Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Mid Century Modern House - the living room

I have inherited a house built in 1959 and completed and furnished in 1960. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it hasn't been renovated and updated. It's a time warp.

In a way, this is no bad thing. 'Mid century modern' is very hip right now. People are paying over the odds for dining table with tapering legs and their matching chairs. Which is a bit annoying, as Mum had a set and got rid of them in the '80s in one of the few updates she did to the house. I'm trying to buy a set to replace the '80s stuff LOL!!

Anyway, this house has good bones. Let's look at the living room first (or lounge room as Mum always called it). It has a big stone fireplace and groovy chandelier in the living room. To complement them I found Mum's original coffee table - 6 curved pieces by France of Denmark which fit together to make a round table - behind her dressing table, gathering dust. The brass legs were in a disintegrating plastic bag beside them. It was the matter of five minutes to put the table back together and into its old home, and another ten minutes of furniture polishing to get rid of the dust and bring the lustre back.

Over the dining table there's an original pull-down light.

And then there is the 50s piece de resistance: the bar. It's yellow vinyl with black studs and a black glass top. Behind on the panel supported by the copper pipes are the original 50s flying ducks I unearthed from one of the cupboards (Mum had put two more traditionally shaped carved wooden horses there but the ducks look cooler).

And another gem I unearthed: this little black napkin holder. Probably terrifically politically incorrect now. You fold the napkins into triangles and they make up her skirt. She's flanked by two more 50s kitsch items in the form of bottle openers.

At the moment the living room is all still a bit cluttered. It's getting there, though. For a week now the living room has been free of boxes. Bliss! The boxes were full of things I was sending to auction, both mine and Mum's. That's another blog post in itself.

Still to happen: repaint the walls. Several of the walls in this house are still proudly bearing their original coat of paint. They look like it, too. As a temporary measure I am washing them and they are coming up ok for the most part. The living room walls aren't in bad shape considering the paint has been there for 54 years. They don't have the marks from wear and tear the hallways walls do for instance as while I was a child the 'lounge room' was off limits unless we had guests. Our life was lived in the kitchen, sitting around the kitchen table on hard chairs to watch telly at night.

After much deliberation I've decided to redecorate in the original colours. They suit the house and are mainly cool shades, as this house is north facing and sunny. I don't think I can improve on them. I used to cringe at the 'chartreuse' colour on three of the living room walls when I was younger. I haven't posted a pic of it here, just the deep aqua feature wall which is a superb colour. The chartreuse is a soft yellowy green, and I've come to love it in recent years.

A major repainting job throughout will be all the ceilings and the stairwell. I'm going to hire a painter for that one. I don't do ceilings and stairwells, but I'm happy to paint walls; it's a pleasant, rather mindless task that lets my mind wander onto plots for short stories and other diversions.

After the painting is done - who knows when that will be!? - we will have to replace all the carpets. Again most of the carpet is original and getting quite threadbare in places. No point in doing it until all the painting is done though as I'm a mucky pup when I get a roller or brush in my hand.

Back to the living room though. There is mismatched furniture from the '70s, '80s and '90s along one wall: a display cabinet, a sideboard and some hi fi furniture, all different coloured wood or veneer. It looks pretty clumsy. I'm going to replace it with matching units from Ikea. Ikea. Yes, I know. But I like Ikea, whose designs echo classic mid-century modern, and the unit I'm considering is the top of their line and well made and sturdy. I also haven't been able to find what I want anywhere else, and certainly can't afford to get something custom-made. At least it will all bloody well match and be the same style and colour.

So that's my new living and dining room. It's about three times the size of our old one. I don't feel hemmed in or crowded now when G is in the room with me. It feels odd living in Mum's house without Mum, and I do wonder if she's watching over me and cringing at me going through cupboards and deeming what stays and what goes. I think she would be happy for me to put my own stamp on the place, though.


  1. I'm so impressed with the energy and dedication you have shown in undertaking this bittersweet task. I was thinking only today that it must feel weird sleeping in the master bedroom... I'm not sure I ever saw it! I do remember the living room it must have been on a dash to the deck :) I'm sorry you are stuck with the mixer for me but I am REALLY looking forward to getting it. Ikea is ok - their stuff has clean lines and isn't chunky so it does have a bit of the 50's style to it. Do you remember the mural at our house? I wonder if it has been painted over now. How did we get so old!!! xxx Much Love

  2. I loved the mural at your place - so very hip and 60s. I wished Mum would do something similar but she was too traditional LOL! I bet it's been painted over by now in a renovation job and the whole house is probably tastefully neutral. If you like neutral then it's tasteful. I've realised now that growing up in this house, and the bright colours I used on some walls at my old place, I'm not. Bring on the colour!

    The mixer is out of the way under the spare room bed, no dramas there. It'll wait for you.

    It DOES feel odd being in the master bedroom. Especially as G is sleeping on Mum's side of the bed. I get a surprise occasionally when I wake up and see it's him and not Mum. Not that I made a habit of sleeping with Mum in her bed LOL!

    It's scary when I remind myself I'm now over 50. It's as if I could reach back and be that 70s kid again in a heartbeat, remembering all the little details of life back then. Curses!! Love to you too xxx