Saturday, February 5, 2011

5 February 1957 “Sleekness in Design for ‘57 and the Need For The Latest Thing”

carcartoonI thought this cartoon spoke to me on two levels. The first was a great portrayal of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ becoming more and more prevalent here in the 1950’s.

Secondly, we see the sleek look of design that is starting to appear here in America by 1957. The ‘old’ car of the main couple sticks out like a sore thumb, while the latest more popular couple in the front are squished down in their seats, yet the height of fashion.

Let’s see just how much the overall look of cars from 1955 to 1957 has changed.

55dodgeThis 1955 Dodge ad still has a very ‘tall and rounded’ look. You can notice the major change in the overall design of a car from just 1955 to the modern lower sleeker, though rather larger, 1957 American car, as this ‘57 Mercury displays.57mercuryad

Over the pond, however, the rapidity of change is not as great. The level of production in Britain and Europe is very slow and really the rationing had only stopped a few years prior for England.

Here we see the 1955 Morris.TRCR1050, Morris Minor, One Of The FamilyThis 1955 car already looks rather ‘dated’ by American standards. It still retains a very 1940’s car look. And by 1957 there is not much change to it.57morris Cetainly keeping up with the Joneses here must be a bit easier.

This ‘sleekness’ of design is not limited to cars. In fact the need to ‘update’ our homes is beginning to really appear. We must remember that in the 1920’s-30’s to even have the luxury of a refrigerator would have been just that, a luxury. Even by the 1940’s war time, the concern over how ‘up to date’ ones’ ice box or range was hardly a concern.

Now, however, here at the end of the 1950’s, we begin to see a drastic change in styles. These ads from this year, 1957, for Frigidaire for their ‘sheer look’ in refrigerator as well as stove looks rather modern.


  Gone is the lumpy image with which we today often associate the 1950’s fridge. This ad is only two years old 55icebox  yet look how dated it appears with the sleek sharp angles of the new ‘57 model.

Some other ‘latest’ designs from this year may begin to look rather familiar to us.moenfaucetad1This ‘state of the art’ Moen single handle faucet probably looks like many that modern people have loathed and had ripped out. Or it recalls the cheap college flat or rental house. Yet, here, it is the ‘cat’s pajamas’ (though that saying is rather outdated here in 1957 as well!)

 celotexceilingtilead1These type of ceiling tiles are always advertised in my magazines from the early 1950’s and by now are available in many decorator colors and styles. Though to modern people it appears that thing to ‘get rid of’ in a home, I wonder if they should be reconsidered. We are so quick to change, to jump on the continual ‘up date’ band wagon, spurred on by the Home Design shows that have been popular since the early 2000’s. What makes something the ‘living end’ one year only to end up ‘ugly’ and on the dust heap the next? earlyamericanroom      Images such as this, which I would call a very middle of the road Early American look also probably has a familiar ring to it. Perhaps in high school days in the 1980’s this type of furniture was relegated to unused rumpus and ‘computer rooms’ in the basement. Or Grandmother had ‘those old sofa’s’ around. Dirty college rental houses often had this type of item on front porches or in back rooms. Yet, here in 1957 they are on the other end of the scale that is Modern on one side and ‘Colonial’ on the other. But they are very highly desired.

What is amazing, is we often see this type of furniture still around and it was very well built AND built IN AMERICA. Yet the inexpensive furniture of today is not and often falls to pieces in a year or two, but who cares, they will but ‘out of style’ by then, right?

It isn’t a new realization to me here, now on my third year in the 1950’s, that the education to waste and spend is well on its way. Though there is much more conservation and much less garbage here in 1957 then in 2011, it is a mad house of spending and waste as opposed to only 10 years earlier in the immediate post WWII years.

