In the early 1950s, there was a rise in middle-class consumerism and post-war prosperity. The Festival of Britain, held in 1951, provided an opportunity to exhibit British achievements in design and industry. Modern designs, architecture, materials, and methods of construction dominated the festival, and many pieces of furniture were shown.
Prompted by the enthusiastic response to the Festival of Britain, the Design Centre opened in London’s Haymarket in 1956. This was a permanent showcase for British-designed goods.
The 1950s saw the arrival of the distinctive ‘Contemporary Style’ in furniture design. Scandinavian design was influential in the United Kingdom. This revival of modernism differed from earlier designs in that it had a more luxurious feel and style. Low coffee tables became common; as did wood-framed sofas, wall fixtures and freestanding cabinets that were now designed to hold a record player as well as drinks.
There was great variety in 1960s home furnishings. ‘Swinging London’ became the home of ‘Pop Art’ and culture. Homes were furnished with a combination of historical influences, such as Victorian, Edwardian and Art Nouveau. Designs were often futuristic, as this was the decade of the ‘Space Race’ and the first moon landing.
In 1964, Terence Conran opened the furniture store Habitat. Conran, inspired by Scandinavian furniture shops, displayed goods in a minimalist store that resembled a warehouse. He was highly successful at marketing well-designed domestic goods and home furnishings at affordable prices.
The 1970s and early 80s saw the development of the industrial or high-tech style. At this time, the conversion of warehouses and industrial buildings became popular. The accompanying fixtures and fittings made use of materials such as concrete, steel and other metals, and brick, often combined in unusual ways.
In the 1980s and 90s, flat-packed furniture for home assembly became very popular. In addition, there was wider freedom and choice for furnishings and decoration. Television programmes have promoted various styles of home design.
By the end of the century, designs tended to be simple and uncluttered, walls and floors light-coloured and mirrors common. Blinds were as popular as curtains, net curtains and carpets less common, and large, heavy pieces of furniture containing ornaments and photograph frames were becoming outdated.