Monday, July 4, 2011

You Have A Right To Define YOUR 50's Style

I received an anonymous comment on an old post I made, about considering putting black and white checkerboard design flooring in my kitchen. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to discuss personal taste...

Here is my original post:

I’d been wondering about what to do with the flooring that needs to be redone in the areas of the house without the hardwood floors: The entranceway, kitchen and bathrooms.

Then I came across this standard black and white checkerboard flooring on eBay:

$10.99 a linear foot. I’m sure I could find it for less. But it is a do-able standard pattern, and I like it. Using it for all the floors that need it would be more cohesive throughout the house rather than a different design for the different rooms/areas.

It would work quite well. A little bit “diner-ish”, but I’ve always loved this pattern. It wouldn’t be “true” to the house, the original Linoleum patterns are impossible to find, and to be honest, they weren’t outstanding patterns at all. The bathrooms were kind of a grey-streaked style, the entranceway a white with black streaks and the kitchen looked like small colored tiles in traditional mid-century colors.

Note I do say it looks "a little bit diner-ish", but I do love the pattern.

Here is the anonymous comment I got about this post:

Oh no....I hope you didn't really put this black and white "malt shop-style" flooring down. If you did, did you get a neon sign to put outside you place that says Mel's Drive In or maybe See's Candy? your research and see what other colors, styles and patterns where around then. You would be surprised what you can create with what's available today.

Well!! Nice to see folks comfortable enough to feel they can express their opinion about what your home should and shouldn't look like!! lol...


This person also included a link to some 50's tile floor designs which, quite frankly I wouldn't dream of using in my kitchen no matter how "traditional" they were. I would have felt the same back when this design was new. MY opinion.

It's MY opinion, that it would be a disaster to put something this busy and dark on a kitchen floor. It simply looks, in MY opinion "dreary".

Now if YOU have floors like this, please don't take offense at MY opinion. Perhaps if I saw your kitchen with one of these designs, I would change my mind!! But I wouldn't dare tell you I thought it looked dreary lol. If it makes YOU happy, who am I to judge? To each his or her own.

But if one really IS to "do their research", you'll be hard pressed to find living rooms photographed from the 50's containing HeyWake furniture, Majestic, Moss or Continental Art Company lamps, bullet planters and even two-tiered fiberglass lamp shades like many modern "50's homes" have today.

In fact, they had very standard lamp shades, non-descript lamps, and Colonial style was all the rage. I don't know a single "modern" 50's style enthusiast that fills their home with Colonial revival.

Yes, people back in the 50's were nostalgic for the "good old days" too, and for them, that meant a style from 30-50 years earlier, just like we do today.

The things we are attracted to today, are things selectively picked from the 50's, that we feel best represents the 50's as seen from a distance of time. As I have said before, the whole "atomic" phenom of today wasn't seen the same as back then. Yes, science and the atom were new and exciting, but the atomic bomb was a real threat.

I don't recall seeing a single kitchen when I was growing up, that had floor tiles like the ones seen in the link, nor as dark as shown in the photo above. Colors were always lighter, less busy. Maybe it's a regional thing?

I also never heard of bullet planters or majestic lamps until I started to see what was for sale, and what was most popular in regards to the 50's, on eBay, as I started to concentrate my focus on decorating and 1950's interior design.

Certainly not when I grew up during the 50's and 60's. Again, maybe it's a regional thing? A class thing? I didn't grow up hanging out with well to do people. Were they the one's who had all these iconic items? Anyone?

But here's MY opinion:

If YOU want pure 50's kitsch, black and white diner style floors, jukeboxes, poodle skirts, Elvis and soda shop stools, then by all means HAVE it!!

We should all decorate our homes any way we see fit! If it makes you happy, then don't listen to a single other person. You have to live there, not anyone else. Fill your house with whatever mid century style you wish! I know I am. :)

Happy July Fourth to all my US blogger friends, and happy Monday to everyone!!!


  1. I totally agree with you well said! I have often thought that people are missing the point when they think they are doing something authentic from the 50s, yes those designs are 50s, but they were 'new' in the 50s and only rich people could afford them in reality. A normal house would not as you say have Moss Lamp etc! Having said that I also love them, and if I could have all those things in a room I would, but I know it's not authentic unless you are trying to represent a designers house from the time, or someone very well to do!

