses and cocktail shakers with sleek Art Deco lines, were necessary for entertaining. Lava lamps, those symbols of 1960s pop culture, were a must-have for any household. Small appliances, from electric fondue pots to mini-fryers, rounded out any well-equipped kitchen, and starburst, plastic wall clocks adorned many a living room wall. Functional items also introduced an element of style, such as sleek, Bakelite rotary-dial telephones.

Dreaming of a simpler time? Take yourself back to the mid-20th century, and add a little nostalgia to your home by introducing some retro furniture, perhaps a chrome dinette set or a blonde wood sectional sofa. Retro furniture and accessories don't have to be costly. Build your room around a single, classic piece, or add several vintage accessories to your existing room.

Copyright © 2004-12 International Styles
All Rights Reserved