'Mad Men' leads to surge in interested in mid-century decor

'Mad Men' leads to surge in interested in mid-century decor

April 28th, 2012 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

A vintage three leg floating desk goes for $150 at Merchants on Main.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

The influence of "Mad Men" on modern fashion has been widely reported, but the AMC television show, set in the late 1960s, can also be linked to a resurgence in midcentury home decor.

According to The Huffington Post, the popularity of the show and the design style from the era makes it easy to find furniture that sets the stage.

The retro decor complements many of today's furnishings -- something to remember when you're trying to capture the '60s vibe, said Anthony Larosa, former furniture design department chair at Savannah College of Art and Design, in the huffingtonpost.com report. Larosa, however, cautioned against going all vintage.

"The best look is a good mix of the old with the new," said Jack Steiner, who co-owns Merchants on Main with wife Missy.

It's hard to convince a baby boomer, for example, to go floor to ceiling with a look that represents most of their childhood, Missy Steiner said.

"Some people don't want the memories," she said.

Adding a touch of vintage, whether it's furniture, accessories or both, is a great way to blend yesterday with today, said Eric Brandon, one of about 20 vendors who sell their wares at Merchants on Main.

Brandon said his baby-boomer mother's affection for midcentury furnishings was passed down to him. The collector/dealer has items ranging from stereo consoles to desks, chairs and lamps at Merchants on Main.

"Since I grew up with it, I have a real fondness for this era," Brandon said. "Fortunately, there's still a lot around. You can find it if you're looking for it."

But that could change in the near future, he said.

Midcentury furnishings are especially sought after in big cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, he said. The fondness is now trickling down to smaller cities such as Chattanooga.

"Right now, most all the midcentury pieces I sell on eBay goes to California, he said. "But there are many people from Atlanta who come to Merchants on Main to search for this style furniture and accessories."

Because of its increasing popularity, today's furniture designers are mimicking the 1960s look, Brandon said.

"Big box furniture stores are selling furnishings inspired by this era," he said. "But those of us who have a fondness for midcentury furnishings like to find the original stuff."

Carl Schow, owner of Antiquarians on Cloud Springs Road in Rossville, frequents auctions, estate sales and an occasional garage sale, looking for collectibles, including midcentury furnishings. Schow, also a vendor at Merchants on Main, has a profitable eBay business.

He said sales of 1950s and '60s merchandise has skyrocketed since "Mad Men" hit the airwaves.

"When I sell anything of that era on eBay, I use the words 'mad' and 'men' (though I don't use them together), and the stuff sells like crazy," Schow said. "I sell it all to people in California."

Schow said good deals can be found in Chattanooga.

"I go everywhere looking for vintage pieces. I saw an antique Herman Miller chair at a yard sale for $5, but someone had already bought it. When I told the buyer I was interested in it, he sold it to me for $15. Then I put it on eBay and sold it to someone in California for $1,000."

Currently, Schow has 150 pieces, many of which are 1960s-era furnishings, for sell on eBay with bids up to $10,000. "The market is really good right now for this type merchandise," he said.

Jack Steiner said he has clients who drive up from Atlanta at least once a week. "They see photos I post on our website [merchantsonmain.co] of new merchandise, and they'll drive up to buy it. Most of the midcentury pieces sell quickly."