Friday, March 13, 2009

Mixing Vintage Style With Urban Chic Creates a Modern Retro Look

Urban Chic

Mixing vintage styles with newer looks is very "cool" and a popular decorating style today. In some circles phrases like "Urban Chic" or "Fresh Vintage" are used in place of "retro." It's still "retro" but a different take on the past when buyers combine "edgy" vintage collectibles with contemporary style furnishings and décor. Others understand "Urban Chic" a little differently and refer to the rise in popularity of collectors who are after metal furnishing and industrial styles compatible with city living. Of course this too is a throw- back to earlier times. Metal accessories and furnishings dominated mid-century homes and were used for magazine racks, telephone stands, ash tray holders, seating, serving pieces etc. Photo courtesy of

Industrial Collectibles
Today Urbanites like buying old industrial steel shelving, vintage metal desks and chairs, old commercial desk accessories and lots of factory finds to decorate lofts, apartments and homes. This opens a whole new market to sellers who are beginning to hunt for items in unusual places.
Suburban homes are featuring high-tech kitchen surfaces and lots of stainless steel. Buyers now adore vintage metal canisters from the 1950s which seem to fit right into today's sleek kitchens. The "metro-retro" look is often combined with collectibles of the '50s, '60s, '70s to create eclectic interiors which are unusual, outrageous and affordable.
Photo of work table, courtesy of Seymour Antiques Company, Seymour CT.
Bohemian Style
If the industrial look is not your thing, there are other directions to consider. I have met many younger collectors who gravitate to "Bohemian Style." "Bohemian Style" is what happens when you your flea market collecting is out of control but in a good way. Somehow collectors make the look pull together with unifying color schemes, themes, patterns or rhythms which organize the collections. Once again, collectors mix and match different eras, styles, textures, wall coverings, etc and like seasoned decorators, bohemian collectors tell us "it works." This style is hard to explain, so I might suggest reading Bohemian Style by Elizabeth Wilhide, a Watson Guptill publication. While '60s & '70s collectibles have moved more slowly in brick and mortar shops than those of earlier periods, "hip collectibles" are gaining momentum as major department stores are emphasizing these styles .Designers are taking bigger risks than in the past and it seems that once again buyers are being prompted to experiment with home interiors, products and materials. Photo of lamp, courtesy of The Bleu Willlow, Simsbury, CT.
May I remind you what they said years ago "let it all hang out." Indeed both manufacturers of new products and collectors of old products are "doing their own thing." Numerous on-line businesses with "shaggy sixties" websites catering to shoppers who adore palettes of pink, brown and lime green as well as cutesy patterns of stripes, polka dots and swirling designs are growing. In fact there are web designers who specialize just in this style.
Metro Retro
While "twenty- and thirty-something" buyers are getting a kick out of ordering new home and clothing related items inspired by "psychedelic" colors and designs, mature collectors
want the originals and are active buyers at flea markets, shops and shows. Colorful toasters and fondue sets, once thrift store staples, are now "cool" finds for both serious collectors and casual shoppers who are jumping on the "retro" bandwagon. Next time you turn your nose up at a set of kitchen canisters with a mushroom design, think again, you may be passing up a real "retro" gem that even Pottery Barn is keeping an eye on.
Photo of chair, courtesy of

C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. She is also the Editor of an actively growing internet based resource community for people who buy, sell or collect antiques, collectibles and art. You can find Dianne’s fabulous retro and vintage kitchen, home and cottage collectibles at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT, a 22,000 feet antique emporium with an in-house retro café.

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Dianne is a member of:
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