The highly acclaimed American series Mad Men is drawing to a close with its seventh and final season this year. Not only is it an excellent drama series, it has also reminded many of us of how interesting sixties designs were. Once the stuff of mockery and ridicule, many of us have fallen in love with the design motifs of this turbulent and radical decade. Here’s our definitive guide to getting the Mad Men look in your home.
The most important thing to remember is that design became a means of provoking emotion and reaction. No matter what style of design you opt for, keep in mind that the primary focus should be to make you, and your guests, feel something.
Generally, the overall look of the sixties was clean and open. The traditional past was rejected, and minimalism and abstract expressionism reduced design to its most essential elements. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go for a space-age simple black and white look, however. The modernism of the forties and fifties turned away from historical influences, so many interior designers plundered the past for the vibrant, clashing prints that are now associated with the decade. This is design as rebellion.
Colours were primarily inspired by nature and by the art nouveau movement. Green, gold, orange, and yellow were very popular, as were vibrant hues pumped up for psychedelic effect.
Combinations of fuchsia pink, tangerine orange, and vivid bottle greens would be used together for maximum impact, as well as metallic vinyl wallpapers with vivid patterns. The clean lines and bright colours evoked a modern, pop art feel. If this is a bit too much for you, try the Bridget Riley-inspired look of contrasts in black-and-white to create a striking, futuristic style.
Your fabrics should be as eye-catching as possible, with bright colours and strong patterns. Tie-dye, paisley, floral; all with stylised flowers and bright neon – think of pop art when picking your fabrics, and the more outlandish, the better. Ethnic prints and fabrics became very popular as world travel became a more affordable prospect, so Indian prints and fabrics were used whenever possible.
This was the age of flat-pack, disposable furniture. Homes were becoming more casual, and furniture became temporary and funky. As much as possible, try to think along the lines of plastic, space age, multi-purpose, low-level, revivalist, and fun when kitting out your pad. The sixties re-wrote the rulebook when it came to what you can have in a home – open plan living became popular, with many homes using open shelving as room separators.
To insure your space is as authentic and accurate to the decade as possible, consider investigating the furniture by notable designers Verner Panton, who created multi-purpose furniture in moulded plastic, and Peter Murdoch, who was responsible for the disposable paper chair – covered in op art (optical art) designs and intended to last three to six months.
Carpets and rugs became hugely popular in the sixties, as new technologies made them practical to have in the everyday home. Shag carpeting and rugs, in bright, neo-Victorian colours were plentiful, and textured rag rugs from India and Morocco were the height of chic design. Vinyl floors were common, reflecting a societal need for temporary and easy to care for furnishings.
Sixties décor reflected the trends and design features most loved by the decade; blending the kitsch ornamentation of the Victorian age, the arts and crafts movement’s love of natural materials such as dark woods and metals like copper, and the bright, cartoony feel of pop and op art. Mushrooms, roosters, daisies, and owls were popular design elements. Add in lava lamps, a poster of your favourite band or artist, and hanging beads and leather fringes to inject a touch of hippie style.