    I have a black and white floor in the kitchen as I needed to do it cheaply & it was the closest I could come to doing something which looked right. It must be nice for your commenter above to have so much disposable income that they can have whatever they what (note sarcasm), sadly that's not the case for most of us and certainly in the UK it's tougher!

    Anyway I'm rambling, I agree whatever style you chose is fine, some of us decide to do it different for whatever reason be it taste, finance or access to materials/goods or just don't care ;o)

  2. Go with the black and white, it's stunning! Black and white is always classic, regardless of the style. If you like it, then it's the right choice. If it was available in the fifties, then you're true to the era. Just because it is associated with diners and jukeboxes in that commenter's mind, it doesn't mean that somebody back in the fifties didn't use it with atomic style items. You go girl!

  3. Oh ya...I would go with the black and white! I love how you worded your post. Very diplomatic and thoughtful. I always love reading your blog. :)

  4. STM: That's just it. I have so much to redo in my house, I can't spend hundreds/thousands on recreating "authentic original" floors. I have seen some wonderful reproduction lino style floor tile, and, I'll look into it. But the mid century formica counters have me more concerned. I have yet to see anything in pink, or a stayle that looks original like mine, at a cost that won't break the bank.

    And I have grown to LOVE the "modern" 50's style too, but I doubt I'll have a single Majestic or Moss lamp, because I personally don't want to invest a huge amount of money in ONE lamp.

    And your are right, de rien. The black and white diamond pattern (not checkerboard) as always appealed to me!!

  5. Thanks, Tam ;)

    Oh I still have NOT redone my floors lol so there ya go. :)

  6. Definitely what ever 1950s decor stands out to you, by all means! Like someone else said, a lot of stuff at the time was brand new and not everyone could afford it right away (isn't that true now? :P). This post made me think of my grandparents' old kitchen floor. I don't even know what you would call it...I wasn't tiled and didn't feel like linoleum. Kinda plastic like, I guess is the best way to describe it. It creaked when you walked on it. I'm sure it came with the house when they bought it in 1960! :) They have since changed it out. LOL

  7. A lot of people buying home in the 50's were returning WWll vets, and many bought homes on the GI plan, just as my own father did. They didn't have a lot of money to buy a lot of new things. My folks purchased used furniture, from the late 40's-early 50's.

    Dad did have a blonde wood hi fi, but that was broken by the time I was a kid anyway.

    Our 50's pink fridge wasn't properly grounded, so if you touched the pink metal stove and the pink metal fridge at the same time? *zaaap*!!! lol... Electric shock.

    My folks were older, quite a bit older by the time I was born, and Dad played Big Band 40's music, and so I grew up with 40's and early 50's stuff. I think this is why I have a hard time accepting things from the late 60's-early 70's as "mid century". :)

  8. Note how these folks are always 'anonymous' commenters?!
    Why do people feel like they need to leave snide comments? My mum always taught me "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all".
    I think a black and white check floor would look awesome! FAR nicer than the dark dingy floor tiles that they "kindly" linked you too :)

  9. My gram's kitchen was almost exactly like the one with the white appliances and , though less spacious. The flooring was a similar pattern, though a different color, and the yellow chairs were nearly identical! That said, the rest of her house wasn't nearly so kitschy. My other grandma had the sunburst clocks and for a time had some really sweet (Eames-style?) end tables and things which were passed to us (which I turned my nose up at when I moved out during college in the mid 90's, favoring sleek modern stuff instead. Stupid me!) We also had a big old stereo on feet, and again I would kill to be able to have all that stuff now! Maybe it was regional, we were in Columbus, Ohio. Who knows?
    I find this type of attitude runs a bit rampant in the vintage clothing circles too. For example a lot of hardcore vintage divas wouldn't be caught dead in a poodle skirt. I happen to think they are darling! (I have an auntie who kept all of her felt and quilted circle skirts and they are amazing, though of course the waist is a bit slim, haha.) For me personally, I remember my grandma wearing housecoats and I just don't see that look working for me, but hey, I have a lot of friends who like that sort of thing. I say more power to them! In my home decor I like to mix it up...I have a decidedly modern look (white builtin shelves and a wood floor, bamboo shades) but my furniture tastes are more along the clean lines of the mid century, plus pillows I've made from vintage doilies and fabrics. It's all about what looks great and makes you happy! Get the b/w floor if that's what makes you love!
    BTW this all does kind of boggle the mind a bit...when you think today we have ideas like "traditional" "contemporary" and "modern," you have to think that it was the same in the 50' you said, some people would have been maybe pining for the "aughts" while some people would want the slick shiny new stuff (to go with their sweet vehicle with tail fins, no doubt!)

