Mar 13, 2007

1964-1965 World's Fair

Viewing Eric 3000's retro apartment made me nostalgic for my childhood home.

When Mom and Dad visited the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City, they returned transformed. They had ridden the monorail, gone on a brand new Disney ride called "It’s a Small World," and custom ordered their new furniture.

My parents had just built their ultra up-to-date stone ranch style house in north Baltimore, and had fallen in love with the sleek modern furniture that was showcased at the American Interiors Pavillion. They waited and waited and waited months for the furniture that I grew up with, and which sat proudly in our living room and dining room until the early 80’s. The pieces were then consigned to our family room. Just recently, Mom and Dad got rid of them all except for the glass topped tables, and I could just kill myself for not salvaging any of these wonderful retro pieces.

I have scoured the Net trying to find facsimiles of these pieces, but only found a few. The sofa, which I could not find and is now gone, was unusually low slung and upholstered in a tweed olive and emerald blue fabric that seemed inspired by a boxy 60’s woman’s coat. Their dark cherry dining room table was accompanied by chairs upholstered in black leather. Very outre for its day.

Here is a little time capsule from a Time Magazine article from that era, dated Friday, July 17, 1964 …

Homes are becoming bigger, too—nowadays, not many new houses have fewer than three bedrooms—and more rooms naturally require more furniture. The trend toward homes with patios and apartments with terraces has expanded the demand for outdoor furniture, and overall business has been helped even by the popularity of television. Says Chicago Retailer Milton Fish: "TV is keeping people at home more, and making them much more conscious of their furniture."

Scrubbing the Borax. In the area of style changes, the furniture manufacturers are taking a lesson from the automakers: the American family spends an average of $100 a year on furniture v. $800 on cars and accessories. Now the furniture men have begun to shift styles more rapidly than usual to appeal to a nation of rising tastes. "Today's American furniture buyer is interested in three things," says Hampton Powell, president of Lane Co., a major manufacturer. "He puts style above all else, with quality second and price third."

Current styles are generally more elegant—and more expensive. The boxy, bulky, tacky styles—which salesmen dub "Borax" and jokingly claim to sell by the pound—do not sell very well any more. Also declining in popularity are the starkly modern styles, known in the trade as "sterile" or "baby-scaring."
Verner Panton Wire Chairs and Moon Lamp. Too austere for children and babies?

But important market gains have been made by French-Italian Provincial and by the Spanish or Mediterranean style, which is characterized by dark woods, wrought irons, gentle carvings and some open spaces. Furniture men believe that tomorrow's hot style will probably be vaguely oriental, "a hint of the Far East."
Here's a link to how the World's Fair site looks now; Sad, neglected, and deteriorated almost beyond repair. I wonder if it is still standing?


Linda Merrill said...

Thanks for sharing this. A yes, great minds on the Verner Panton front!

eric3000 said...

Sorry about the lost furniture but those coffee tables are gorgeous! (Those are the ones that were saved, right?) Did they warn you before they got rid of everything or are they like Eric's parents, who just casually mention it months later?

Ms. Place said...

Yes, Eric, they saved those coffee tables. There are three left in pristine condition and I've got my eye on them. And only one easy chair remains with the original fabric. All the rest of the furniture is gone. And yes, I didn't know. I casually learned some months later that they also tossed some photos, which is why I am having such difficulty finding the original furniture online. I have no reference. AAARGHH!