Modern Matters Object Culture Network

publish date: March 25|2002   



  Furniture in Context
  Color Me Plastic
  Post Modern Perspectives #1

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Color Me Plastic

The popularity in pop sixties and seventies designs has been on the upswing for several years now. Collectors clamor for everything from mod electronics to a seemingly limitless array of plastic home furnishings. With the absence of variations in texture, as most plastic is flat and sleek, the choices when selecting these objects are generally limited to shape and color. Many collectors search for the brightly colored examples of the period, the most popular seeming to be orange, magenta, lime green and yellow. Color rarities, such as purple, are also sought after on those few designs that were manufactured in those hues.

Panasonic Toot-A-LoopUnfortunately, in the United States, tastes at the time seemed to dictate a more restrained color palette. We can usually find a fair amount of white, black, brown and red plastics of the period scattered about our cities, but to get the highly sought after colors you may have to search a bit more. This is not to say that you cannot find brightly colored plastics. As the popularity and visibility of these items as a collectible has increased, these items are seen with greater frequency. If you have exhausted all possibilities and still seek a tangerine orange Pastil chair there may yet be a solution. Consider checking out the numerous European websites that specialize in '60s and '70s designs. Yes, it seems that these colors we long for were quite popular in Europe and supplies are much more plentiful. Keep in mind that shipping may add substantially to the cost for a larger item but good buys can still be found, even after considering the extra costs.

At the other end of the spectrum brown seems to be the color that is the least sought after and among the most readily available. Brown was introduced at a later time, during the mid-seventies, several years after today's most desirable colors were in vogue. In its time, Americans viewed brown plastic as a compromise that could more easily be worked into the eclectic décor of the day. Brown worked in seamlessly with hanging macramé baskets, African artifacts and rattan furnishings that were seen in many decorating magazines during that period. Although brown as a color has seen a rise in popularity in recent times, most plastic collectors do not see it representing the mod look they are seeking and the pricing usually reflects that lower demand.

JVC Videosphere TelevisionAnother group of collectors leans toward sterile all white plastic environments that conveys futurism at it's highest level. Fortunately, white plastic seems to be more abundant but there is a problem. It seems that technology had not quite caught up to the design needs of the day, and early white plastic yellowed when exposed to sunlight. A yellowed piece of white plastic that usually approaches an almond or beige tone doesn't quite convey the futuristic spirit that most collector's are seeking, and the original white color can not be restored. If your taste veers towards this color palette the better choice is to wait for those objects that retain their original bright white appearance.

Whatever your color scheme, there is certainly a variety of mod plastic furnishings to complete the look. With a little patience and skilled searching you should be able to assemble a mod pad that Austin Powers would be proud of.


Barry BryantBarry Bryant is the publisher of Modern Matters as well as GOMOD.COM, a site devoted to collectors of modern design. Barry has a large collection of 60's plastic furnishings plus a growing collection of 50's design, seemingly more suited for his new California style ranch home.


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