Madness for Mid-Century Modern
I live in a tasteful, eclectically decorated home with a mix of turn-of-the-century pieces – heavy on the mission style, oak look. But secretly (ok, not so secretly…) I’m in love with mid-century modern.
If I had the ability to recreate June Cleaver’s kitchen, I’d do it in a second. I’m envious of Rachel Ray’s appliances with the modern conveniences and their big, shiny, retro coolness, but not so in love with the prices – yes, I’ve looked into them. Pricey. But if you buy for-real old ones, they’re pricey too – on the electric bill.
I’ve oogled my friend Kelley’s kitchen for quite some time. She has “the first modern kitchen” in Whitley County – or so it was called way back in the day. It is still dreamy! My friend Mindy has those fantastic metal cabinets that a lot of 1950s kitchens had, also amazing. They look at me like I’m wacky when I tell them I’d gladly trade my raised panel oak custom cabinetry with brass handles for their kitchens in a heartbeat. It’s all in what you love.
Is it that I’m really in love with the style or the life style? Good question. When I think about the 1950s, in my mind at least, it’s all smiling mom at home in pearls and an apron, meals around the dining room table, kids minding their manners, dad is handsome, all is well in the world. At our house, dad really is handsome, kids to mind their manners, I wear pearls occasionally and I collect vintage aprons…but due to “failing chairs” sitting around the table isn’t possible, meals are as often eaten on the go, and clearly, all isn’t well in the world.
I stumbled across an excellent website recently http://retrorenovation.com/ that could give me some excellent decorating ideas…only, since I won’t be living in a retro home, pulling off anything like this is, well, unlikely. I am certain my husband will not allow me to tear out a perfectly, beyond nice kitchen to put in the retro-fied one of my dreams. I’m also fairly certain that while he enjoys or at least tolerates my retro decorating in our 1959 camper – he’s not allowing the obsession to trickle over into the house. The lake house one day, perhaps….
But if I could…I would also love to go for a bathroom with a matching pink or green sink, tub and toilet combo – with tile walls that go up about shoulder high. I must be alone in my affinity for this: you wouldn’t believe how many toilets and sinks I saw that looked like this out of the trash day last week! This kind of bathroom reminds me of the bathroom at my grandma’s house growing up – where her starched white nurse’s cap and uniform would be air drying on a hanger and where the whole room smelled of big bars of Dial soap and baby powder. Her 1950s era bathroom had what seemed like a giant-sized cabinet for piles of scratchy (yet lovely) line-dried towels and bubble bath. A couple of seafoam green chalk fish hung on the wall. Her tile walls were white with gold flecks in them.
As far as 1950s flooring goes, I could take it or leave it – though I do like the black and white checkered look and some of the short pile rugs are nice. There was a rug at my grandparents’ house that was room-sized and a dusty blue color with a short, patterned pile. As a pre-teen, I once commented how much I liked that rug and Grandma told me that as the rug was being delivered to her home and laid on the floor, November 22, 1963, she learned that John Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. I think that whenever she look at that rug, that though popped into her mind – and maybe made the rug a little less appealing. I still liked it, though, and briefly contemplated claiming it when they downsized and moved into an apartment a few years ago. I didn’t end up taking it because I had no logical place in my house for it – hopefully it went with a cousin or maybe the homeowners found it endearing?
I suppose that while my overall decorating scheme will not ever mimic the mid-century look, I will find unique ways of incorporating it into my home. Just this week, I bought a vintage 1950s mahogany dining room suite. The long table will eventually be dressed up with my collection of 1950s tablecloths. Some people collect them – I actually use them. I have a chrome table and my mother-in-law has promised me a set of aqua pearlesque chrome chairs to match when I have room – as soon as I can, I’ll find a spot for that. I’m contemplating tossing out my everyday dishes in favor of a set of Fiestaware. On special occasions, I can use my great-grandmother’s circa 1942 china – a treasured gift from my mother on my 26th birthday. She didn’t just give it to me all wrapped up. She served a spaghetti dinner on it and after dinner, said, “So, Jen, go do the dishes and then take them home!” I hate…absolutely detest…doing the dishes, but I’ve never washed them so dutifully as I did that evening.
I didn’t grow up loving things from the 1950s. It’s fondness that’s grown with age. Maybe one day I’ll outgrow it, but I think not. I think it’s all about wishing for a return to a time that seemed less complicated, where people were closer to their roots, more engaged with their families and involved in their communities. It may be idealistic, but striving for that once again isn’t such a bad idea and if a daily reminder of that is a Weil & Durrse tablecloth, a turquoise pitcher or an Eames era starburst wall clock.