50s retro equals Colonial, Provincial, Capes and Split Levels — too


One of my pet peeves is that decorating pundits always seem to associate 50s with only modern…atomic. In fact, colonial was wicked hot and even French provincial was extremely popular. It’s not that I don’t love atomic — I do. It’s just that, well — it didn’t rule. Those of us with Capes and Colonial and Split Levels — and the eclectic quasi traditional decor to go with them — are proudly postwar, too.


Those cool illustrations from 1958 showed housewives how they could take the same furniture and through accessories — swing either Modern or Provincial.



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  1. Sumac Sue says

    My 50s house just wouldn’t look right if we decorated with only an atomic look. It definitely has a colonial or traditional style, inside and out. On the other hand, we wouldn’t totally exclude anything atomic just because it’s not colonial. The hardware on our 50s kitchen cabinets is atomic, but it’s pretty and fun and we would hate to replace it.

    Thanks for these pictures. There are some really interesting window treatments. Like wallpaper, this is an area where I am sadly lacking in courage! But all of these rooms have something going on with the windows, and it really adds a lot.

  2. Ronn Ives/FUTURES Antiques says


    I guess I’ll toss in my 2 cents. Our home is a 1958 split level design. Our neighborhood was built 1958-62. Of course all the homes began as modern ranches and splits. Over the next half century, many, no, MOST, of the residents have worked overtime to “de-date” their homes. In Virginia, that means trying to make something 1958 look 1658, by putting up fake shutters around all your glass, a brass eagle knocker on your door, a faux-horse tie pole (with mail box on top) near the door, using colors popular in 17th century Williamsburg, and, load up the interior with plaid wing-backed and lion-pawed things. Instead, why not buy a legitimate period home if that’s your fetish? Would you weld 1959 Cadillac fins on to a 1909 Rolls Royce? Of course not! Would you repaint a Van Gogh to match your sofa? Look, it’s like this: there’s only a relatively short period of time when people are “embarrassed” by their “out of fashion” car/home/whatever. Before that, it was modern. After that, it is seen as anything from quaint to historically important, but the bottom line is MOST of the life of any object is MOST APPRECIATED when kept and cared for as what it was ORIGINALLY. World wide. Human wide. On top of that, the aesthetic of architecture has always concluded the the interior and exterior of a building should reflect one another – in a cohesive idea. It’s not complicated. See beyond your nose. Keep things in their era. Love them for what they were and still are.

    Okay, I’ll step off the soapbox… but I think I’ll post this little rant on my own O.C.D. web site as well.


  3. says

    Was looking interior design for 1950’s bedroom type for a friend who is eager to decorate according to that era. found your post has been a great help

  4. Gail says

    We just bought a dutch colonial. It was built in 1929, but it was completely redone by the new owners, starting in 1949. While I sometimes could weep at the original wood details they pulled out, it is really fun. After they remodeled it, they never touched it again. They took excellent care of it, and we even managed to buy most of their furniture.

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