Atomic Age Design: Will It Boom Again?



Most design movements from across the decades make a comeback, and a lot of the time in big strides  - think of Art Deco, Midcentury Modern and minimalism. But what about Atomic Age design?   

‘The Atomic Age is here to stay - but are we?’

- Bennett Cerf

Atomic Age design was the result of a period in America known as the Atomic Age. Beginning in 1945, it was a time defined by a boom in space exploration, nuclear science and specifically the creation of the atomic bomb. American’s were excited about the recent progressions yet also frightened at the prospect of what it meant for the future of mankind. This sense of nervous anticipation resulted in a surge of experimental and ‘futuristic’ designs spanning the late 1940’s through to the 1960’s.

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Often refereed to as the ‘past’s version of the future’, Atomic is characterised by futuristic motifs, asymmetry, geometric shapes and vibrant colours. Unsurprisingly, the design of many objects from this movement were based on the structure of the atom such as the classic Ball Wall Clock designed by George Nelson in 1949. It’s been said that the fun appropriation of the atom in domestic objects was a way of calming fear over the destructive power of atomic weapons.

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Should Atomic come back?

There’s certainly a niche following for Atomic – 606 posts under the #atomicagedesign on Instagram – and some retailers today are selling homewares that pay homage to this era (see images below). However, Atomic Age age design hasn’t had the major regurgitation that other design movements have had. It’s closely intertwined with ever-popular Midcentury Modern, and we’ve seen that movement come back in waves - so why has Atomic not done the same?

It could come down to our desire for interior design to reflect what’s most relevant to our modern lives. We can see why the practical, high quality furniture of the Midcentury Modern movement works as well as today in our busy lives as it did in the 60s, and the same with minimalism – aren’t we all on a quest to simplify our lives?

Or maybe it’s because the ideology that inspired Atomic Age design is now obsolete – science and technology-wise, we’ve made huge leaps since the 40s and what was big news then, is old news today.  Or ultimately it could just be that it’s too kitsch for some of today’s contemporary, hipster palettes.

Whatever the reason, we think there’s a calling for an Atomic revival to balance out the chronically matchy-matchy, white-walled homes we have become accustomed to today.  Atomic Age design is fun - and even if that’s all it is to us today, couldn’t all our homes do with a bit more of it?

Are you flying the flag for Atomic interiors? We’d love to chat if you are! Get in touch with us on Instagram @privateroomuk.