The ceaseless march of progress may have brought smartphones and flat-screen TVs into our lives, but what’s happened to all those technological objects and interiors innovations from the past? Let’s celebrate some of these retro goodies, from the electric blanket to the happy-tappy typewriter. I urge you to browse these much-loved but frequently forgotten items and gadgets and consider their worth once more.
Record players. Remember carefully cleaning your vinyl, dropping the needle onto it and listening to the exciting crackle before the music started? Record players conjure pure nostalgia and make digital music look positively clinical. You get great sound from a record player, too, and if it looks super retro and funky, like this one on its own space-age stand, so much the better.
Rocking chairs. Rocking chairs have soothed many a granny off to sleep as she knits by the fire, but this nostalgic piece of furniture can also look smart and current. This beautiful red model is proof that rocking chairs can still cut it in a contemporary setting.
Electric blankets. First there were copper warming pans, then hot stones, followed by still-used rubber hot-water bottles. But for a brief period, these were all eclipsed by the mother of all bed-warming devices — the electric blanket. Cases of mattresses catching fire and people sweating pints of bodily fluids in a single, superheated night dented their popularity, but you can still buy one today. Tempted?
Hostess carts. Carts were a regular feature of homes at one time. Their most sophisticated incarnation was the hostess cart, complete with hot plates and warming ovens, so you could wheel an entire four-course meal to the table and serve it at just the right temperature without having to set foot in the kitchen.
The precursor of the hip hostess cart was the humble wooden model. My grandmother would wheel the afternoon tea things into the living room on one, but these carts can also function as bar carts for anyone who likes their booze to be able to cruise.
Sunken living rooms. Less a retro item, more a retro way of life, the sunken living space brings the 1970s ranch house back to life. Just add sheepskin rugs and, of course, a dramatic fireplace for easy, cheesy lounging.
Eiderdowns. Before the advent of the continental quilt, there were sheets, blankets and, best of all, eiderdowns. These proto-duvets are packed with insulating duck down for lots of warmth, and are often made from soft, satiny floral or paisley fabric.
Rotary telephones. As mobile phones become lighter and slimmer, don’t you ever find yourself longing for the satisfying heft of an old-school receiver? A classic, freestanding telephone comes with the bonus of a cord to twirl as you chat and the joy of dialing a number with the accompanying whirring sound. If you can also find a dedicated unit to sit it on, so much the better. (There’s space for a Yellow Pages in this one!)
Hat stands. In decades gone by, hats were essential dress items for anyone stepping outside the house, but once the wearer was indoors, they came off and hit the hat stand. If you don’t want the real thing in your hallway, consider a sticker silhouette for a retro mood.
Typewriters. Before word processing, there was typewriting. And before the electric typewriter, there was the classic manual model, offering an uplifting “ting” with every carriage return, a satisfying click when you pressed a key — and a nasty pinch when you missed it and jabbed your finger between two letters!
Oversize glass flasks were quite the thing back in the 1960s and 1970s. This versatile home accessory was used as a planter for cactuses, a vase or, commonly, a repository for loose change. But, unlike horse brasses and carriage clocks, they still look pretty good today. (Also consider glass buoys hung in nets and oversize whisky bottles.)