Mad Men inspired interiors
Take your style back to the 60s with these Mad Men inspired interiors
Movies and TV shows don't only inspire fashion trends; they generate decorating crazes as well. Diane Keaton's beach house in the 2003 movie Something's Gotta Give - with its slip-covered furniture, palette of driftwood and washed-out blues plus acres of white cabinetry - spawned a Hampton's-style decorating obsession that's still going strong nearly a decade later.
And while it may not have scooped an Emmy this week, the TV phenomenon that is Mad Men has been tapping into the Zeitgeist for mid-century furniture and interiors ever since series one burst onto our Movie Extra screens back in 2008.
While the first episodes - set at the beginning of the '60s - feature the more traditional furnishings of Betty and Don Draper's upstate home, complete with their standout, plushly buttoned sage headboard and colour-matched rotary dial phone, Pete and Trudy Campbell's apartment is pure cool-cat '50s, right down to its geometric room divider screen and stylised giraffe artwork.
Later, the sexy offices and glamorous living spaces showcase the era's pared-back chairs, sofas and hairpin-leg coffee and side tables. Plus there are plenty of streamlined drinks cabinets and trolleys with ashtrays ever present.
The fabric upholstering the Scandinavian-line sofas and chairs ranges from muted mustardy-yellows and browns to the decade's signature burnt orange. Add turquoise walls and you've got a real va-va-voom combo.
Also helping conjure a sultry '60s vibe is statement lighting: wall sconces and shapely table lamps, many with slub silk shades.
Then there's Don and Megan's sophisticated Manhattan apartment adorned with rich timber and grass-cloth wallpaper; it adds a trendy sunken living room to the mix.
In contrast, Roger Sterling's minimal white-on-white office has a space-age feel. Complete with pop art, it is dressed with pieces by renowned mid-century designers: a Saarinen Tulip table, Corona white leather spine-like chair and Artemide Nesso moulded plastic table lamp.
So where are the go-to local sources if you want to emulate a Mad Men-style interior? In Sydney, Ken Neale's Twentieth Century Modern at the corner of Burton and Darley streets, Darlinghurst, is jam-packed with now-hard-to-find, '50s and '60s furniture, lighting and ceramics.
In Tugun, Queensland, there's Found Furniture, an emporium that specialises in original Scandinavian and Australian mid-century pieces.
“Design from this era had very seductive lines," says co-owner Kelly Nuss. “And the furniture was crafted with love, care and amazing attention to detail.
“Since Mad Men we've seen a renewed interest and appreciation for pieces that have been inherited. People come to us for the repair of the timber and upholstery.”
Hair stylist Katie Bow's tiny salon in Rushcutters Bay – complete with black lady figurines and frieze -- is a homage to the '50s period she loves. “Several decades ago, a friend who died left me a collection of [exotic lady and still-life] Tretchikoff prints; this started me down a path of obsession and I now have around 20,” Bow says. “They have such beauty: the colour, the depth and emotion inspire me.”
Her vinyl-covered shop counter was actually a bar in a past life and it was the shape and flow of its design that appealed.
Donna and Brian Seidler and their three children live in a mid-century modern house in Wahroonga created by leading modernist architect Harry Seidler for Brian's parents. Its two extensions have closely followed the original design and the couple have used its custom-made vintage furniture as a template for new furniture in the renovated sections.
Doors - which take their cue from the home's exterior abstract mural - are painted in bright primary colours: blues, reds, yellows. Whenever classic curtains and other furnishings need replacement, they are replicated as near as possible to the fabrics and colours of the originals.
One can't help but wonder whether living in a house such as this is restrictive. “Not at all,” Donna says. “Although we love it for its originality and sense of family history, it is simply a cosy home where we go about our daily lives.”
In a similar vein, architects David Laybourn and Pip Bowling carried out a redux to their 1960s modernist cottage in Blackheath, refurbishing wherever possible or replacing sympathetically when things were beyond repair.
Like Nuss, Laybourn finds the level of craftsmanship and bespoke quality of the era's furniture appealing. “It's stylish and lean, a mixture of the natural [wood, cotton, wool] and the then relatively new machine-made materials [PVC, vinyl, polyester],” he says “I certainly remember my parents '60s Parker sofa as being far more interesting than the supersized ugly thing they have now!”
Interiors evolve: people don't throw out all their key things from earlier days when replacing/renovating so it is OK to mix and match rather than slavishly adhering to '50s or '60s elements. And, while purists consider the real deal to be favourable, it's too late for bargains. “If you stumble across a piece you love, buy it as you probably won't find another like it again,” Nuss advises.
Going with the retro flow is Swedish homewares giant Ikea. The 2013 catalogue cover stars their best-selling 1951 MK wingback chair. Now manufactured with modern construction techniques and materials, it's been reborn as the Strandmon and has gained a matching footstool as well.
Other companies offering contemporary designs with a retro feel include OZ Design's button-backed Tatler sofa and rosewood Kobe Zig Zag bookshelf/display unit and Laura Ashley's Off the Wall collection: a range of furniture, accessories and fabric inspired by '60s Danish decor.
Then there's replica furniture from Matt Blatt, Sokol or Glick's: while this may be the answer for some, others find the idea of replicas anathema.
Whichever route you choose, it's possible to create a Mad Men feel; best not viewed through a smoke haze, though.