Vintage decor

MARQUETTE – It’s 2014, but that doesn’t mean a home’s interior has to follow current decorating trends.

Visitors to Jess Shull’s lakeside Harvey home on M-28 might think they’ve walked onto the set of “Mad Men,” or maybe an episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Shull, owner of the mid-century boutique Boomerang Retro & Relics on Washington Street, has decorated her home in that retro style, which is reminiscent of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

Why does she have such an affinity for that time period’s decor?

“I think mostly it’s because it reminds me of being in my grandparents’ house when I was growing up,” Shull said.

Shull’s living and dining area is decorated with furniture with taper legs, old (but basically functioning) appliances and a “Sputnik” ceiling lamp.

“I think it’s fun,” Shull said. “I think it’s playful. For me, it speaks to me. It’s so different from anything else that’s out there.”

For example, her dining room set is Heywood-Wakefield, notable for its clean lines and light wood.

In her living room is a vintage Grundig hi-fi, complete with a turntable she uses to play Frank Sinatra tunes. She also has an Airline television set she dated back to 1956.

Shull acquired many of her furnishings through estate sales and eBay, for example.

“The thing is that there’s a whole subculture of people who are really into this,” Shull said, “and with the advent of the Internet, it’s really easy for us to be all connected. It doesn’t matter if you live in Maine, or live in Illinois or live in California.”

How does Shull explain mid-century decor?

“You know it when you see it,” she said.

However, certain traits stand out.

“Certainly, the peg legs, or the taper legs, were very common,” she said. “The blond color in the wood, the blond stain, was pretty common as well.”

Pastel colors such as aqua, mint green and pink were big, and you can see examples of those lighter color shades in Shull’s home decor.

Then there was the influence of the Space Race in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“So, you start getting these things that have these really rocket-theme lines,” Shull said, “or like my light fixture above my bar. It’s referred to as a Sputnik light fixture because it looks like you’d imagine a satellite to look like.”

Even her ice crusher looks like a rocket, plus her ice bucket has a decidedly “spacey” look.

“It looks like it’s going to take off,” Shull said.

Tiki bars were big in the mid-1950s and early 1960s because of the people exposed to the Pacific region in World War II, she said, so of course many tiki-themed trinkets fill her home.

Shull also admits to having a major fondness for lamps.

“There’s something about light,” she said. “When you have a lamp on in a room and when you’re illuminating just a small portion of the room or a key piece, it just speaks to me. And I think lamps are like the jewelry of a room. They help set the tone. They help give it a little finish, give it some sparkle in some cases, and has just become a little bit of an obsession.”

Visitors to Bryant Varney’s Art Deco-styled duplex on Spruce Street in Marquette might think they’ve gone back in time to the 1920s or 1930s.

Varney’s living room is what he called “High Deco.”

“My inspiration was a vintage Deco theater,” said Varney, who works in classroom support at Northern Michigan University.

Skyscrapers, he explained, became the big deal in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the rug in his living room is actually the ceiling motif in a Lower Manhattan skyscraper.

The library, on the other hand, is Bauhaus, Varney said.

“That was a movement out of Germany in the late ’20s and ’30s,” Varney said. “Their motto is ‘form follows function,’ and everything that you see in there is very basic, stripped-down geometric shapes – squares, circles.”

The dining room is the turn-of-the century style of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a motif that Varney said is more “arts and crafts.”

The kitchen is a brightly colored room containing Fiesta dinnerware and a turquoise refrigerator and oven, which although are reproductions look authentic.

The Art Deco style popular in the 1930s was during the Depression, which might seem to fly in the face of what people could afford. Companies, however, priced items inexpensively, Varney said.

“To get the American public to buy during a time when they had no money, they had to manufacture items quite cheaply, but at the same to paint this illusion that you had something when you had nothing,” Varney said.

Art Deco, he said, had a utilitarian value but was striking to look at, with streamlining a major concept – even with everyday objects, such as “curvy toasters” and “curvy refrigerators.”

“What I think intrigues me most about Deco is it embraces the whole concept of modernity in that things look futuristic even though they’re actually quite old,” Varney said.

Both Varney and Shull said they believe their preferred styles have a timeless element to them. In fact, Shull points to a pride of craftsmanship in mid-century goods.

“If you look at all the furniture in this room,” she said, “every piece of furniture is over 50 years old, and still solid, still standing.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.