  10. Oh I think the anonymous message leaver had no bad intent, some people are very purist in their love of vintage. That may be my 'Pollyanna' attitude to looking on the bright side, but I'm sure they were trying to be helpful with your homage to the decade :O)

    Personally I have to say that I thought 'woohoo' at the thought of a neon sign! I also like the black & white floor (I think a kitchen like a 'diner' would be freaking amazing! What fun!) I think you should have whatever it is that *you* like and whatever makes you happy. x

  11. Yeah I wasn't really put off by the comment, I thought about it before posting about it. But the "Mels Diner" or "Sees candy" neon sign was a *little* sarcastic lol...

    P.S. I LOVE See's candy!!!

    The funny thing is, I'm very much a purist too, but it still doesn't mean I am going to settle for an original 50's style simply becasue it was made or used in the 50's.

    Mom bought this Colonial dining table and 6 chairs at an antique Mall back in the 70's. It's from the 40's, I'm guessing. SHE loved it because it was vintage, and while it would have fit right into a REAL 1950's house/era, I just cannot, cannot learn to love it!

    I'm trying to find a way to move it into My art Studio, I'll use it as a craft table.

    Shannon I do think different regions had different 50's styles. Maybe being in southern CA, light colors were more popular. All I know is what *I* remember as a kid, and dark floors were not what I remember from the 50's :)

  12. I do think styles varied from region to region in the 50s and 60s. My parents had Heywood Wakefield in the 50s, and we certainly weren't wealthy, but my grandfather worked at a furniture store at the time, so they probably got it at cost. I remember some of the darker tile. In the 60s, she switched to Early American.

    I have a friend who has black and white tile in her kitchen and laundry room, and it's stunning. I'm glad you didn't let the rude comment phase you too much.

    Your point was well taken that no one with good manners or good taste would presume to give unsolicited advice about the way we decorate our homes. I responded similarly to an unkind comment on HGTV's Rate My Space when someone lambasted a woman for using pink and black in her bathroom. We don't all have to have the same taste. How boring it would be if we did!

  13. Pink and black bathrooms are iconic. What a strange thing to point out as "bad"!

  14. Great post! Funny I was just looking at this
    and the "diner" flooring is original 1959. Liking something just because it is vintage is just like wearing clothing for the label. So if the original flooring isn't something you like why would you choose it?! Your tastes are what you need to be true to.
    All the talk of authenticity makes me a little crazy, because it is 2011.

  15. Loved this post tonight. Wow can i have the poodle skirt please ;-)) It just screams the film Grease to me and just makes me smile ;-)) I have a black and white floor in my kitchen it was the closet thing that resembled the 50's to me and with my red formica furniture it just shows it off a treat. I thing like you that your home should be what you want it to be we all have our own idea's of how periods best represent us all and its great that we able to do so. dee x

  16. I swear, there must be some magazine like Atomic Ranch that features certain things like bullet planters or the Eames "Nauga" doll, or those ball and Jacks metal jack style book ends I see going for big bucks on eBay, and suddenly EVERYONE has to have one!!

    Doesn't mean they were popular back then, I'm pretty sure half the stuff people are crazy for now, wasn't anything "iconic" in the 50's.

  17. It's YOUR what YOU wanna do. I do sometimes want to tell some people...."You do know we are living NOW and not actually In the 50's, don't you ?" :-)

  18. Here, here!
    Agree with everything you said and have to add that the lamp next to the cat is A-mazing!

  19. You GO girl! If you like it,end of story!

  20. I love all the photograph examples - I can remember some of those classic 1960's linoleum floors my parents had :) - so many cool choices today - i wonder, will Shag carpeting ever come back in style?

  21. Personally I've always liked the 'diner' black and white tiling, as a person who currently has daggy green and grey lino (badly laid) through her whole house, I'd swap it in a flash!

