More Mid-Century

By Karen Parr-Moody


There is a reason TV viewers are riveted by the hit series “Mad Men” – and it goes far beyond the culture of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s the look. Everything from the clothes to the cars to the décor is simply pulse-quickening.


The antique dealers at GasLamp and GasLamp Too have responded to this fascination with a wealth of items from this era, which is known to collectors as Mid-Century Modern.


Mid-Century Modern was an architectural, interior and product design movement popularized by American and Danish designers from the 1940s to the 1960s. The style made such items as teak desks, boxy sofas, and starburst clocks the norm for American families.  


Lady head vases, such as the one in the photo at right, fall into the Mid-Century Modern category of tabletop décor ($33; Booth B-206). Originally made for floral designers, these vases commemorated a variety of happy occasions for women, beginning in the 1940s and going up until the early Seventies. Collectors today find them just as lovely.


Lady head vases are made of semi-porcelain with a gloss glaze or matte finish. Their style is utterly glamorous. They have perfectly-arched eyebrows, Cupid’s bow lips and thick lashes. Hairstyles, jewelry and fashions tend to be elaborate.


There were many lady head vase manufacturers, both Japanese and American. Common ones include Inarco, Enesco, Napco, Lefton, Relpo and Reubens in Japan, and Henry Holt and Betty Lou Nichols in America.


This Blendo pitcher with five glasses in the photo, left, is perfect for a “Mad Men” style cocktail bar ($45; Booth B-104). During the 1950s and 1960s the West Virginia Glass Company of Weston, W.V. created the beautiful, yet inexpensive, Blendo glassware that came in fabulous colors, including tangerine, yellow, lavender, pink and turquoise. The glasses and the pitchers were frosted up the sides until they faded to clear, in an ombré style of graduated shading.


Few items exemplify the 1950s era as much as the poodle, as seen on the wicker sewing box in the photo, right ($36; Booth B-206). The poodle skirt kicked off the craze of that decade; it was designed by a young actress-turned-designer named Juli Lynne Charlot. Her first attempt at the circle pattern skirt actually had Christmas trees on the hem; the poodle treatment was a second rendition.


Traditional barkcloth is actually made from tree bark by certain African tribes. However, Mid-Century Modern barkcloth, as seen on this darling bench in the photo, left, is so named because its textured fabric has a rough surface like that of tree bark ($29; Booth B-206). Barkcloth has historically been used as drapery, upholstery and slipcovers.


The mid-century saw a huge array of atomic and boomerang designs, as seen in this end table from the Sixties in the photo below ($60; Booth B-330). Its three legs only add to the “Jetsons” vibe that was popular at the time; they give it a sleek, space-age look.


It’s no secret that Mid-century Modern is all the rage right now. I have a friend who has been decorating in this style for years. She keeps her house from looking like it’s lost in an atomic-era time warp by sprinkling in pieces from other eras. It’s a chic look, as well as one filled with many conversation-starting items of décor, from a Tiki bar to a reproduction 1950s refrigerator to barkcloth wallpaper.



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