Flat-pack Backlash!

Here is our latest article for Vintage Life Magazine called “Flat-pack backlash”. Why not have a read……

The Flat-pack Backlash!

Today’s modern furniture comes in a flat box with an Allen key and a set of instructions. Often the end result is a flimsy, soulless cabinet which is the same as everyone else’s.  Maybe it’s time for a flat-pack backlash?

As it’s the 60th anniversary of  the Festival of Britain this May, where we showcased to the world that British design was innovative, contemporary and beautiful… lets look back and fall in love again with mid century furniture appreciating it’s history, sturdiness and sleek design.

The 40s:

In 1943, the government outlined the exact specification for furniture made during the war.  In a time when bombed houses were being rebuilt and many newly weds were setting up home, they  formed a committee of influential designers, to create the Utility Furniture Catalogue. They dictated the design, material and even which screw should be used. The designs were simple, functional alluding to the Arts and Crafts movement. Cabinets sat on plinths rather than legs, handles were wooden as metal was scarce and most were made from strong oak and dark mahogany. Even though the committee saw this as their big
chance to influence the country with “good design”, most pieces were plain, looking to the past rather than the future.

The 50s:

Enjoying a growing sense of optimism and freedom, we now demanded a change in our homes. The Utility dark wood was seen as gloomy, the design drab and with aluminium, fabric and light wood becoming readily available again it seemed that a change was needed in furniture design.

In 1951, the Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank was a real turning point.  It’s aim was to create a feeling of recovery and  inspire better design for new towns being built. 8 million visitors came to see contemporary architecture, industrial and furniture design. Room sets were created with modern furniture offset against the new fabrics and prints of the day. The wood had turned light overnight, with English elm and light oak being the favourites. Legs on all furniture were thin and splayed making them seem to float off the
floor. Chairs and tables were curved and traditional styles reworked into the new look.  Ercol was one of the key players with their simple yet elegant Windsor chair, dining tables and sideboards.

Ercol’s elm is a great range to collect now as it sits perfectly in both a modern or classic setting. The iconic butterfly chair (1958), the nest of pebble tables (1956) and the day bed are ones to look out for.

These new styles were labelled “contemporary furniture” and for the first time since before the war the chair you sat on revealed your status. It was quite expensive so in reality only middle class families bought it, with the higher classes preferring Heals and Harrods. Furniture retailers chose not to sell it as traditional styles outsold it, so it was left to the independents.

The 60s:

The 1960s saw the rise of teak furniture from well respected manufacturers such as G Plan, Nathan and McIntosh. They made functional items such as sideboards but gave them a contemporary feel with extra width (some were up to 7 foot), integrated handles and a gloss finish. Adverts sprung up, creating an aspirational world of men drinking cocktails
in the lounge, ladies putting on lipstick in the bedroom. Before this, adverts were about the room set now it was about the lifestyle. Styles were popular through the 1970s with G Plan becoming one of the first companies to sell mass produced furniture.

Teak furniture now looks great in a modern home with it’s clean lines and simplicity. With a cream wall and a stained floor, a 60s sideboard or coffee table will look as contemporary now as it did then.

However, this modern style, whether in elm or teak wasn’t to everyone’s taste. The baby boom generation, leaving the family home in the late 60s rejected this “contemporary furniture” as being outdated. They saved up for one key piece such as a Sanderson sofa with William Morris fabric or a Habitat chrome glass table.

Interestingly they now inherited their grandparents utility furniture and up-cycled it to give it a new fresh, modern look. Tables were painted in black or white gloss which sat perfectly underneath funky coloured glass, proving that the designs had passed the test of time.

What is clear is that through the mid 20th century, furniture kept reinventing itself under the name Contemporary, with each decade and generation rejecting what came before. These pieces have  become collectable and ironically the flat packers are alluding to these
styles now. Whether you up- cycle some utility or hunt down a Nathan, surely its worth the effort to create an individual look that’s not the same as your neighbours!

