Aura of the Era - Page 3

Coolest of the cool television sets from the mid-century eye a cozy comeback stage inside today’s modern homes
Aura of the Era
Aura of the Era
Two vintage console TVs that seem right at home in a mid-century modern home today are the Magnavox 'Color Stereo Theater' (top) and the Spartan Imperial (above).
Aura of the Era
This early 'roundie' is the Raytheon M-1106 (1950).

Predictas grew so popular, they even made a return in recent years. In 1997, a small firm, Telstar Electronics, began manufacturing a limited run of Predicta reproductions, producing eight different models during the decade that followed.

Rubsam says the Predicta was originally marketed in the 1950s based on its design and aimed at the high-end interior design field.

 "The reason you can find Predictas at flea markets, at the Rose Bowl," says Weddington, who grew up in Los Angeles, "is they were expensive, and they were strange looking. So when they failed, or people wanted to replace them with color sets, they couldn't bring themselves to throw them away. So they put them in the closet."

But once you get past the Predicta, McVoy says, mid-century models of aesthetic interest are few. "TV sets starting in the mid-1950s became very uninteresting," he says.

It is notable that few top designers, at least in America, designed TVs. Chairs, lamps and toasters, cars and telephones, radios, and even alarm clocks and vacuums were created by top industrial designers and architects. Artist John Vassos did some fine TVs for RCA in the late 1930s, with speed-line décor and screens that folded up from the cabinet.

But did Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss, or Eliot Noyes ever design a TV? It doesn't seem so.

Because the Predictas look sharp and can be found easily, Rubsam says, he concentrates on them in his conversion business. "I do so many of them, I have a little assembly line going across the bench."

He also works on another set with aesthetic appeal, the Sylvania Halolight. "A mask around the screen is white and has a light behind it, so the frame around the TV lights up," he says. "The look of these sets went from very traditional to very atomic-looking cabinets."

"Those are very awesome," Weddington says of the Halolight, which was produced from the late '50s into the mid-60s. "Halos are hard to find, because when they failed or people replaced them, they went into the dump."

Sylvania claimed the halo on their TV's face was provided to relieve potential eyestrain. "Your mom always said, 'Don't watch TV without the lights on,'" Weddington says, summarizing Sylvania's sales pitch. "We provide the light."

But he believes Sylvania's motivation was different. "If you blend the edges of anything, it makes it look bigger. The halo can make a 21-inch screen look like a 26-inch screen. That was the real reason."

If you're looking for really way out mid-century modern designs, though, you'll have to turn to Europe, "especially Italian sets," McVoy says.