Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Style and colour of the 1940's and 1950's

Second in my series of decades and colours is the 1940's to 1950's. The reason Ive grouped two decades together in this series is that it's never clear cut from one decade to another where one style stops and another starts, so I'm going for a general overall impression of the colours that were popular during those eras and how to replicate that feel with modern paints and products.

Sadly the 1940s being a time of World War gives a hiatus to style and colour as utility and functionality took precedent over design and art for arts sake. Having said that, the events during that decade did shape the progress of inventions and practicalities in dress and homes.

The reaction to the end of that time of repression and rationing was the explosion of frivolity in the fifties. Clothing became more flamboyant and consumerism started in ernest.

The age of the slow Ocean Liner was surpassed by the age of Air travel, and the scientific and engineering progress which came about during the war was to influence designs in home accessories and fabric and print design.

Colours that stand out to me are pastels with pops of red. A primrose yellow, a special shade of blue and mint green that remind me of ice cream colours. Black and White checkered floors, and the 'atomic' shapes which came about after the Festival Of Britain.

Let's have a look at some films that will put us in the mood. The film industry was dominated by Alfred Hitchcock classics, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Strangers On A Train. James Dean, Audrey Hepburn were making their debuts and the film industry moved into colour in full glory.  America dominated the style, and in the UK we craved the American fashions.




Above in my own kitchen I decided to go retro with appliances because it was the best way to add colours. We all know that SMEG sell these glorious Fridge/Freezers in classic retro colours with handles reminiscent of old Fifties car door handles and that smooth sleek rounded corners of old American fridges. The fabric I've used to hide the washing machine is original fifties barkcloth. The background being pale grey with pops of red, blue yellow and green which were fashionable then. The little scenes are of European influence, like Italy and the Mediterranean, places that were now accessible.  


The room that is the easiest to style in these decades for me is the kitchen.  There's a fabulous array of items available from high street and online stores for appliances that scream American fifties. Have a look at online store Wayfair.co.uk for the clocks Ive featured and the 'petrol pump cd rack'. It's quite easy to buy kitchenalia from that period too, as the enamelware lasts forever!

Young couples like my parents wanted everything modern, Britain was rebuilding at a rapid rate and they had big aspirations. In kitchens the labour saving devices were king and surfaces were Formica in an array of new colours and patterns. The new transistor radio brought rock n roll and the teenager was born, having their own fashions for the first time, rebelling against their parents buttoned-up lives. 




During the 1940's there was still an abundance of floral motifs on walls, floors, curtains but as time moves on into the 1950's this changes into these more 'atomic' shapes and the abstract takes over.


I took this photo at Bletchley Park, this green was one of the few colours available during the war


There's a pinterst board featuring more of the forties and fifties over at this link https://www.pinterest.com/JaniceIssitt/1940s-to-1950s-home-styling/

Hope you find this useful if you are going for a vintage look, see you soon in the sixties and seventies. 



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