    It is amazing the types of comments people leave sometimes, isn't it? Sometimes it's obvious they don't 'get it' at all.

    I just got some 50s decorating mags on the weekend so I might do a post on this topic soon!

  22. I hope that they meant it nicer than it sounded. To each their own, you know? For instance, my grandparents had a black and white checkerboard kitchen floor when my Dad was young (he talks about how the kids were only allowed to walk on the black squares and not get the white ones dirty) - But I in turn, have wanted one of those patterned kitchen floors like the anonymous commenter linked to for years now. I even learned that our house used to have that in the sun room.

    It's all about what makes our hearts go flutter. It's not like we have to follow some textbook. Just like any other era, folks in the fifties liked all kinds of styles. They had old stuff and wanted new stuff and mixed and matched to their hearts' content. It's not about "research" really. We're not trying to fill museums. They're our homes. We'll do whatever the heck makes us happy.

  23. About 8 years back my husband and I looked at a basement suite with black and white checkered flooring and red kitchen cabinets! IT WAS WHAT I LOVED about the place!! I wanted it so bad because of that kitchen.. trouble was the living room was way to small and had a heater in a very awkward place... so we had to pass it up.

    P.s. I would even add a Mel's Diner sign.. My name is Mel and it would go perfect! ;)

  24. Wonderful comments and opinions!!

    I think if I had grown up with a heavily patterned floor like in the examples of those tiles pictured above, my opinion would be so different.

    But growing up, they all seemed quite similar: Either had these sort of random streaks all going in the same direction, or speckles, or a combination of both. I can't recall a single dark tile floor or linolium... Ever...

    Then again, when you are a kid, who the heck pays much attention to the tiles on a kitchen floor?! lol...

  25. Oh the sarcastic dig must have passed over me as a brit! The references to the diners were I though just generic, obviously it's a geography thing! Perhaps you are a purist, if so what I like about your blog is that it's an inspirational one not a telling kind of one (if this makes sense) You share you're knowledge and items, I've picked up lot's of tips. So thank you and good luck with the floor whatever you decide!

  26. I decided that the style I see as fifties and what it really was are two different things. My Mom will come over and I say "I want my house like Grandma's" about something I have found at the thrifts. She is shocked, and says, "Mom's house didn't look like this". And she is right! It didn't. It's bits and pieces and the FEELING I get with certain items. Yes, Aunt Ida had a pink and grey
    kitchen. She had pink and grey checked floors. I loved that kitchen. But Grandma had red and white, formica table, curtains, etc. The floor was just kinda blah. But I loved it too! By the way, how about a grey countertop with pink?
    Anyway, yes- do what you want. I think the black and white shows off all of the fifties stuff, colors, etc. I have it in some places, then I changed it, not the best job...greenish tile squares. It's what I could afford, and the closest thing to vintage look linoleum I could get. Your house always has the coolest stuff!

  27. Everyone has different tastes and a different take on the 50's. Especially us in our 20's, it is our own take on 1950's. We like what we like and lucky we don't all like the same or we would have all modern minimalists houses...ewwwwww

  28. Wow, I don't know what it is but the vintage community has some of the most preachy commenters around on the internet out of all the communities I participate it! This is not in reference to anyone who has posted so far or you, just that special brand of anonymous commenter who thinks it is their duty to tell other people how to live their lives. The most annoying thing is how some of them assume that if you're not living a vintage lifestyle, you're not doing it right - therefore out with the reproductions, the modern lookalikes, the mixing of eras... not to mention posts about the proper (ie vintage) way of raising a family.

    For the record, I really like your black and white flooring idea. I also love poodle skirts, especially more unusual ones (generally involving seafood).

  29. Miss Emmi, I hear you! Not saying this about anyone in particular, but blogs about preaching living the 'vintage lifestyle', while trashing anything "modern" rubs me the wrong way too. Idealizing how "wonderful" things were "back then" and how "terrible" things are now... Is some special set of rose colored glasses I simply am unable to wear ;)

  30. I have to admit, I live for Colonial revival! Give me a wooden rocking chair, braided rug, chenille bedspread and Priscilla curtains!! I think I fall in the 'mid-century modest' category.

  31. I agree with you completely! My style is very quirky and unique, so I can accept the fact that others might not relate to it. But coming right out and acting like people don't have the right to decorate their own homes in a way that pleases them is a little pushy. I'd also like to add that I love the look of black and white flooring. Do what makes you happy, girl!

