As "Mad Men" fans get pumped for this Sunday's season finale, a lesser-known but equally obsessed subculture hungrily awaits one last evening of mad prop-spotting:
The show's distinct brand of scene-setting retro details has garnered a growing fan base all its own, from the lively online discussions in which posters beg for tidbits such as the name of the Drapers' dish pattern to the eBay listings with the phrase "Mad Men Era" in their headings promising this chair or that flask will make you "Feel Like Don Draper."
The AMC TV series is set in the early 1960s. Main characters Don and Betty Draper - portrayed by Jon Hamm and January Jones - live in a 1916 Colonial Revival. At first glance, the Drapers' interior could pass for a page out of a mid-1950s issue of House Beautiful - a look long dismissed as outmoded and unattractive. And therein lies its newfound cult appeal: It's so dated, it's daring.
There's an emotional reaction to the show's unabashed use of color and softness, two qualities that often are absent from today's unisex and utilitarian styles, says Manhattan interior designer Valerie Onor. "We've had decades of a lack of detail and a lack of romance," says Onor, whose room in the Mansions & Millionaires 2009 Designer Showcase in Upper Brookville earned her the Designer of the Year award.
Onor says her clients are excited when they get her professional green light to bring back distinctly feminine or masculine styles and shades again. "People become so accustomed to neutrality that they're responding very enthusiastically to color," she says.
If that's what you crave, there's nothing stopping you from borrowing those lush hues or frilly details to enliven your own environs. But the observant viewer will note that what really gives each room its panache is something not so easily replicated: the living accessories. As often as not, the actors themselves seem to serve as design elements; their wardrobe, makeup or personal effects add a definitive pop of color or sophistication that plays off their surroundings for a seamlessly styled scene.
Changing your hair color to match the throws would be going overboard. But Annette Tatum, author of the new book "The Well-Dressed Home: Fashionable Design Inspired by Your Personal Style" (Clarkson Potter, $35), suggests letting your taste in clothing guide your decorating choices. If you make a habit of consulting your closet for interior inspiration, that "Mad Men" effect might happen almost by accident, she says. "Like any work of art, you are the centerpiece of your home."