Open thread: How to respond to social backlash aimed at your mid mod aesthestic?

anne taintor bite meHere is a good one to end the week: Reader “A” (I cloaked her name and state) wrote recently to ask for help in responding to what she called “social backlash” — negative reactions from people in her social sphere who can’t comprehend her passion for mid century design. What shall we advise her, fellow Retro Renovators? Read on for her tale…. 

“A” writes”


I’m new to your blog, and I absolutely love it, but if I’m asking something you have touched on a million times I apologize. I made an attempt to search, but came up with nothing.

I’m at a bit of a low point right now, and I’d love some reassurance or commiseration of any sort — or hey– even a reality check!

I’m just starting down the road into retroville– truthfully I’ve loved it all for a long time but wasn’t brave enough to really commit until I lived in California and realized there were a lot of people who loved the mid 20th century as much as I did.

I have recently moved back to my hometown area in [state] and have begun searching for a mid century modern home to buy with my husband and kids, and along the way I am thrifting and searching for “old” furniture from the same time period.

My question to you is, do you ever get bogged down by people’s negative reaction to what you are doing or did? And secondly, was it all worth it in the end?

I love my midcentury things, but I am swiftly becoming tired of having to defend my taste to everyone I come in contact with. My husband is sweet and patient with me, but I think he wishes I’d give it up. My kids are nervous about “living in the 60’s” as they put it, and everyone else falls somewhere between thinking I’m crazy to acting genuinely threatened and angry with me for trying to resurrect the past.

I’m honestly shocked, why are people threatened by different design tastes? Have you ever had these types of experiences?

I keep telling myself that when it all comes together it will be so great and it will be all worth it, but sometimes I feel like it would be easier to give it all up.

Isn’t it strange how strongly people react to retro things?

Thanks at the very least for letting me sob on your cyber shoulder, its nice to come here and be with people with like minds.


“A”, my first thought, when I read your letter, was that I’d tell these rude people, Bite Me. Hence, the always-but-really-probably-never-appropriate Anne Taintor caption. (Better, I think, to take the high road… much as it would feel good [for a moment] to dish it right back.)

Seriously, I do have a way that I would recommend responding. But I will hold back and let the tribe offer up their thoughts and advice first.

Readers, how would you respond — or how to you respond — to friends and family who question your design aesthetic?

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  1. Ronda says

    I have been collecting retro stuff for most of my adult life. My parents were collectors of stuff and I learned it from them. Luckily, my sister lives in a 1904 home and has filled it with antiques. So my family gets it. The others really don’t matter. My husband and I bought our 1946 home 10 yrs ago. I fell in love with the mint green kitchen with original cupboards. We did redo the wall paper because the stripes accentuated the uneven walls and made us feel like we were in “jail.” But we wall papered with my beloved Strawberrys. I love my original GE range which works perfectly, thank you. I so thought of myself as an oddity as it seemed no one else appreciated MCM around here. I live in a very small town. But even here the retro is taking hold.
    I decorate in a mix. I did buy a new sofa but it is a dark blue green to match the rope rug and oil painting my sis did for me 25 yrs ago. I remember the sales lady, ” Are you sure you want That color? How about a nice brown?” But no the color is just right! My home makes me so extremely happy. It is so nice to find this website and be able to be apart of what is old is now new again.

  2. Bobee-Kay Clark says

    In the words of Dr. Suess, “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” It takes time to develop your own MCM style, and you are going to make mistakes. Be brave and allow yourself your humanity. Enjoy your home by being brave enough to create joy.

  3. Lynn says

    For now, I live in a neighborhood built in the 80s and 90s and I suppose some of these houses would be considered McMansions. I moved here quite a while ago when I was younger and valued different things. The mindset here is to cover everything with granite and stainless steel. At a neighborhood party of snarky granite people (to which I wish I never had gone, but was trying to be social) I mentioned one time how much I loved older things and shopping at thrift stores. They told me that I should go over and sort through another neighbor’s pile of garbage because I might find something I liked! I was insulted! I was so shocked and could only think to reply that I wasn’t interested in garbage. I told a co-worker once that I loved to shop at thrift stores. She looked at me with obvious disdain, like she suddenly smelled a huge pail of garbage, and said, “I would NEVER shop at thrift stores!” Several years later, another co-worker who knew how much I loved thrift stores was gossiping to other people that I shouldn’t have to shop at thrift stores because I wasn’t poor! UGH! Unfortunately, I’ve found that I just have to be careful about with whom I share my loves. The funny thing is I have learned that several of these people find themselves struggling financially. Wonder why?

    I am planning to move from our neighborhood soon, so the only MCM I have incorporated is via paint and removable furnishings (and my vintage dress collection!). I know that if I went any further here, people looking at our house when it’s on the market would say it was “outdated” and they would “rip it out and update it”. So I am waiting to do more. But for the next house, I’m looking for something from the period that hasn’t been updated. I expected the realtor I’ve been talking to to react strangely to my request, but she didn’t at all. She told me about someone else who did the same thing I’m considering. MCM is becoming more en vogue so I think it’s more widely accepted than it was. Maybe things are getting easier due to this, but loving MCM always made me unique, which I liked. We’ll see. I just know that those who so openly criticize our obvious coolness have a lot to learn in the manners department!

  4. says

    I must say I have not had this experience. Everyone who comes into my home always loves the old furniture (not surprisingly, most of it is Heywood-Wakefield). But I think many readers of this blog are much more catholic (that’s a small “c” there) in their taste, right down to grappling with 1950s and ’60s appliances, which I don’t do. So maybe there is a difference. Also, I live in Miami, where virtually everybody gets mid-mod.

    But if I had to listen to some sort of rant about mid-mod style, I agree with the person above who opined that lashing out and dissing the insulter is a bad idea, which might feel good for a moment but in the end make the insultee look equally boorish. I can’t imagine what an insult based on my taste in design might sound like, but I think I would try to diffuse the situation with gradually escalating levels of snideness. If there are others watching it might be fun to try to subtly insult the rude person in such a way that only the others get it. Or maybe a simple “different strokes” remark would get you through.

    In any case, who cares? Do your thing and enjoy, and definitely – DON’T QUIT.

    Leonard Riforgiato

  5. Hollywood Harriet says

    The key word here is “style” If you are looking for a mid century home in California than you have no doubt seen dozens of so called renovated or updated houses. We term them “flipped”. Sure they have been updated but with big box store stock that often does not even match the other elements of new design (if there was one) or the house itself. Almost every period detail, thus the house’s original character, have been removed and replaced with the run of the mill that is everywhere. Decorate in a way that makes you happy and comfortable in your own home. Let other family members have their spaces but as the lady of the house I am sure you have the maintenance duties – go with the style you love.

    “Different quirks for different jerks”

  6. says

    I’ve been lucky on a few counts:

    1. I’ve spent my entire life in Southern California, which is so diverse that it’s almost impossible to be TOO unusual. (Also, a disproportionate number of the Case Study houses are in LA, and fantasy architecture is probably more common here than anywhere else in North America. You name it, someone out here likes it enough to live in it.)

    2. I was raised by a devoted antiques collector (although her style skews about two centuries older than mine). Enough said.

    3. I firmly believe that life is too short for worrying about what other people think. I didn’t care what the common hooligans at my middle school thought about my vintage bell bottoms (this was a few years before the rise of the bootcut jean), and I sure don’t care what anyone else thinks about my vintage/eclectic taste. I’m the one who chooses to live with this stuff, and since I’m pressed for space (I live in roughly 500 square feet!), I can only choose things I love.

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