Sofas and chairs — available today from Lee — are great fits for traditional-retro styled living rooms

retro 50s sofa 1954

retro 50s sofaIt’s nice to see that furniture manufacturers are bringing back sofas and chairs that have more traditional scale and lines like those in the 1954 Simmons ad above and in the thumbnail.

By scale, I mean, not over-sized, like most of the sofas on the market today that are made for new construction home interiors. Today’s oversized furniture can be very comfy, especially if you are tall. But postwar furniture was modestly sized — “long and low” — to fit the lower ceilings, the more defined architectural spaces, and in many cases, the long narrow living room-dining room combinations. By lines, I mean fitted backs, the availability of skirts, rolled arms, and backs that were kind of split in two with piping – as in both the 1954 (above) and 2007 models (below).

The manufacturer I’ve found so far that has several possible choices is Lee. This is an “apartment sofa”, it looks pretty good – 34″ high, seat 24″ deep. But the online dimensions do make me question whether it angles back too far. That said – the basic lines of this sofa will never “go out of style.” lee-apartment-sofa-3052-11.jpg


The advantage of buying new, and from a major manufacturer, is that you get, well…. new, and easy. With a gazillion fabric choices. My husband, as an example, has a real aversion to smelly old sofas. Unless I rip the guts out and totally reupholster, he won’t let me bring ’em in the house. So, cost for new is probably pretty similar to buying vintage then having to reupholster. The downside to new, is that everyone says that the old sofas were made better, with harder wood. And, the exact lines on vintage sofas are often that much nicer, that much more perfect – as in the vintage ’54 Simmons. And if you find get mint with vintage upholstery – oh my.

In either case, though — it’s good now to have more choices.


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  1. Sumac Sue says

    Our 90s era couch looks a bit too big for our 50s living room. I knew the plaid fabric was too large in scale for the room, but now I understand that the entire shape of the piece is out of proportion — the back and the arms look positively clownlike compared to what is pictured here. I love how the lamp and end table are just the right scale, something I haven’t come up with for my clown couch!

  2. Femme1 says

    I agree, the size of today’s furniture is just too big for 50’s houses. Of course, the people were smaller, too!

  3. maddy123 says

    What’s more fun that hanging out of the sofa, playing accordion and recorder? So adorable and sweet…

    Everything was smaller then, I guess–plates, bar glasses, portion sizes!

  4. sarakay says

    I love the furniture! Depending on its size, the beige-y (at least in my browser) chair could be used in a bedroom or a living room.

    Maddy, you are right, everything was smaller then. For instance, the dinner plates in my mom’s Fiesta china are about 9 inches in diameter. A 5′ x 8′ bathroom was considered perfectly adequate for a family. (Master bath? What’s that??) Funny how houses – and people! – have gotten bigger as families have gotten smaller.

    The generation buying the 50’s and 60’s houses had vivid memories of the Depression and WWII. What seems small to us was the lap of luxury for them.

  5. Susan Janek says

    I have wonderful memories of this era and it has been my favorite decorating period – we live in a ranch house built in 1956 – and have all of the Better Homes and Gardens ringed decorating books.

  6. says

    I have a lovely 50s turquoise vinyl chair with angled arm rests that belonged to my grandparents. I wish I know the make and how to find a matching sofa! I’ve researched and searched and can’t find a match (our one line it) anywhere. It needs new upholstery and a couple of covered buttons.

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