I just hope that our love of vintage can allow us to see that we can take and love that which is already made and made well. If we do not do that we will simply wait for more of the modern production to pump out ‘1950’s vintage inspired’ furniture, dishes, etc and allow us to go and buy it with ease. We care little if it is well made or where it is made. I ask, however, to consider the hunt. To find and save and love and repair an old piece, that is to be ‘modern vintage’ in my book. Not only does the authenticity of the piece have more value it also helps out the environment a bit. And, why not give some much needed cash into the pockets of a local seller than wait for that ‘vintage inspired’ flat pack Chinese made sofa from the giant Box store?

Styles change and desires with them, but we must remember that deep down, it is all manufactured. Not only the product but the desire. Before we know it, after our homes are just ‘done’ in 1950’s we will be told it is ugly and 1980’s is the things. That is where we need to separate our true feelings toward a piece or a look and stick with it.

Who knows, maybe your children or grandchildren will be writing a blog, or whatever odd magical form of mass communication exists in 50 years from now, about how lucky they were to have had ancestors who collected up a home full of 1950’s furniture and kept it ‘all these years’.


  1. Our dining room had those ceiling tiles in it. They had silver glitter in them, combined with lodge/cabin type beams. Very unappealing! They were destroyed by the hurricane in 2008 and the new ceiling is lovely. They're tiles, but look like planks.

    40's and 50's appliances were so cool. I much prefer their shape to modern boxes.

  2. I definitely like the 'old-fashioned' looking car from the UK better than the more modern 1950's car. The same goes with the appliances.

    I agree with all you said about home updates, the problem is if you have to move either your house won't sell or sell very quickly or you lose value in your home if you don't have the decor up-to-date in the newest styles. I hate this but unfortunately it seems to be reality now.

    I also think shows like HGtv have done a lot towards making people think they shouldn't buy a house unless it is perfectly done up. I actually heard one of the designers on the show say that if your home decor is over 5 years old you need to update. I don't think they meant the big items like couches and such but still. I was stunned when they said that. Of course creating that need keeps them employed and making lots of money.

  3. I love this post!!!! Have a great weekend! Kori xoxo

  4. This is so true. The planned obsolescence (read Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, published in the 70's). Can't believe how different the 2 ads for the refrigerators are!

    I think it is so fickle how we LOVE something when it is new, and HATE it for it's ugliness once something else comes into style. Somebody very close to me laughs at me for hanging on to out of style stuff (like my country decorating), but I liked it when I bought it, and I still like it. What is wrong with that?

    People today treat their spouses the same -- out with the old and in with the new.

  5. Rachel-I have to say I like the more rounded shapes of the early to mid 50's appliances than I do the now 1957 modern 'sleeker' lines.
    Now why do you feel you didn't like the old ceiling with the glitter? Do you feel it is just an inate distaste or do you feel it is colored by the time in which you live and what is considered 'pretty'? I am just curious, because I now always find myself thinking, 'hmmm' of things I once thought inately ugly but now find an initial impulse to like it simply by immersing myself in the 'ads' of the mid 50's for the past two years. It is very interesting.

  6. AQGL-I too, prefer the more rounded look of the British Morris.
    Mary-So true, and we are not even happy with our own looks, get that tucked and filled with military grade poison (botox) so we can look 'New'.

  7. My grandparents had similar ceiling tiles in their bedroom. The pattern was stars and I remember as a kid thinking they looked like fireworks.

    After they passed a few years ago, I made sure to take a photo of that ceiling before the house sold.

    Nothing to say about the style...just a more sentimental attachment, I guess.

    Working hard at

  8. I love those old cars. It's amazing the American car companies used to change body styles every year though. I can't imagine trading in our car every year. I wonder if people really did it or was it just an marketing goal. I suppose it's essentially like car leasing but every year instead of 3 and you at least get something back to put toward the new model.


  9. Another observation: cars back then (and just about anything) came in color. So refreshing. Hubby and I are considering replacing my minivan and went car shopping today. Apparently the safe colors are black, silver, various shades of grey, goldish grey, and white. I asked about other colors and the sales rep said they're made but hard to come by. I suppose with the dealers pushing leases they have to sell colors that can be resold easily in 3 years. But what I'd give for a pretty red, 50's pink, or powder blue. We're losing our individuality but company's streamlined offerings. And this is 2011, not 1951, as we all know. Just another example of how there were more freedoms then despite modern retoric.

