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Searching for Inspiration, Interior Designers Borrow Nostalgic Trends from Hit TV Shows

Whether mining a collective longing or appealing to mass psyche, some of the most popular home décor can be all set

In a post on Houzz, Renewal Design+Build cites AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s Masters of Sex as inspiration for this midcentury-style interior design in Atlanta. Click to view larger
In a post on Houzz, Renewal Design+Build cites AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s Masters of Sex as inspiration for this midcentury-style interior design in Atlanta. (Renewal Design+Build photo)

Most of us who have been around for more than a decade or two have had the experience of seeing something from the past come into vogue again.

Fashion is perhaps the most obvious area where this occurs, but home décor is equally influenced by nostalgia. Whether they inspire happy memories or make you cringe, the trends in both fashion and home décor are often the result of a hit television show that both appeals to the mass psyche and taps into a collective longing.

For design enthusiasts, these shows pay homage to home design and the power it has to shape — and reshape — our lives. Here are a few examples:

Mad Men

Mad Men’s sophisticated early-1960s décor harkens to a time when we lived differently, arguably more dangerously and less self-aware and certainly less self-censoring. Google the word “Mad Men” with the words “home décor” and a plethora of websites appears with the tools and products to bring the inspiration behind the show’s sets into your home.

The bold freedom of these interiors feel glamorous and appeal to us today. Perhaps we believe that by living in spaces that feel similar to the characters’, we can become more like them.

At the time of Noozhawk’s posting of this article, Houzz had no less than 5,700 Mad Men (inspired) Home Design Photos.

After seven seasons, Mad Men’s final episode aired May 17.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is another television series that has influenced our aesthetic and taken us back in time. The elegance of a large English estate and an attraction to the people and stories lived in that environment has led to a feeding frenzy of Downton-inspired ideas on Pinterest for how to bring a bit of Yorkshire country style into your home.

There are also a large number of Downton Abbey products available on such websites as downtonabbeyathome.com, which sells “a truly inspired collection of beautiful products for your home and garden.”

Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives is perhaps not an immediately obvious blast from the past in terms of home design, but as one of the designers of the sets openly admits, it is.

Feeling that contemporary suburban households were “too beige,” set designer Tom Walsh turned to the American ’50s aesthetic for inspiration for the sets of Desperate Housewives.

“We use Universal Studios’ ‘​Colonial Street’ for our set on Wisteria Lane, and the houses are basically a Whitman’s Sampler of Americana,” Walsh explained in an interview during the show’s run from 2004 to 2012.

According to the paint company Hirshfield Paints’ website, Walsh used “common elements in landscaping, color and paint. All of the houses incorporate Benjamin Moore’s Whisper Violet 2070-70 for the trim and the fences.”

According to Walsh, “That not only creates the sense of continuity, but it also helps with our goal in making it clean and bright and ideal America.”

Websites like ModernMoms helped homeowners in love with the the program analyze and replicate the design of each wife’s home.

Lonesome Dove

While the memories of this mini-series may have faded a bit, with 26 million viewers every week, no one can question the fact that the 1989 hit show Lonesome Dove caused a resurgence of the western look in home interiors and fashion. Put the words “Pinterest” and “Lonesome Dove” in any search engine and you will find proof that many are still under that series’ aesthetic spell.

So what will be the next big television-inspired influence on home design? It’s hard to say, but it’s arguable that Netflix’s influence on viewing habits may have bled into the design world, where there is currently an explosion of love for the color gray.

A closer analysis of the sets in House of Cards will reveal a very murky — not white and not black, but something in between — color palette.

And it’s too soon to call, but the sets of the new Netflix thriller-drama Bloodline are perhaps the answer to what we will be craving in home design after we are done with all that gray.

— Noozhawk contributing writer Hilary Doubleday can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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