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Dream Home News, Issue #008 -- The Retro Issue
March 01, 2009

Spring is on the way! Welcome to your new issue of Dream Home Decorating News - THE RETRO ISSUE (March 1, 2009).


  1. Publisher’s Note
  2. Tip of the Month: Small Item – Big Impact
  3. Featured Article: Home Decorating Trends, Part III:
    Retro Interior Design
  4. Legal Stuff

Publisher's Note

"Hope is the Thing With Feathers / That Perches in the Soul…"
(Emily Dickinson)

They're twittering it from the rooftops here in London: spring has almost arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. And the little guys seem strangely unimpressed by the economic downturn.

Not so you and I - but are we going to let that stop us from making our homes (and lives) beautiful, happy and uplifting?

No way.

So what can a girl/bloke do on a diminutive decorating budget this year? How do you inject fresh, upbeat energy into your home at little or no cost? That's where our new Tip of the Month comes in.

Tip of the Month:
Small Item – Big Impact

If you could buy exactly one little new item for your home this year – what would give you the biggest bang for your buck? What would create the biggest difference in your home?

For example, let's say you would really like a new sofa, but your bank account won't have any of it. What can you do to make your current sofa more comfortable/useful/attractive?
  • Some additional sofa cushions, or new covers for the existing ones?

  • An inexpensive but luxurious looking quilt with inspiring color, or pattern, or texture, to cover the seat & back of the sofa?

  • A fun vintage side table from the thrift shop round the corner?

  • A new color on the wall behind the sofa?

  • Or some new pictures on that wall?

Now it's your turn.

Can you think of something small that would be so useful, or so effective, or so beautiful to look at, that it would make a real difference in your home right now?

Again, an example. Here are some of my own small-investment-big-result items of recent years:
  • A large, deep, no-stick, heavy-duty cast-aluminum pan. It doesn't even have a place in the cupboard because it's always in use.

  • A beautifully painted Italian ceramic tile that sits on the dining table and waits for hot pots from the kitchen.

  • A set of very chic, carved wooden towel hooks in the bathroom.

  • On the bathroom wall, a large, feel-good framed photographic print of a little kid swimming with dolphins in the ocean.

  • A straw basket from a market in Provence. (You can see it on the page about 'French Country' kitchen makeovers). I use the bag mostly for food shopping, and when it's not in use it hangs from a doorknob in the kitchen because it looks so sunshiny and "French" (I'm sure it was actually made somewhere in Northern Africa, but hey. It almost smells of lavender).
So … how will you spirit some spring glory into your home? Tell me. I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured Article:
Retro Interior Design

The other day in downtown London, I wandered into Habitat (a chain founded by designer Terence Conran and sold to Ikea in 1998) ...

... and it was like walking into my childhood.

There was a retro color scheme straight out of my Mother's kitchen: plastic spoons, trays and table linens in pale lemon yellow, olive, burnt tangerine, smoky blue and a moody purplish gray.

There were graphic patterns from my old photo albums, from my Grandmother's window curtains and her apron. There were Bauhaus-inspired sofas and area rugs, egg-shaped armchairs, and moulded plastic pod chairs.

Well, I bought the spoons.

And I thought that if you
  • have fond memories of the 50s, 60s and/or 70s
  • live in a home that was considered "modern" or "contemporary" around the middle of the 20th century
  • feel drawn to the quirky cool of mid-century modern furniture
  • live in a 'white box'
  • enjoy spicing up your interiors with interesting accessories or colors
… then this may be your moment: "props" for retro interior design are in abundant supply right now.

Before I go on, let me just quickly say something about the terms 'retro' and 'vintage', because they are often confused.

"RETRO" means "back(wards)" and/or "reverse". As a standalone term in English, it refers to a style (of interiors, fashion, music etc.) that looks back to the 1950s-1970s for inspiration.

"VINTAGE", in its original meaning, is what a vintner produces when he/she harvests the grapes and makes the year's wine. Like wine, something "vintage" has been made at an earlier date, it's not new. It can be from a previous season, or from last year, or from a few decades ago.

To create retro interior design, you can either opt for vintage originals (and vintage copies of those originals), or use reproductions. It doesn't matter if you've managed to get your hands on the genuine article or you're settling on good reproductions. You can use any, or all, of the above to create 'proper' retro interior design.

Elements of Retro Interior Design
1. Style Options

Obviously, with three decades to choose from, your personal version of retro interior design can take many forms. You could go for
  • the organic shapes, utilitarian fabrics and muted color schemes of the 1950s

  • a 'designer' look that uses recognizable pieces like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chair, Harry Bertoia's Diamond Chair, or Charles & Ray Eames's Lounge Chair (to name just a few),

  • an 'American diner' look, all polished chrome, vinyl and formica,

  • a 'plastic fantastic' look in highly saturated colors and with lots of molded plastic seating and accessories,

  • a 'space age' look, with orb lights, a George Nelson-inspired starburst clock or an atomic ball clock on the wall, Eero Arnio's hanging bubble chairs, and plenty of silver metallic surfaces,

  • a Hawaii/Tiki/surfer look with tropical imagery and accessories, hula fabrics and a jukebox that plays Beach Boys' records (you get the picture ...).

Elements of Retro Interior Design
2. Color Schemes

Nothing sets a mood like color, and if you get it right, it'll account for 80% of the 'retro' in your interior design. Here are some examples of typical color schemes for retro interior design:
  • light gray, dark gray, mustard yellow

  • olive green, orange, aqua

  • tomato and dark cherry reds, light icy blue, pale violet, a bit of sludgy gray

  • dusky pastel yellow, warm powder pink, washed-out aqua

  • palest primrose yellow, deep lemon yellow, muted strawberry, hay greens, charcoal

  • Cool and warm pinks, greenish brown/bronze, muted brick red, deep bruised purple.

Elements of Retro Interior Design
3. Accessories and Wall Art

The sheer number of objects you could use on your walls and/or elsewhere in your home is enough to induce dizziness. For a start, here's a list of ideas (in no particular order of importance):
  • Early Peanuts and other comic book pages or covers

  • Original LP album covers, mounted and framed: The Beatles / Elvis / The Beach Boys / The Doors / The Who … the Osmonds ;-)

  • Spaghetti western movie posters

  • Vintage signs

  • Mounted and framed pages from coffee-table picture books about the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, for example
    • movie & TV star portraits / movie stills
    • classic cars
    • fashion illustration in psychedelic colors
    • mid-century advertising icons, etc.

  • A metal kitchen wall clock, timer, scales, mixing bowls, toaster, etc. in a 'retro look'

  • a small portable radio in a 50s or 60s design

  • 'American diner' style kitchenware or furniture - bar stools, tables, a complete booth if you want.

Many of these accessories and images would look great within a 'vintage' country style, too. All you'd need to do is stir a few mid-century modern accessories into an eclectic mix of heirlooms, some stuff made of natural materials, and thrift-shop finds in 'retro' colors.

You see, the options are endless. Whether you wanted to create an entire environment stuck in a time warp, or you just felt like a little nostalgic something in your home, retro interior design has wonderful stuff to play with.

Well, I think that may be enough for this time. Do go well, and if you feel like it, get in touch for a chat! Otherwise, we'll 'meet' again in two months' time!

Legal Stuff

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"See" you again on May 1, 2009!
All the Best to You,

Renate Hering-Shepherd
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