The year 1953 was one of consolidation rather than of design innovation in the home furnishing field in the United States. The most important fact about the new furnishings was their affinity for the past.
There was a great deal of searching for 18th and 19th century styles that had not lately been exploited. More pure Hepplewhite, English Regency and Italian Directoire articles came into evidence. The emphasis on such styles was on formality with a lot of decorative detail, brass, carving, inlaid and painted surfaces.
Even more significant perhaps was the extent to which Provin-
cial styles influenced contemporary design. The idea seemed to be to introduce groups that would successfully appeal to either the traditional or the modern-minded consumer.
Much cherry and walnut wood was used, in basically modern groups with traditional hardware. American and French Provincial inspired case pieces showed an increasing tendency toward modern engineering and gadgets; basically simple de-signs were dressed up with brass, thermoset plastic tops, marble tops and tambour and shutter doors.
Japanese, Korean and Chinese design was discernible in many of the new furniture pieces. Pewter or pewter-finished hardware of oriental character was widely used as well as enamelized rings imported from Japan. The use of cane also increased. Screens of the Japanese shoji type were shown with both contemporary and traditional groupings.
Brass was the prominent metal, though wrought iron continued as the indoor-outdoor favourite. Raffia, cloth or leather combined with the metal gave it a more colourful appearance.
Upholstery materials appeared in vibrant colours with flat surface textures, and a wide colour range in dull-finished sheep-skin was shown.
Reflecting a demand for more comfortable seating pieces for television viewing, the market offered a large number of over-sized pieces in an extravagant variety of constructions.
The texture and colour potentials of rayon carpeting was even further revealed, with an increasing number of manufacturers using rayon. Wool carpet manufacturers invaded the cotton field, and cotton manufacturers explored the rayon market. Popular priced nylon carpeting was imported from the Netherlands.
Vinyl and vinyl asbestos tiles were offered in textured stripe design and block motif patterns.
Plastic fabrics of all kinds of textures in sheeting and woven goods were available in long colour lines. Silk, rayon, cotton, nylon and linen fabrics were shown in a variety of textures and colours. The textures in many cases veered away from the heavy patternings of past seasons to light, airy and open types. Design and fabric were closely complementary.
Modern home design had led to the use of the living room area for serving meals, both lunch and dinner, thereby cutting down building costs as well as the housewife's daily cleaning time. The shortage and increased cost of domestic help had forced the homemaker to save time and space by using such things as oven-to-table ware, dual purpose dinnerware and double duty furniture pieces. The growth of television had popularized a new kind of home entertainment, including informal suppers and snacks, that called for food service that was both efficient and attractive and for furniture pieces that could be moved around easily or hidden out of sight when not needed.
Even in homes with a separate dining room, these qualities of duality, efficiency and space saving plus decorative appeal were present in the furniture and accessories shown during the year.
This interchangeable room idea profoundly affected the de-signing of everything that went into the home. No longer could home furnishings be sold on the old-fashioned principle that they were intended only for the living room, dining room or bedroom. The basic need of the consumer was determined by his house plan and his family's living habits.
This new style of casual living was inspired by the open-house or "ranch" plan. It was predicated on the theory that mid-century Americans needed furnishings that were good-looking, easy to care for, compact and that could be used inter-changeably throughout the house.
The select circle of elegant modern design had expanded, and the fanciful kind of modern furnishings was proving as popular as the informal country kind. This was reflected in the season's
new lines of modern furniture, floor coverings, fabrics and cessories, which allowed for wider and more personal treatment of the elegant modern theme.
There was considerable indication that even the work of signers who catered to the more restricted and design-info audience was considerably influenced by the past history handcrafts. Woods were being handled in the delicate fashion of the cabinetmaker, fabrics clearly showed their handloomed inspiration and ceramics appeared to reflect the potter's Informal living habits had matured far beyond the ranch Room dividers, dual sleeping equipment, furniture that served more than twice the purpose but took up half the space familiar, and designers searched for a fresh appeal.
This did not mean so much a return to formality or tradition as a seeking in the past and in the designs of other countries for a new slant and new sophistication.