Throwback Thursday: TV’s Best Mid-century Modern Spaces

It’s no secret that midcentury modern design and furniture has been all the rage for years now. But for those of us who weren’t alive (or paying attention to design) back in the 1950s-1970s, our perceptions about midcentury design most likely comes from old TV shows, like the classics that were always on “Nick at Nite.” In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing how timeless and trendy some of these spaces and pieces still look! Here’s a few of my favorites


I Love Lucy's Kitchen (1951-1957)

What could be more memorable (and hilarious) than Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred cooking up a storm in the Ricardos’ kitchen? I’ve seen a huge resurgence of new kitchen appliances that look retro, with rounded edges, streamlined shapes, and even bright colors -- just like Lucy’s double oven and fridge! 



The Jetsons’ Dining Room (1962-1963)

The futuristic world of The Jetsons was, in fact, surprisingly accurate, filled with gadgets, robots, and… amazing furniture! How cool is their dining room table, with its aerodynamic chairs (kind of like these) and gravity-defying table? I would gladly try some “flying pizza” if I could have a seat in one of those chairs (and they’d work so well in my apartment)! 



Bewitched’s Living Room (1964-1972)

The mid-century mod living room in Bewitched was a perfect mix of then-contemporary pieces and more traditional items. Note the brown sofa with clean, rounded lines (not unlike Furniture Maison’s Ruby sofa!) and simple, modern coffee table and matching end tables, but the more traditional lamp in the shape of a stair railing and old school rocking chair in the back! This is a classic example of mixing and matching furniture styles. 



Star Trek’s Meeting Rooms (1966-1969)

I can’t say that I’ve ever watched an entire episode of Star Trek (no Trekkies around here!), but there’s no denying that its furniture design, like The Jetsons, was simultaneously retro and futuristic. In fact, a version of one of the most timeless mid-century modern chair designs, the Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen, was prominently featured throughout the show (more on that here), and an original from the set was even sold at auction for $18,000! 



The Brady Bunch’s Family Room (1969-1974)

While I’m not a huge fan of the brown trend that was so popular at The Brady Bunch’s home (everything just looks so dark!), I do love many of the midcentury modern pieces around the house. Take, for instance, the Brady kitchen -- filled with quintessential 70s colors and mid-century vibe.



Contemporary TV & Film

Let’s not forget, though, that part of the resurgence of mid-century modern around us today is also because of contemporary TV shows and movies that take place in the past -- like Mad Men and Catch Me If You Can -- which created lasting mental images of mod furniture, design, and architecture. Take, for example, the iconic scenes of Catch Me If You Can where Leonardo DiCaprio walks through the curvaceous, futuristic TWA Terminal in New York’s LaGuardia Airport: 



It goes without saying that Megan’s stunning decoration of her New York City apartment, complete with a 1960s sunken living room and Scandinavian-inspired furniture to boot, is one of the best-known sets from the show. The mixing of solid textures on the carpeting and sofa, in contrast to the strong geometric pattern of the floor-to-ceiling curtains and funky-shaped lamps, gives the space just the right amount of personality and flair to make it retro, memorable, and yet somehow still modern and inspiring. 



Ultimately, I have one of those chicken-or-egg thoughts: is it art, like movies and TV shows, that inspires fashion, trends, and creativity, or is it the other way around? Did Mad Men create the mid-century mod craze, or did it pick up on a trend that was already out there? I think that in most cases, it’s that both inspire each other, and can be powerful instigators in revisiting and being provoked by the past. Mid-century modern furniture, while originally a thing of the past, is here to stay!


Kate R.

Kate is a New York-based architect and preservationist, with a love for all things design! 


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