Life Interiors

Friday 15 December 2017

Interiors... Going retro-vintage

Designers of the day drawing inspiration from the 50s and 70s

Tom Dyckhoff made the Quartz sofa the centre of his interior design for DFS
Tom Dyckhoff made the Quartz sofa the centre of his interior design for DFS
Kian smoked glass coffee table and chrome chair
Tom Dyckhoff
Atomic structure side table
Cherner pretzel chair
Fri armchair by Jaime Hayon
Kangaroo chair

Eleanor Flegg

The nostalgic tastes of the current generation of forty-something hipsters has given us the current trend for fusion between 1950s and 1970s styles which, according to recent research by the furniture company DFS, is a blend favoured by 24pc of their respondents.

Thirty three per cent preferred the contemporary Scandinavian style of the Noughties (also retro), and 44pc admitted to being inspired by recent period television dramas, like Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

It means we currently like to mix up our retros and vintages.

If someone asked me to draw a cup and saucer it would have blue and white stripes on it, just like the crockery I grew up with.

My archetypal tea cup was made in Carrigaline, Co Cork in the 1970s and I still get excited when I see one in a charity shop. In the back of my mind, that's what a tea cup is meant to look like. But ask me to draw a lampshade and it would be patterned with cabbage roses (sorry about that). On some level, I'm also nostalgic for my granny's 1950s flowery lampshades. Does that make me a hipster?!

Most interior components have an element of nostalgia - some element of design or decoration that harks back to the past. Usually it's a fusion of more than one vintage era, with some contemporary items thrown into the mix.

The architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff has a theory on this: "When we make our homes, we are always pulled in two directions: the future and the past. The nests we create for our families are dominated by not just our hopes for the future, but our experiences and memories of the past; the kinds of home we know best - the ones we grew up in, the places where we first learned what a home actually is." That's why I'm culturally pre-disposed to like designs that remind me of my 1970s childhood.

Interior design trends, Dyckhoff argues, are dominated by people in their 30s and 40s. This is the age at which most people buy and decorate their own homes, and their tastes tend to dictate what's available in the shops.

"When they look to the past, it is almost always to the past of their childhood or that of their parents. This pattern repeats itself again and again, because the homes we first experience, the ones our parents make for us, are themselves, in turn, influenced by the homes our parents first experienced: revival upon revival."

To showcase the 1950s and 1970s fusion style, Dyckhoff (below) was commissioned by DFS to create a room set. He centred the room around a lime green DFS Quartz sofa (€1,299) from the French Connection range, which shows a 1950s influence in colour and style (although a real 1950s sofa would have been symmetrical), accessorised with smoked glass, chrome, and geometric shapes. This is an easy and inexpensive look to put together at home.

Kian furniture has a chrome and smoked glass coffee table (€402) and you can buy geometric patterned cushions from Dunnes (from €12 to €35). Or, if money is no object, the Fri armchair (around €3,158) designed by Jaime Hayon for Fritz Hansen is 1950s-inspired, beautifully made and ultra contemporary.

Vintage fusion works best if you include a few genuine vintage items, without letting any period become too dominant. "Too much of anything is going to be overkill," says Geoff Kirk, who specialises in 20th century design. "A 1950s coffee table beside a chrome and leather Mad Men sofa works just fine, but fill a whole room with black leather and chrome and you're going to be in trouble."

As Kirk points out, both the 1950s and the 1970s had a futuristic element. "The space race began in the late 1950s and designers were experimenting with materials. The 1970s were experimental too, but by this time they had plastics."

The Cherner chair, otherwise known as the Pretzel, was designed in 1958 by Norman Cherner in an effort to see just how far he could twist moulded plywood (a hefty €2,250 from Kirk Modern). For a more accessibly-priced vintage chair, he's got a lime-green plastic fantastic kangaroo chair (€275), designed by Ernst Moeckl in East Germany in 1968.

The famous Eames chair, by Charles and Ray Eames, was designed in the 1940s, but the design evolved over time. "We became more aware of it in the 1970s when it was reissued in bright colours and with Sputnik legs," adds Kirk.

Call me nerdy, but I've got my eye on a JVC videosphere hanging television (a piece of authentic 1970s space age memorabilia if ever I saw one). It does work, although most people who buy these adapt them to use as gaming consoles. Or you could accessorise with a 1950s atom structure (€145). It originated in a science lab but is probably destined for a hipster side table, where it would sit very comfortably with a Nesso lamp from Artemide in that 1970s orange.

In his own home, Kirk favours clean-lined Scandinavian furniture from the 1950s and 1970s, rather than Space Age chic, with a few Art Deco pieces and some Ikea furniture for good measure.

"My nightmare would be to live in an estate where all the houses were the same and all the furniture came from the same shop," he says. "But it's a matter of taste. I've had people look at photos of our house and say that they'd get a migraine just waking up to that in the morning."

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