Living in a Time Capsule

Despite the last decade’s renovation boom, some homeowners have resisted the urge to replace the yellow Formica counters or even buy a new couch, leaving their décor frozen in time.

Comments: 17

  1. Quick, offer to buy all these dated furnishings that seem to be in perfect condition. Then sell them at a profit to people interested in keeping that era preserved. Why do we buy antiques? Because they have a historical, architectural or cultural value. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Wow, did design ever jump off a cliff between the 60s and 70s.

    Call it dated, but the living room in the Atkins house is stunningly cool! The owner is correct - there is no way you could replicate anything like that today.

  3. I would absolutely love to move into a house that was stuck in the mid 40's to early 60's. My husband and I recently moved into a 1956 ranch and have had all to do to put it back to the way it was -- already have repainted the Mondrian wall.

  4. I'm sorry, but that 80's era kitchen and dining room was not in style even when it was. Maybe I'm more sickened more by what it represents than the sytle itself. Either way, ick.

  5. Good midcentury design, apparently, is good forever. It seems to me that a lot of the "kitschy" furnishings in these homes are not that different from the stuff hawked in the Home & Garden section every week as retro-cool (except these are the genuine article, not reproductions or "inspired-bys").

    I think people are often too quick to modernize. Sometimes it's necessary, but I often cringe at houses of a certain vintage whose interiors have been forced into modern floorplans and designs that do not suit the bones of the building and obliterate its history. Modern kitchens and bathrooms are a particular pet peeve--even "retro-styled" appliances and cabinetry always look oversized and are never the right scale for the room. Better not to have destroyed the interior in the first place.

  6. I really hope none these smell like the houses of the elderly. When I look at the slide show, the olfactory shock of walking into the apartment we purchased last year hits me all over again. It was the 1960's time capsule and the smell of old furnishings, old curtains and old wallpaper was intolerable.

  7. does anybody else out there find this article completely absurd? are we really going to start viewing the refusal to update ones' material possessions and "stay with the times" as a pathology? clearly, not being cutting edge must be a sign of some psychological trauma, or even [gulp] a symptom of greater mental disorders! jump off the trendwagon, for godssakes, or at least see it for the meaningless distraction that it is. stop creating new needs where none exist. you can't buy your way to happiness and more than you can buy your way to environmental sustainability--or buy your way out of the credit crisis.

  8. It is astonishing that, with the energy resulting from both internal social and economic events, and world peril, that there has been so little cultural expression about these events. No recession-era design trends and daily living items, no music, no literature--has consumerism really done that much damage?

  9. I love the Atkins home! Just lovely! My parents recently sold their home, which they purchased in 1976. It had the original avocado linoleum and appliances in the kitchen and faux wood paneling in the living room! A total '70's time warp, but not in a good way. It was on the market for 3 years...

  10. The '50s Olsen house looks magnificent with those floor to ceiling windows and the clean lines! Very well done. I wish there were more photographs of these homes in the article -- there is just not enough to see, especially the one of the '60s house. The '80s house really needs a redo, especially of that black lacquer dining room set and the silver vertical blinds -- those are just awful. It reminds me of that living room scene in Goodfellas. Round/half round window openings line in the photo just make my skin crawl. Good luck at resale if you don't update that mess.

    I know people living in some of our suburban areas' post-war bungalows. OMG what a time warp those places are! Blue and pink bathrooms and all.

  11. There was a postcard out a while back with a photo of young Katherine Hepburn at age 16 sitting in a fan-backed wicker chair putting on a Hollywood pose. I used to show this card to people and nobody could guess that it was taken in the 30's because all the elements--her sandals, her skirt, her hairdo, the chair--were so fresh and classic that there was nothing to date it. Good design works like this--a combination of cultural cues which have been given a free pass in all eras and go on being reproduced, along with geometric shapes or materials which are fundamental. The homes in this piece were always going to pass muster as good design because they aren't filled with the mass-produced consumer goods most of us are sentenced to own by our incomes, they are filled with sophisticated custom-designed goods of the highest quality which were destined to stand the test of time...

  12. Many domestic antiques were ordinary objects in their time. They become valuable because they survived the process of 'upgrading,' which is mostly superficial. If a room preserves a certain aesthetic, why is a "new" one necessarily better? The stuff (to use the Carlinesque term) we think shows our superior taste now will look ridiculous in ten years too. This is just an aspect of the consumer culture that says stuff should be easily discardable. Style becomes an excuse to buy more stuff, not a quest for self-expression, quality, or superior design. In some ways, it's a reflection of our insane economy: we don't buy furniture of lasting quality, but things to give us a frisson of the new and the illusion of prosperity. We're terrified of not being cutting edge and chase after the latest thing, whether it's countertops, Twitter, or 'creative' mortgages, without regard to long-term value. Thomas of Singapore is right: some of these rooms are really cool. They can give me the Mies van der Rohe chairs if they don't want 'em.

  13. Too bad you missed my mom and dad's time capsule. In 1957 they furnished their home from Sears, Roebuck & Co. "Harmony House Collection" Except for the carpet ( I got them to change that two years ago) It remains untouched. Well........... they did up date and buy a STEREO in 1964.

  14. But not all mid-century design was so wonderful. We recently bought a 1963 house with purple bathroom fixtures, knotty pine kitchen cabinets (and yes, yellow formica counters, and a dark brown kitchen sink) and lots of fake wood paneling. I do not feel any obligation to keep any of this (the bathroom is already gone). But I do like the floor-to-ceiling river rock fireplace.

  15. Why change something you like just to keep up with some ephemeral concept of "up-to-date?" These folks have the right idea. It's economical and eco-friendly. And if what you keep ends up deemed as "classic" in future years, you've really hit the style jackpot.

  16. Nice to see something lasts and with all the matchstick building these days the mid-20th century housing was certainly better built.
    It really doesn't matter nowadays how much you pay, $50,000 or $5,000,000, it is the aame slipshod workmanship and nothing is straight and nothing is built to last or be weatherproof for a long time.25 year roofs are a joke as they rarely last more than 10 years at best.The insulation in the roof settles to almost nothing and it has to be done again after about 10 years. The HVAC equipment is poor quality and will not last more than 5 years.
    The best house we had was in a Pittsburgh, PA suburb and it was BUILT! Solid throughout. We were sorry to leave it but it was a '60's house, very well designed and built with all the conveniences one could ask for.

  17. I agree with no.7 kilroy from bklyn. Why does the author think we need to update? Relax.