Home & Garden

Go retro with the decorating styles of the 1960s

One of the hottest interior design styles today is the retro ’60s look. It’s hardly surprising given the wildly popular TV series “Mad Men,” a show that is set in 1960s New York and based on the intimate and high-powered lives of men and women in the world of advertising. You can’t get more sexy or ruthless. And as we relive that fast-paced era, the furnishings and fashions become equally compelling. You see it in the movie “A Single Man,” also set in the ’60s.

It was in the ’50s and ’60s that Scandinavian contemporary furniture captured the limelight. It was about straight, simple lines; pieces had no ornamentation, but were built from beautiful natural woods – teak, walnut, oak, birch and mahogany. Chairs and sofas were utilitarian, but made comfortable with upholstered seats and backs.

Today’s exciting contemporary look is captured in the furnishings shown here by Palazzetti. And as fresh and cool as it is, you can see the resemblance to the hot designs of 50 years ago repositioned to be modern again.

The room is composed of pieces that are restful and easy to live with, yet it is filled with eye-catching qualities that infuse the space with energy and life. The quiet play of textures and patterns is everywhere. The wood credenza has a crossed Canaletto walnut finish on the sliding-door fronts. Ripple vases with cactus plants are a fun throw-back. The Abbraccio chairs are curved and padded for comfort and style, with an oval side table also in wood. The shaggy Tokyo rug is a modern mix of wool and flax with a nubbly texture that bare feet love.

Warm, neutral fabrics are chosen to blend with the natural wood tones. The glass-top coffee table adds an airy reflective quality, as does the swirly white design in the cushion fabric. Taken together, this living room is welcoming and very much of our times, with a nod to yesterday’s fine design. An expressive Fornasetti plate on the table contributes the all-important touch of retro style and humor.

Dear Debbie: My family is trying to help our mother with her living room renovation and can’t seem to make it work for her. She craves a space that is contemporary yet cozy, warm and inviting. The space is quite large, and after creating a seating area around the fireplace, there is an area toward the staircase and front hall that feels like a hole. We have added pieces, but now it feels to her like a furniture warehouse. Could you please help us out with a better color palette and a more uncluttered design? – Amila

Dear Amila: Thank you for the photos. It can be a challenge to get the right balance and furniture placement, but the best solution is to move things around until they work. Yes, there is too much going on. So begin by editing out what you can. I would suggest you keep the sitting area, but you don’t need that extra table and lamp against the wall behind the sofa. In the hall area in front of the stairs, there is not room for two substantial pieces of furniture. Move the tall china cabinet, and center the blue painted chest of drawers on that wall. To update the living room walls, look for embossed paintable wallpaper in a paisley pattern, and paint it a creamy butter yellow. The red and gold you have now is a bit tired looking. Raise up the curtains to the ceiling, and give them a darker hue by adding a dark-red fringe or border so that the fabrics in the room don’t appear to be so matched up. Add a contemporary touch over the fireplace with a large mirror framed in silver. Rethink the lamps. Perhaps keep the two that match and add a modern floor lamp. Let me know how this works.

Debbie Travis’ House t o Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.tritter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com.