Stories from the Past and Present: The World of Retro, Part 1

At Past & Present Home Gallery, we see lots of trends: everything from restoring furniture to its former glory to up-cycling salvaged pieces into something completely new. We see decorating trends move from chic and formal to rustic and completely random. All that to say, “What goes around, comes around.” If something is going out of style today, just wait a while and it’ll come back. This concept holds especially true in the world of “retro.”

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Retro: Reminiscent of the Recent Past

When most of us think of “retro” design, we think of the era of soda fountains and diners, Sputnik lights, and olive green rotary phones. And we wouldn’t be too far off. But before we get the theme song from Happy Days stuck in our heads, let’s hear the story of one of the most iconic pieces of “retro”: the chrome and laminate dinette set. And to truly understand the impact that these nostalgic little tables and chairs make on us, we must first look at the stories from two different industries—chrome and laminate.

Chrome: for a Brighter Tomorrow

What “chrome” is and how it’s made is a very scientific yet interesting study. However, what we need to know for our story is that the compounds of chrome have been mixed with other metals for more than a century to bring about materials such as stainless steel and it wasn’t until the 1920’s that using chrome as a finish was discovered and was first used on jewelry. As the process of chrome plating became more popular, manufacturers of furniture utilized it along with the discovery of tubular steel to create some of the most iconic pieces of the Art Deco era and bring the furniture market into the modern times.


These strong, linear, (and shiny) furniture designs took the world by storm and even during World War II, the use of chrome continued to spread. As the war ended and families returned home, they looked to these new designs to help them usher in a brighter and happier future. In the 1950’s, chrome was at its highest in the use of consumer goods. One could find a chrome finish on everything from buttons to car bumpers, vacuum cleaners to flour canisters, and so much more in between. The metal was “new” in that its manufacturing processes had been around for only a few decades. It was modern and would help remind people to keep looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. And it was shiny. Who doesn’t like bright, shiny things?

At Past & Present Home Gallery, we are currently hosting several examples retro chrome pieces including the ever-nostalgic dinette sets. Stop by the store and discover other retro designs in the Diva Den and Man Cave, too.

Can’t wait to see you at Past & Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!

Don't Miss This Week's Wine, Ale and Art Crawl!

Don't miss this week's Wine, Ale and Art Crawl hosted by Alexandria's Downtown Merchant's Association! This Thursday, July 13, begin the evening at 5:00 PM at the AAAA Theatre to receive maps of all of the participating locations as well as purchase your wrist band. Be on the look out for some special surprises at Past & Present Home Gallery, the antique store with character!