July 11, 2010

Going retro is easy; making it look good is harder

By MELISSA RAYWORTH The Associated Press

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“A great designer to turn to for geometrics is David Hicks,” says designer Brian Patrick Flynn. Hicks created this wallpaper pattern in the ’60s.

Courtesy photo

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“Vintage lighting (such as this George Nelson pendant from the mid-20th century) is fantastic,” says interior designer Betsy Burnham, but old lampshades should be replaced with fresh ones to “enhance your vintage stuff, make it beautiful again.”

Courtesy photo

RESPECT THE ARCHITECTURE

These designers agree that while your home's interior design doesn't have to evoke the same era as the exterior, there should be some connection.

"One of my rules is to really understand the architecture and give that value, and take it inside with the interior design," Burnham says. "But you don't have to be literal. My house was built in 1927, and obviously I don't want to have a Victorian interior. I keep it classic, with a twist."

With a mid-century home, the defining characteristics are a low-slung shape and clean lines. "It's about the lack of detail," Gorder says, "so I wouldn't go all Rococo with my interior pieces." But, she says, she might use bold vertical stripes to give the illusion that the rooms have more height.

Also consider the size of rooms and the practical uses of the space. For a living-room conversation area, a cluster of '60s orb chairs might look cool, Gorder says, but what about the acoustics? Seating, whether it be a contemporary sofa or a pair of antique barber chairs, should help guests talk and connect.

RETRO OR REPRO?

Whether original or a reproduction, quality is what matters. Shopping online, it can be hard to determine whether a reproduction is well made or whether a vintage piece is in good condition. Be sure to ask questions.

Shopping for vintage originals can be tough. "It helps to educate yourself," Burnham says. "Do a little research ... (and) your shopping will be so much more effective."

The final tip? Have fun. These designers says retro decorating is about celebrating styles you love, even if that means just a bit too much kitsch. Whatever era you prefer, Gorder says, "it's important that you please yourself, because it is the one environment you control."

 

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