The post-war 1950s offered a wide range of upholstery and curtain fabric choices as manufacturers turned their attention from defence to the home front. Mid-century upholstery and curtain fabrics featured solid vibrant colours, as well as floral and geometric patterns in many of the materials that still are in wide use.
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Upholstery and curtain fabrics of the 1950s played on colour. While not quite as psychedelic as what would come later in the 1960s and '70s, the 1950s home decor colour palette often carried over patriotic reds and blues from the war, as well as introduced variations such as orange, turquoise and bright yellow -- especially in kitchens. Various colours often were used in bold patterns, but sometimes, sheers were used for curtains to offset the vibrancy of other fabrics. A metallic hue to fabric or metallic threads were used to add a hint of refinement while calling to mind the futuristic theme popular at the time.
Floral patterns were common for kitchen and bedroom curtains and upholstery, while geometric patterns frequently were found in living rooms. Geometric patterns of the time were termed "boomerang" or "atomic," whereas shapes in various 1950s colours intersected against a boldly coloured background. These patterns generally were uniform room-by-room. Boomerang upholstery fabric usually was used on all furniture pieces; although, for economic reasons, some solid-coloured upholstery may have remained.
The 1950s was the decade of barkcloth, a cotton weave that is dense but soft and mimics the look of tree bark. Cotton also was widely in use, while synthetic fibres such as polyester gained popularity because of the ease of care and mass production.
Upholstery and curtain fabric materials of the 1950s are in modern usage, but their colours and patterns should be used sparingly in a 21st-century home. Keep your design sleek, simple and modern, but don't be afraid to throw in that mid-century pop of colour and pattern here and there.
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