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Truly inspired

I have recently been inspired by another blog..by Louise at Catwalk Creative Vintage. Her blog discussed the humble dress clip which were very fashionable in the 1930s and 40s. Her photos were beautiful with some great original 40s pictures too. Please go have a read!

So here’s how it inspired me….I too have a dress clip, given to me by my partner a few years back. I never actually knew what it was therefore I had never worn it. It is is stunning with brightly coloured stones within and a flower sculpted within the metal. Louise advised me she thought it was probably Czech and from the 1930s. WOW!

Then, coincidently my mum was going through a box of old photos and pulled out this amazing photo of my grandmother Ella, taken in the 1940s. She looks tall and elegant in her leaf design tea dress. She is looking straight at the camera proud of her look.

On closer inspection..she is only wearing a dress clip! Pinned onto the middle of her dress it simply sparkles.

Turning over the photo she has written a description of her look:

Darling,  As this isn’t very clear I’ll describe the dress. It has fullness from the front with two pockets at each side. The neck as you can see is just plain, opened all down the front where i wear my big diamante clip. Everybody likes it very much and i really do, better than any dress I’ve had. Ella

We are not sure who this is written for…but my grandfather was in the Far East during the war so we only presume she sent this photo out to him.

So back to my dress clip. I finally wore it yesterday, worn the same way as my stylish grandma….in the centre of a black 1950s crepe dress.

Alas, not at a happy function, but I’m sure she would have been proud!

Thanks Louise for showing me the way (I think my grandma beat us to it though!)  x

Daddy Cool!

As Father’s Day is approaching, my children (with a little help from me) need to decide what to get their Daddy. The shops are full of mugs and T-shirts saying “I love my Dad” but we, at Your Vintage Life feel this isn’t really the way forward. Why not shower him with retro and vintage gifts so he is a real Daddy Cool!

(Luckily our man is a retro man so already a Daddy Cool!)

Here are some ideas that may help to inspire you..

First stop in our shop should be Your Vintage Office….does he work from home or in an office?

If so, why not get him a magazine rack…he could put his filing into it…or all those classic car mags we seem to have lying around the house! Surely this will look better than the classic “in” tray

Or a retro telephone? BT produced fabulous coloured phones since the 1960s which look great in a retro or modern setting! Our telephone collection is a little out of control (one in each room) so maybe I wont be buying another this Father’s Day!

Or one of these funky desk calendars? With one of these there’s never an excuse for forgetting the date therefore forgetting your birthday!!!

We love the orange one….and will look great on his desk.

Or does he like to groom??? These mens vanity, sorry grooming kits, are stylish and will look great on the bathroom shelf.

The pots are shiny stainless steel, the combs tortoiseshell and the case a soft brown leather. This is  the perfect gift to make him into a classic gent!

This hard brown case is stunning, with its original glass pots and silky lining. It even has its original key! Just imagine how smart the original owner of this must have been.

We also have a 1950s trouser presser in its original box made by Pifco. I love the styling…such a gentleman with his slicked back hair!

Or a 1950s boxed pair of clippers? Even if he doesnt want to use them, the packaging will look great on display! 

Now in my experience all men dream of being a whizz at the cocktail making…spinning the bottle around in a Tom Cruise fashion! Why not visit Your Vintage Cocktail Party for some ideas for your Dad…we have ice buckets, soda syphons, ice crushers and shot glasses. Add a bottle of whisky and I’m sure he will be thrilled!

All mens like a barbecue… FACT! We have fab picnic treasures for perfect outdoor dining afternoons (and evenings) perfect for this amazing weather we are having. Bright retro colours, space age shapes and durability..what more could he want! How about the 1960s bright orange Pac-A-Pic with its separate trays for the whole family?

If he loves his interiors, have a look at our coloured glass.

While some are very pretty and perfect for Mum, we feel the shapes of these 60s medicine bottles will be perfect for him. Display on a window sill so the light shines through them into the room…and be the envy of the neighbours!

We have blues, greens and ambers still available.

And finally, for the Dads that can actually remember the record “Daddy Cool”, what about a 1960s record rack…we have singles ones and LP ones…

Happy Father’s Day from Your Vintage Life x