    Sarah again

  10. How funny , I forgot about the star tiles. I remember everyone had them.They were mainly use in kitchens but everyone had at least one or more rooms with tiles that had designs on it.I remember a couple of bedrooms. I forgot about it until your post. Thanks for the memories. there was a light that was brass and round and the glass had stars to match . I think .

  11. So true.

    We have actually been replacing many of our modern pieces when they begin to fall apart with vintage things we have found in the thrift stores. Even better we have a wonderful drop leaf table with clawed feet and six chairs that our neighbor put out for garbage. It's in our garage waiting for better temperatures to refinish it.

    It amazes me what people will simply throw away.



  12. The refrigerator in my kitchen is a beautiful imitation of the beautiful rounded refrigerators 50s, it's blue and I love it! Lately it seems we're back in a matter of car designs to the era of the 60s here in Europe, I'm watching on the street and I love them. Love the look of the past!

  13. Dear Donna,
    I just have to tell you we just moved into a lovely ranch, and guess what! It was built in 1955! The best of it, the house is in perfect condition right down to the windows and doors. The 1950 red formica kitchen with chrome and black edge trim is in near mint condition. The house has been loved and cared for and has the original ceiling tiles you mentioned here. Everything had beautiful fresh paint except for the master bedroom that they did not finish painting. I just could not believe it, and thought of you right away. It has new stove and a dishwasher but my vintage fridge will fit beautifully. It is funny we rented one while mine is being fixed and it sticks way out as it is too big.
    You mentioned the furniture. My daughter is visiting for a few weeks with her family and so brought her furniture while they look for a house. modern looks odd and she has had it only a year and her sofa is falling apart. She is very disciplined with her children so it only shows today is throw away furniture. My restored 1930's sofa looks beautiful though.
    hope your surviving the snow as we are. best wishes....

  14. My brother has a Morris Minor from 1959 as his normal everyday car. It is bright yellow and he has made it a bit lower than original.

    And big fifties US cars are a hit here in Denmark. I don't like them, I'm found of small cars, and find the US cars very vulgar.

    Ohh, I just love those fifties refrigerators! Especially the pastel coloured. Smeg makes them much alike but they are very expensive here in Denmark, and DH doesn't like them, so I can only dream.

    Have a lovely week. :)

  15. PS: Perhaps you would like to read this story about our tiny family car that had a mind of its own:

    I've also scanned some vintage photos.

  16. My newer fridge in the kitchen (three years old) has the rounded sides and it`s chunkier ( looks more 50`s) than the old fridge we use downstairs which is square (how boring!), I would love a 50`s stove, the chunkier kind and will do my best to replicate the look ifor when my 15 year old stove flakes out :)

    My house is far from modern, I try to buy classical pieces that will endure the ages, my living room furniture is all wood pieces made by mennonites from Ontario, as is my bedroom suite, my dining room set is definitely the look of 100 years old.

    My couch is about 10 years old and being leather shows wear and tear (no cuts in it though), is one is always looking for newer and better, one will never be caught up.

    If or when I do look for a new couch, it has to be made in Canada or US, my fridge is definitely made in Michigan, I insist on non foreign stuff in my house as much as I can.

    Heck I even have 50`s replica chairs made from Alberta and my kitchen table was made in my city. It also will stand the test of time, when my 50`s vinyl chairs rip I will replace the vinyl but keep the chairs :) Basically it`s an investment in the future.

    As far as thrift store finds, since bedbugs I am leery of buying anything used, although my sectional in the recreation room and my leather couch were bought off my dad`s friend for a good price.

    I say do what`s best for you, keep your home classical and it will never go out of style :)

  17. Sorry 50`s gal forgot to sign my name in the above post :)

    Mom in Canada


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