Retro custom lamp shades made for vintage lamps at Swank Lounge in San Francisco.
The vintage-modern set decor on the Mad Men series illustrates the rapid evolution of design in the late ’50s through mid-’60s. Mid-century home furnishings and product designers were learning well from their peers in the auto and fashion industries: each new year demands new styles to encourage people to buy more and new products. Well-made furnishings like chairs, couches, lamps, and light fixtures require little maintenance, and they last much longer than machines and clothing. How then, to increase sales? The answer: change each year’s style from the previous year (planned style obsolescence), and have the ad boys convince the consumers that last year’s style — the one’s they were pitching so hard just a months previously — is now out of vogue. Hello Mad Men!
We’ll probably never see such a period as fecund for design as the post-War to mid ’60s era again. The combination of rapid economic growth, a fast-growing middle class, increasing and wide-spread prosperity (remember that?), and rapid technological advances led to growing markets starved for more products and new designs. Many of the new industrial designers had experienced European design first-hand for the first time during the war, and the lessons of modern European design of the 1930s and 1940s was incorporated into mid-century American design.
Clean lines, simple shapes, new colors, less ornamentation (form follows function), and the new ability to mass-produced furnishings with the new materials and technologies meant mid-century swank and modern sophistication came to the American living room for the first time.
Photo courtesy of Swank.