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Interior Design In 1958

There were clear indications in the United States during 1958 that a new
furniture style was being born. It had evolved in a series a' gradual steps from the modern of the 1930s and mid-1940s, each new step leading toward greater warmth, refinement and elegance until a distinct style entity finally emerged. The new style ha affinities with the orient and with classic styles of the past,
well as with the best of the earlier modern period, but was distinct from each of these. Function and dimensions were engineered for today's living. Some called it "contemporary," other "transitional," but neither was a satisfactory label.

In the traditional styles, Early American accounted for 50% of total sales during the year, and French and Italian Provincial continued to be in demand.

A noteworthy trend in all styles was that small groups as well as large collections were getting away from the "suite" look. Pieces were closely related rather than exactly matched. For example, the details of an Early American dining group were authentic of the period, but legs and other details of tables, chairs and buffets were all different from each other.

Designers were largely preoccupied with the prevailing small rooms and lack of storage. The paradox that larger pieces make most efficient use of small space was being exploited. Nine and ten foot sofas, and even eleven foot ones, sometimes offered more compact seating than any arrangement of sectional or standard pieces. Similarly, in bedrooms a triple dresser and a large headboard with attached night stands or shelves occupied less space than the same pieces separately.

Flexible storage arrangements were a major area of investigation. Units designed to be hung from or placed against a wall, and freestanding room dividers, offered many possible combinations of drawers, shelves, cabinets, desks, high-fidelity and television cabinets, magazine racks and serving counters, which could be spaced and arranged as desired. Two systems introduced self-supporting, floor-to-ceiling poles as a framework for unlimited storage arrangements.

Walnut was still the favorite wood, followed by mahogany and cherry, though the popularity of contrasting woods and inlays brought a host of exotic woods into the picture. Warm brown finishes, slightly lighter than in the previous year, were most popular.

There were no clear-cut color trends. Whites and off-whites continued popular, and there was widespread use of all the light, neutral earth tones except for true gray. Pink and aqua were still favored but in new combinations. Clear blues, though far from the top, found better favor than they had for 30 years. A varied assortment of greens, yellows, oranges and orange-reds made up the most popular accent colors.

Beiges were still predominant in carpeting, though in somewhat lighter and frequently yellowish shades. Off-whites retained a surprising popularity, and golds and blues followed. The trend was entirely away from set patterns, even in contract carpeting, and toward random and obscure effects, mostly in texture. Loop-pile tweed was far and away the favorite. Tufted carpeting had been accepted, and acrylic fibers were becoming so.

Beiges and taupes were the outstanding colors in resilient flooring, followed by pinks, simulated woods, greens and blues. Mosaic and terrazzo were popular pattern types, and embossed linoleum enjoyed a minor revival. Over-all, resilient floorings continued their steady advance into all parts of the home, with a conservative estimate that 25% of home installations were in other than service areas. The best quality of vinyl flooring, comparable in price to fine carpeting, was high fashion; here simulated marbles, metallic golds, and vivid blues were most favored.

Fabrics showed strongly the return of elegance. Informal textures were decreasing, in favor of smooth weaves with woven or printed patterns, and there was a significant revival of damasks. Metallic golds were reappearing in prints. Beiges were used rather than grays, and more brilliant blues were coming in,
Wall coverings also demonstrated the return to elegant and traditional motifs. Damask and floral—even Victorian—designs were high in favor, though oriental motifs and small, all-over Provincial patterns continued in demand. Stripes, from dainty monotones to broad and bold, remained an important undercurrent. At the same time, real or simulated natural textures—the heavier the better—which had seemed to be declining, came back with renewed vigor. Colors trended toward deeper turquoises, yellows and pinks, and there were more strong blues, while at the top-fashion level neutral yellows and greens with orange accents were favoured.

Lamps and decorative accessories appeared in Greek and Roman shapes and motifs, with Empire and Directoire influences. Brass and walnut were prevalent materials at all levels, with gold and silver in the upper price brackets. Brilliant yellows, oranges, reds and blues were the best colors. The floor-to-ceiling pole lamp typified 1958 for lighting purposes.

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All rights reserved © Robert Falk, 2005

 

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