The retro revival’s still in full swing

The room design from Scion shows some classic features of the retro look.
The room design from Scion shows some classic features of the retro look.
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Having just come back from two major trade fairs for furniture and home accessories, I can confirm that the retro revival is still going strong and continues to be one of the looks for 2013.

The term retro refers to the post-war period of the 1950s through to the 1970s. This period saw some of the biggest changes in thinking, fashion, music and lifestyle that we will ever experience and the trends in home furnishings reflected this.

There had been shortages of everything during the Second World War and the period immediately after the war even saw furniture rationing!

Government-designed and approved Utility Furniture was reserved for newly-weds and those who had been bombed during the war. It was practical and functional but lacked style.

The government was keen to encourage a feeling of post-war recovery and the Festival of Britain in 1951 was an event aimed at promoting the country’s cultural, artistic and scientific successes.

Interestingly, Ercol which is one of the UK’s oldest furniture companies, was involved in the government Utility Furniture scheme and also the Festival of Britain and is one of the major style influences of the present day revival.

Ercol and G Plan, whose routes go back to this period, are dusting off their archive designs and re-

inventing them for the modern consumer.

As the country recovered after the Second World War, it is little wonder that people wanted to express themselves, and the development of home style became intertwined with fashion .

The 50s furniture saw utility giving way to classic design – curved edges on sideboard and table tops, kick out tapered legs on coffee tables and sideboards and simple straight lines on sofas. Colours were quite muted with beige, brown, olive and mustard the norm.

In the 60s, living style became more open plan as homes became better heated and new materials like Formica, plastic and glass started to creep in.

As people travelled more, influences in home furnishings became more global, so colour palettes from India and Morocco started to inform the 70s; brown, avocado and burnt orange were the new groovy colours (for those of us who lived through this period, I’m not sure we’ll ever forgive the avocado and burnt orange bathroom suites we were forced to live with!).

The 70s saw big patterns, lots of chrome, plastic, bean bags, shag pile rugs, velvet and vinyl.

The retro revival we see now is a melting pot of these ideas. Some designers like Orla Kiely have drawn their designs and colours from the 70s, while fabric and wallpaper companies like Scion would look more to the 60s for their colours.

As with everything, you don’t have to slavishly adhere to every style feature of the retro look but you may well find that some of the iconic designs and features of this period simply filter into your home furnishings.

Simone and business partner Jane Patterson run The Interior Trading Co in Marmion Road, Southsea. For further information visit