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New nostalgia: home decor with a retro vibe

Friday, June 13, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
This photo provided by CB2 shows Hawaiian kitsch at its finest, this polyresin hula girl lamp strums just the right retro note. If you spent your childhood summers on a northern lake, grew up lunching at diners and shake shacks or took a college road trip or two, you’ll be all over the next big home décor trend: American Retro. The imagery and elements can draw baby boomers back to what sometimes seem like simpler days.

If you spent childhood summers on a northern lake, grew up lunching at diners and shake shacks or took a college road trip, you'll be all over the next big home decor trend: American Retro.

And even if you didn't, you might appreciate the look and feel — an easygoing, aspirational lifestyle centered more on the meandering road than the techno highway.

Lifetime Brands trend expert Tom Mirabile calls the style "visual comfort food."

The imagery and decor elements draw baby boomers back to what might feel like simpler, more innocent days. Think vintage-style advertising and artwork, lunch-counter dishware, camping motifs, midcentury surf culture. Old bakeries, drive-ins, roadhouses, garages, beach shacks. It's the kind of retro, outdoorsy charm to be found in the production design of Wes Anderson films like "Moonrise Kingdom."

Online retailer Fab has jumped on the trend, with offerings like Roo Kee Roo's retro-style prints of boating and cottage motifs, made by Forest and Michael Evashevski, who grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Beach towels printed with patterns from famed blanket-maker Pendleton have a vintage vibe and would work in a bathroom as well as at the shore. And a campfire-ready collection of enamelware from Falcon includes a red teapot and serveware. (www.fab.com )

Grace Feyock's wall clock for Uttermost is made of vintage pictures of old license plates. A map made of license-plate images makes bold, graphic wall art by David Bowman. A set of coasters printed with images of the famous Route 66 road sign make a nice addition to the cocktail cart. (www.wayfair.com )

Martin Yeele's photographs of vintage motel and diner signage add style to serving trays from Bob's Your Uncle. (www.bobsyouruncle.com )

At Modcloth, find Karma Living's collection of curtains and pillows in cheerful, '70s-style medallion and floral prints in colorful hues. A blue, purple and pink psychedelic-print tapestry looks hip and new, but boomers will remember similar icons from their college days. Also here, a little chrome table lamp styled like a vintage motorbike's headlight. (www.modcloth.com )

Magical Thinking's wooden letters are embellished with henna-inspired painting at Urban Outfitters, which also carries groovy cotton bedding in paisleys and other retro prints. (www.urbanoutfitters.com )

Retro-surfer decor is available at several retailers. CB2 has launched a new collection that includes surfboards, canoe paddles, chairs and other accessories. The Hula lamp brings a bit of kitsch to the design forefront. Tiki motif glassware, surfboards and Bodhi vase planters kick up the midcentury Cali vibe. (www.cb2.com )

Or find fun reproductions of surf shop and beach signs at Retroplanet. (www.retroplanet.com )

"Moonrise Kingdom" fans, consider prints by artist Leah Flores of Portland, Oregon.

"I had a gypsy-esque childhood growing up in various national parks around the United States," she says. "Surrounded by mountains, oceans, wildflowers and redwood forests, I developed a sense of wonder with the natural world early on."

Flores takes photographs of rugged roads, rivers, waves crashing on beaches and misty forests, and then adds an inspired word or phrase, such as "Never Stop Exploring," ''Life is a Great Adventure" or "Wanderlust." She sells through Urban Outfitters, Society 6 and her own Etsy shop. (www.etsy.com/shop/leahfloresdesigns )

The trick is to not let this look get too kitschy, unless you want to. A few elements in an otherwise contemporary space pack design punch. But if your style's more boho than Bauhaus, then layering textiles, art and accent items creates a comfortable, lived-in look that captures the charm of retro style.


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