There was something special about the 1950s. It was a time when rock-n-roll filled eardrums, people hung out in diners, and pastel kitchens were the heart of the home.
For one Adelaide couple, the era lives on in their suburban 1955 home.
From the outside it looks like any old Adelaide pad – an old Bondwood caravan and a truck with the numberplate ‘RETRO-2’ are the only indication of what lies behind closed doors.
Two miniature dachshunds respond to the doorbell, followed closely by their humans Chris (short for Christine) and Adam.
The couple is dressed to match the vintage va-va-voom that shouts from every room.
Chris says she’d have loved to live in the fifties.
“It was an uncomplicated time. A time of manners and humanity. People were disciplined, polite and took care in their appreciation of each other. I watch old clips from back then and wonder where all those old cars and dresses are now. Where is all the furniture?”
A fair bit of it is here, in their Melrose Park home. It took 10 years to renovate the house and the couple travelled the world collecting top-notch treasures from yore.
“It’s a forgotten era. Everything was just perfect then, right down to the clothing, the lifestyle, the houses, the cars. I just love it all.”
Surprisingly, Chris and Adam didn’t meet through a love of vintage. They met 26 years ago at former Glenelg nightclub Lennies. The love bug bit first, then the retro bug – after an encounter with an old-skool beverage.
“Adam’s uncle had a farm and we went out there fishing one day,” Chris says.
“The hand reel he gave me was an old Coke bottle. I just fell in love with it and started collecting bottles.”
Coke, Fanta, you name it. Things escalated and the pair purchased a PT Cruiser because they loved the car’s retro styling.
Slowly but surely, obsession grew.
“We got invited up to Birdwood for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Rendezvous,” Adam says.
“I didn’t see Christine all day – she was watching everyone dance. After the event she said, ‘Next year we’re coming back and dancing’.”
Dance lessons ensued and gradually, the rock ‘n’ roll era permeated their lifestyle.
“One thing just leads to another,” Chris says. “Friends had caravans they’d done up, and we swapped an old Kombi for a caravan. Then you start seeing pieces you like and get a bit of a collection together. That’s when I decided I had enough to make a bit of a change. I started with one room then said, ‘Darling, I can’t just do one room… I have to do the whole house or it doesn’t seem right’.”
“It used to be country-craft themed,” Adam says.
Think cow statues, raffia bows and collectable teddies.
The new look is tastefully done. Trinkets including antique jewellery, Barsony black lady head vases, 1960s lustreware, antique bobbing head moneyboxes, hats, bags, and suitcases (all in perfect condition) perch on custommade cabinets and shelves – most made by Adam, a carpenter and shopfitter by trade. They’re all fifties-style, with all the trimmings.
“We picked up a lot of original fifties handles from Rock n Rustic,” he says.
“Seven hundred handles, all in their original packaging.” He smiles.
“Chris sees a picture of something in a book or magazine and says, ‘Can you make this for me?’. It always starts small.”
He points to the kitchen – an explosion of pale pinks, blues, yellows and greens.
“The kitchen was inspired by a drawing on an apron she saw and said, ‘I need you to make that for me’. It’s a modern kitchen – all soft-close drawers.”
The living room is also a delight. Retro bars, black-and-white Lino, a Formica table, and the type of décor Nana and Pop rocked.
Their first trip to America two years ago was particularly memorable.
“My hand luggage coming back from America was crazy. It was all so fragile. I would have brought back heaps more if I had the room.”
The pièce de résistance is an outdoor tiki bar and entertaining area, most crafted by Adam.
“I always wanted a sixties bar to remind me of the Gidget movies,” Chris says. “The tables, the bar, the cupboards. We basically did it all ourselves. The lights are from Disneyland hotel, some pieces from Gumtree.”
He points to a palm tree lamp.
“I wish I could find another 10 of those. The lady I bought it from said, ‘I’m so glad to get rid of this crappy looking thing’. I think I only paid fifty bucks for it.”
Tiki masks from Hawaii and a custom-made tiki pizza oven are the icing on the Polynesian cake.
The man of the house is also a cocktail connoisseur and has a collection of vintage vessels in which to serve his concoctions.
“We’re not massive drinkers but we love to entertain. I do cocktail menus every time we have a special gathering.”
Every nook and cranny is a display of humour, hard work and love.
Their next project is the renovation of the fibreglass 1956 caravan out front of their home, one of three vans they own.
“We’ve also got a wooden boat,” Adam says. “I got an original 1960s engine for it, which I’ll rebuild. The aim is to use it. We go out in our caravan all the time.”
Chris smiles at her beau. “We’ve got so many ideas but we’re running out of room.”
For now, they’re content with what’s around them.
“It’s not a house, it’s a home and there’s only the two of us and the two dogs, so it’s perfect. Our entertaining area is big… what more could you ask for?”
Watch more of Chris and Adam’s amazing 1950’s home in our video.