The typical well-decorated American living room of 1956 featured pale-toned walls, deeper and more intense colors on upholstered pieces which were lower than formerly, and a striking area rug defining one particular furniture grouping.
There were no important innovations in interior decorating, but rather intensifications or modifications of existing trends.
Mahogany and walnut were about evenly matched as favorite woods, with cherry following; similar warm brown finishes were applied to all three. A new process made veneers more resistant to damage. The plastic wood-grain reproductions were more skilfully handled and found their way into better grades of furniture.
Upholstered pieces emphasized extremely slim, tight tailoring, made possible through the use of foam rubber and, for the first time, the less expensive flexible foam plastics. Many types of modern furniture and some traditional styles displayed a trend toward lower-height tables and seating pieces, exemplified by "conversation tables" intermediate in height between coffee and dining tables and large enough to accommodate four to six chairs.
Modern furniture had almost entirely departed from its rigid angularity. In general, such details as legs, stretchers and chair arms were most often gracefully but complexly shaped and curved; hardware was frequently an important design element; tables and case pieces showed considerable use of parquetry, brass insets and, more rarely, fairly elaborate marquetry. There was a revival of interest in stainless steel for table tops and as an accent material. Mosaic tile tables were popular, and some tables were topped with a new material, marble chips embedded in plastic. which gives the effect of terrazzo.
Turquoise, a bit more intense than the favorite aqua of recent years, was the outstanding colour in all fabric categories. The neutral earth tones continued high in favor. Deep, intense blues were popular, and there was increased use of various shades of gold in both drapery and upholstery fabrics.
In printed fabrics the most popular patterns were geometrics, simple abstractions and oriental-inspired compositions of grasses and leaves, which could be used with modern or traditional furniture.
Synthetic fibers continued to be used, particularly in curtains and draperies, but the furor over "miracle fabrics" had largely died down, along with many of the claims made for them, A new technique for making an infinite variety of textured fabrics involved the use of polyethylene fibers with other yarns; the fabric is woven flat and later processed to shrink the poly ethylene, which puckers the rest of the material into a texture pattern determined by the arrangement of the polyethylene fibers.
Textured wall coverings, grass cloth and simulated brick and stone that had been high in favor for several years, were apparently dying out. The most favored patterns of 1956 were extremely light, open and airy, spaced wide apart and with in• frequent repeats. Relatively a rare occurrence in the history of wallpaper, white and off-white grounds were at or close to the top in use, along with very light, soft pastels. This trend to pale walls held true in paint also, and represented a sharp reversal from the deep colors of only a few years before.
The revival of patterned-to-size rugs was perhaps the out- standing development in floor coverings. All over figured rugs and carpeting had dominated the field for so many years that rugs with borders and central design seemed quite fresh once more. In some cases patterns were done in colors, but rather more frequently a geometric border or central figure was achieved through various heights of pile. Carpeting generally emphasized colorful random tweedy effects with a trend to- ward lighter, brighter colours. There were many representational patterns suggesting such things as cobblestones or mosaics. Small area rugs emphasized contrasting stripes and figures and sometimes combined leather or other materials with wool. Nylon, a relatively inexpensive material, was widely used.
Copper highlighted the kitchen in 1956 with such items as copper-colored ranges, canisters, bread boxes and wastebaskets,
Lamps and decorative accessories grew in scale while silvery metals increased in importance. Three-dimensional wall ornaments, candelabra, sconces, lavabos, bas-reliefs and planters were high in favor.