Words by Chris WhiteWhen you think of today’s evolving style in consumer items you cannot help but notice how a large number of modern designers continually take inspiration or in some cases, directly copy successful styling cues from the 1950s, 60s and 70s – clothing, cars, motorbikes, architecture, kitchen appliances. Almost everything new now has a model or range that has borrowed from the nostalgic and successful stylings from decades ago. Everything that is except audio and visual technology.
Where cars once again have coke bottle curves and young girls happily wear jeans their grandmothers did, the giants of the television and stereo world progressively turned what we listen to and watch into little black boxes and thin rectangular screens. Rarely – if ever – have they turned back to pay any kind of tribute to the technology stylings of yesteryear.
Vintage televisions were big – deep, stylish, wooden cabinets with rich finishes, metal trim, knobs, and large speakers. The centerpiece of living rooms of the day. So, when it came time to design and custom build a modern take on a vintage television I knew the UHD, LCD and megapixel technology of modern televisions was crucial but the thin, black and flat styling was not.
When starting a vintage inspired build, two of the most important factors are keeping within the known style and proportions of what you’re trying to recreate. The wider aspect ratio of current televisions means they’re far more rectangular than the CRT TVs of old. Select a screen size too big and it would look cumbersome and require something the size of a small wardrobe to house it and look nothing like the televisions of old.
I decided to make the entire unit oval to give it a completely modern twist and a unique take on the amazing curve shaped TVs like the 1958 Setchell Carlson and the round Panasonic TR-005 Orbitel from the late 60s.
After drawing a full scale set out that was proportionate to other vintage units, a 38 inch screen was selected. After getting the exact size specifications of the television the scale design was slightly altered to suit and construction of the internal frame began. The outer shell is constructed by laminating three layers of speciality bending ply and adding a hand cut pencil rounded front trim to conceal the edge grain of the ply.
To elevate the screen off floor level and allow a low shelf for other devices like a receiver or PlayStation, a similarly curved base was constructed with a smoked glass shelf. Polished copper spacers locate and join the top cabinet to the base and allow the two pieces to be separated for easy transportation. A concealed conjute cut down and made from a reproduction classic radiator hose allows cables to pass discreetly between the two. Hinged speaker panels covered in vintage speaker cloth sourced from large PYE speakers give an authentic touch and also allow access to the inbuilt DVD player and the freedom to add small speakers to add stereo surround sound.
Currently the television is still used for exhibitions and promotional use for RETRObution Furniture and has also been used in a number of photo shoots for pin up photography, furniture and interior design.
Pic 1. Early stages of construction of the internal frame. Timber used is raidiata pine selected for its sustainability and because the internal frame would be visiable when access to dvd player is required.
Pic 2. Making a template for the first layer of bending ply. Exact length was important as a precision joint of the meeting ends was crucial for both visual and structural integrity.
Pic 3. Second clear coat on base. Polished copper spacers can be seen, these were required to support and locate upper unit but also allow television to be pulled apart and transported as two pieces.
Pic 4. Base and upper unit together. Upper unit awaiting flat screen mounts, speaker covers and clear finishing.
Pic 5. Test fitting of flatscreen, including speaker panel cut outs, and metal flake sprayed screen surround. Note cut out for standby light and infrared sensor.
Pic 6. Completed and ready to crate for transportation to be unveiled at an Alternative Market and Comic Festival in Brisbane.