A Year in Vintage (1946)

The Lille sofa, model 4600 was designed in 1946 by Danish architect Finn Juhl.

The hand sewn Lille sofa, a 1946 design by Danish architect Finn Juhl,  was designed during Juhl’s Picasso period, though he was equally as inspired by Henry Moore and Hans Arp. Such was the designer’s mindset in 1946, when the average home in the US cost $5,600 and the average wage was $2,500 per year.

Juhl, no doubt, envisioned the Lille sofa as a signature piece. Keeping that in mind, I took to the interwebs again to discover what else was happening in interiors across the United States and abroad to accent it during that time, and to find some perspective on what was being talked about, pondered, laughed about and debated in living rooms the world over.

Here’s what I found.

On the Coffee Table

A lacquered 1940’s Paul Frankl cocktail table, available through Downtown.

Making newspaper headlines in 1946, the Central Intelligence Agency is set up under the Truman Administration. The war is over, though a new threat is on the horizon, what Winston Churchill calls the “Iron Curtain” during his famous speech in Fulton, Missouri.

Also on the front page, a two-day prison riot in Alcatraz leaves five dead.

On the Telephone

Made by Sweden’s Ericsson, features a rugged rotary dial and heavy Bakelite handle.

Millions of joyous phone calls go out this year with, what else? Baby news. Truman officially declares an end to hostilities with Germany during a December 31st address, marking the next wave in American society. An estimated 78.3 million Americans are born during the Baby Boom, which kicks off in 1946.

On the Radio

Boob tube? In 1946, most Americans were still getting their news and entertainment from the radio.

RCA begins production of the first television set manufactured after the war. About 10,000 units are sold by the end of the year at an atmospheric price of $352.

The radio remains very much in vogue, where news of the first transcontinental round-trip flight can be heard. Also on the airwaves, a young Jackie Robinson debuts as 2nd baseman for the Montreal Royals and the University of Tennessee refuses to play Duquesne U, because a black player might take to the court.

Lounging About

Designers Charles and Ray Eames established their legendary relationship with Herman Miller this year with the Eames Walnut Plywood Lounge Chair.

How scandalous! During the Paris runway shows, a daring two-piece bathing suit is debuted. They call it the bikini, named after Bikini Atoll, an island in the South Pacific where the new atomic bomb is being tested.

A new group called Weight Watchers also forms this year. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

Writing Home

Paul Laszlo student’s desk in bleached mahogany.

In the architect’s homeland, The Dutch Society for Sexual Reform (NVSH) is formed, stepping out way ahead of its time by promoting the sexual emancipation of both men and women, straight and gay alike. In Kielce, Poland, a mob of local townsfolk and politicians initiate a mass murder on Jews, shocking the international community. As a result, many of the remaining Jewish-Polish Holocaust survivors flee the country.

Such was the year in vintage, 1946. The world has changed a lot since then – our freedoms, the family structure, definitions of modesty – but certain design treasures remain forever stylish, and illuminating.

1940’s Vintage Beehive Spun Aluminum Tripod Floor Lamps.


Images: Bo Bedre; Downtown; Retro Housewife; galessa’s plastics; Best of Design; Design for Men

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.