In terms of progress, interior decor for 1950 presented a pictured contrast wherein the confusion that developed during the last six months of the year, dating from the outbreak of hostilities Korea, seemed in danger of over-shadowing the genuine accomplishments of the first half of the year. The sum total, however, actually showed greater advancement than at any time since before World War II.
With new-home construction at its highest point since the 1920s, the need for simple, well-made, and reasonably priced home furnishings was more important than ever. In response, there appeared, one after another, entire collections of furniture designed specifically to meet these needs, done in every important decorative style from most advanced contemporary classifications to those of Provincial, 18th century or traditional derivation.
Simplicity, versatility and a minimum of ornate decoration were the common characteristics of every new group. Chests, shelves and storage units were specifically designed with the modern home and contemporary living in mind. The light look became increasingly important in consideration of the new homes where space was at a premium and multiple-purpose pieces proved their versatility in serving with equal success in living room, dining room or bedroom surroundings. Built-in units, including sofas and tables as well as chests and cabinets, became more popular, and similar pieces, actually portable but with a built-in appearance were a great success. In every price range, chair and sofa designs reached new heights in comfort and construction, with the use of new woods, new metals and the increased application of foam rubber in upholstering.
Playing an important part in the development of good design hall types of products for the home was the inauguration of the Good Design competition. sponsored jointly by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Ill., and scheduled as an annual event. Selections made in January and June of each year would be judged on the basis of their compatibility with "design intended for present-day life, in regard to usefulness, to production methods and materials and to the progressive taste of the day." The initial selections, presented for the first time in Jan. 1950, were hailed as an outstanding constructive influence on the entire field of interior decoration. In furniture design, new interpretations of separate and occasional chairs appeared in great variation, from those of molded or laminated plywood to chairs made entirely of plastic or of metal and wood with seats and back of woven burlap. woven tic, paper fiber or even of specially processed string. Many types of knock-down furniture appeared on the scene, and many of the new presentations were distinguished by their unmistakable evidence of greater quality. Chests, tables, desks and chairs and even a few sofas, designed to be put together with a minimum of effort and workmanship, branched far afield in the designs offered, in woods and finishes and ingenuity of construction.
More and more metal appeared in combination with wood, used for construction efficiency as well as for interesting appearance, particularly in contemporary pieces. Tables were shown with tops of copper, stainless steel or slate combined with a varriety of woods in interesting design. And in addition to metals, materials such as cork, rawhide and cane were used in combination with woods with sufficient frequency to make their mark as a genuine fashion trend.
Among the interesting new finishes were those especially created for table tops, and marked by their common characteristic of practicality, apparent in terms such as waterproof, stain-proof, burn-proof, alcohol-proof and the like. One group of furniture, made by an aircraft company and designated as precision-made, featured a finish that was said to withstand almost every type of damage. Still another successful finish of the indestructible type was one of plastic which could be made to look like any light or dark wood. When used as a table top in combination with natural wood for legs it was indistinguishable in appearance from the natural wood.
Television had a strong influence on many new pieces of furniture, with the accent on portability. Furniture in this group made use of casters on tables or chairs to provide for easy moving about. Tables were designed to be converted into seating pieces, and seating units appeared which could be extended to double size, or as collapsible units which could be stored away when not in use, along with an increase in longer sofas and more sectional units for corner placement in room decoration.
Cotton rugs showed a wide range of improvements and an ever-expanding acceptability in 1950, considerably beyond the special and scatter-rug classification. In new versions in room sizes they were considered a highly satisfactory and decorative as well as practical type of floor covering. One of the important innovations in this group was a reversible rug of cotton, tufted and looped on both sides to give double use and wear.
In fabrics for window and upholstery use nylon was increasingly important and included patterned as well as plain-color presentations. Highly recommended for its resistance to wear and to soil, it provided a very practical product in this field and at a cost no higher than most other fabrics for similar use.