if you still have a Formica-and-chrome dinette set or an atomic sofa in Granny's attic, now is definitely the time to dust it off and sell it. Or, better yet, display it proudly in your own home.
Midcentury modern, the clean-lined look of the '40s, '50s and '60s, has been kitschy cool with niche collectors for at least a decade. But now those retro pieces are gathering mainstream momentum.
"It's really picked up speed," said Jake Rudh, Minneapolis, founder of the Facebook group Twin Cities Midcentury Modern (TC-MCM). "That era has always caught my eye. I take collecting it seriously."
Rudh started the group almost three years ago. "It was at the height of my own midcentury modern craziness, when I was out hunting every day," trying to furnish his 1964-built home, he said. "I knew there were a lot of people like me out there." The group has almost 1,000 members who share resources and post photos of their finds.
"Younger professional people in their 20s are really into it," said Kathy Basil, showroom manager at Hirshfield's Design Resource. The look is so popular that more manufacturers are producing retro-inspired items.
Basil said she's seeing wallcoverings in big graphic patterns and printed grass cloth, vintage-look lighting such as drum chandeliers, and retro-revival carpeting, from "over-the-top shag" to geometric prints. "There's nothing cheesy about these rugs," she said. "This whole retro thing is making its way into upper-end woven carpets."
Some homeowners, such as David Anger and Jim Broberg of Edina, have been collecting midcentury modern all along. Anger, a photo stylist, is such a fan that he's styled their home into an homage to their favorite era, using pieces they've collected over two decades.
"I always say it's like a Danish history professor's house in '67," Anger said. "There are so many nuances of midcentury -- ours has gone Scandinavian."
After an initial fascination with '60s plastic pieces, the two have homed in on the streamlined teak furniture dubbed "Danish modern." Their look is now "human modern," Anger said, with pieces that show evidence of the artist's or craftsman's hand, accessorized with bold vintage rugs and artwork, and bright warm hues of yellow and orange -- "sunburnt colors."
Home furnishings forecaster Michelle Lamb, of the Trend Curve in Eden Prairie, is bullish on midcentury modern and says the revival is just beginning. "It will be stronger in 2012 than 2011," she said.
TV's "Mad Men," with its glamorous portrayal of midcentury fashion and home style, has been a major influence, Lamb said. "I don't think you can discount 'Mad Men' -- it's been a real force," she said.
"'Mad Men' really kicked it in," agreed Rudh, who is such a fan of the show that he hosts season-premiere parties and entered a contest to appear on an episode, making the semifinals.
But midcentury nostalgia was starting to percolate even before Don and Betty Draper burst onto TV screens in 2007.
"People of a certain age grew up watching 'Bewitched' and 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,'" said Carri Carlson, a designer with Array Kitchen & Bath of Edina. "We're at an age where we want to go back. It makes us feel good."
Even those too young to have lived through the midcentury decades appreciate their appeal. Rudh, 36, likes the spirit that the period evokes. "There was the optimism of that time, the '50s and '60s in postwar American. You look back at that and think, 'That was a great time.' We aren't driving around in 'Jetsons' cars like we thought we'd be, but maybe we still will."
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784