  32. Flooring choices are never black and white... unless that's what you want then go for it! One thing about a black and white floor (I have one in my bathroom and love it) is they clean up well and with a few changes you are definitely NOT stuck in the 50s. Mine are part of a Tuscan theme (yes they aren't checkerboard, they are set in a diamond pattern but it's still the same flooring).

  33. Personally I think that black and white is super cool. Back in the 1990s, my redid my bathroom in 50s style theme. The floor was black and white, but with smaller tiles. Something very soothing about it. Hope that doesn't sound too weird.

  34. Your SO right, I totally agree!!:) I'm a sucker for checker floors and will most definitely be putting that in my kitchen. I don't care what anyone else thinks, except maybe my husband;) We will be moving to a bigger appartment this autumn and I can't wait to finally get my checker floor and diner style kitchen!!! I'll mix in things from earlier ages, as I also think that the 50's wasn't only about 50's items. Most people probably couldn't afford buying everything new. Just like most people today:) LOVE vintage, from all eras!

  35. I agree that it is YOUR home, do what makes YOU smile!
    I remember seeing some of those other floor patterns in my Aunts "rompus" room (the basement). I thought they were cool.I loved to look at thime up close because they almost looked like pictures of carpet!
    I also remember seeing some of the atomic type pieces in both of my Aunts homes. We are from New York. We were not rich but my Aunts thought themselves modern and hip. My mom was more traditional although we had an awesome entertainment center that I wish I had today!
    I love YOUR blog and I hope you continue to show us what your thinking about for YOUR home!

  36. We have a 50's Ranch, as well, and how I've pined for an elegant black-and-white floored FOYER or Entrance Hall, instead of walking right into the Living Room (hardwood).

    So you go to it---can't wait to see yours.

    And yes, we DID have that DAAAARRRRK green up there, in a small kitchen in the fifties---and to make it worse, it was in a checkerboard pattern with equally dull RED tiles. What's more, Daddy found the EXACT red linoleum in sheets, and that's what covered our kitchen counters for years---with that little silvery metal edging.

    And I had a lamp for years and years which I won at Bingo when I was in about the third grade. It was pale green and had a pagoda-ish shade in the same green---three tiers of what looked exactly like short Venetian blind sections. Odd, and I loved it.

  37. I just realized in a recent post I did (inspired by this post) I used two of the same photos you have. I found them on another web page (I try not to use other bloggers pics) not realizing they were the same! I added a link back to your post because it seemed right.

  38. My father's mom had the green floor tile in her laundry room (with white walls lots of windows). She loved the poodle stuff too, but sadly those were tossed when the house was emptied in the late 80's. She also had one of those 3 light "bullet lights on a pole" lamp with a built in ashtray that I need to rehab. My grandfather on my mother's side had a marvelous pale finish Haywake-esque looking desk with a white leather sofa and matching coffee table and credenza in his Dr's office. It has a matching brass ashtray with crisscross wires across the top and a matching golden hours desk clock. It now lives at my Mom's.
    I have his FABULOUS low slung chrome and black leather waiting room sectional and round coffee table. The atomic look was there, but it was a piece here and there.

  39. Hi! I am the eBay seller of the black and white flooring. Thanks for adding my picture above (the trailer shot). Actually you'll find $10.99 per LINEAR ft.. not SQ Ft. very affordable and much less expensive than any other out there. I do not brand my flooring, therefore passing along the savings. I offer both 8' width and 12' width. The 8' accommodates the smaller spaces and trailers, and therefore can ship economically via Ground. If you have a larger space, such as a garage or diner, then the 12' is recommended. The 12' does need to ship freight which is a little more.


    Michele Craft
    Craft Enterprises

  40. I have black and white flooring in my retro 50s looking kitchen. It was in my budget and it looks awesome! I can't really have an original kitchen. My house was built in 1895. I think the kitchen was probably plumed in the 1920s. I love the 30s, 40s & 50s. Since I do like running water,I have no desire to have the kitchen be 1890s style. I made my kitchen into a very homey, vintage looking space. It contains bits and pieces from the 20s through the 50s. I love it!...Anyway, I hope you did decide go with the 50s diner floor. I love mine.