Thursday, 12 April 2012

vintage living - the 40s and 50s

The 1940s and 50s are very different from each. Whereas the 40s were overshadowed by war, restriction and surviving fears, one could sense again the joy of life and a tendency towards luxury in the 50s.
While in the 40s many industries were forced to produce war related items even these difficulties led to new ideas as it forced designers to experiment with new materials and methods of production.

Case Study House 22, Villa Stahl, 1959-1960
Pierre Koenig
Especially during the late 40s, the life in countries which were not destroyed by the war went further and young designers wanted to create a new look of furniture, glass, ceramics and fabrics to satisfy the taste of the younger generation. The expansion of techniques and science led also to a globalism in style.

_architecture classics
If there is one specific playing field where one can witness these developments then it is probably the Case Study Houses in California, based on an idea by John Entenzas, publisher of the US-magazine Arts & Architecture. This sample houses were built by famous architects like Richard Neutra, Eero Saarinen, Craig Ellwood and Charles and Ray Eames.

Case Study House 22, Villa Stahl, 1959-1960
Pierre Koenig
My favorite is the Eames house which I have shown you already in the introduction. Charles Eames designed the house in close collaboration with Eero Saarinen, though during the building phase the design was changed to optimize the inner volume.The building is based on two squares one for living and one for working.

Case Study House 8, Villa Eames, 1945-49
Charles and Ray Eames
The house is based on prefabricated elements and should demonstrate the possibilities of building technology. Although it is a prototype, it shows a lot of the designer couples understanding of living and working.

Another great example is number 22 by Pierre Koenig. It is one of the most radical and reduced designs of the Case Study Houses. The L-shaped villa is situated on a rock in the Hollywood hills. Pierre Koenig achieved to frame the huge glass elements with ordinary steel elements and created a minimalistic glass box. Even the inside is just divided by few walls which create a floating experience of the room.

These light constructed buildings combined also fitting furniture and decoration with the architecture, because in most cases they were designed by the architects themselves. During the 50s especially in the US, designer and furniture companies started a successful collaboration like for example the designer couple Charles and Ray Eames with the furniture company Herman Miller. Their design includes several pieces of fibre glass and bended wood. Some of them still available these days.

La Chaise by Charles and Ray Eames 1948
Coconut Chair by George Nelson

But also in other design fields one can find real design classics as this era is known for their inventiveness. For example the Italian architect Gio Ponti created new forms for ceramics, glass and furniture and Scandinavian glass creations became famous thanks to studios like Iittala.
Iittala glass series by Aino Aalto
_fabrics and materials
Although the colors in the 50s became brighter again, the tendency in fabric collections tented towards just a few shades. There are different reasons. Whereas Europe was still suffering from restrictions, the American market found the reduced shades simply chic. Fabrics with unprinted background became popular and one leading textile designer was once again Ray Eames.

by Ray Eames

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