The United Nations is straight from Mad Men

on March 29 | in Culture, Vintage | by | with No Comments

The United Nations building is a perfectly preserved homage to the go-getting 1950s – right down to its Mad Men-style interiors.

The complex was completed in 1952, and – even during a recent refurbishment – every last vintage chair was reupholstered and put back, and every vibrant carpet replaced with the exact same color.

THIS WAY...even the signs are 50s at the UN

THIS WAY…even the signs are 50s at the United Nations.  Photo ©


MODERNIST...the UN's lobby ceiling

MODERNIST…the United Nations’ lobby ceiling.  Photo ©

Boo York City was given special access to some of the lesser-known areas of this monument to vintage design, and we discovered that there are even ultra-cool bars and lounges where you can imagine Don Draper relaxing with a scotch.

The entrance at 46th Street and 1st Ave is a soaring wall of glass split into strips by pink and gold pillars. A model of Sputnik – a gift from the Soviet Union – appears to float in the lobby space.

SPACE AGE...a model of Sputnik hangs by the windows of entrance lobby

SPACE AGE…a model of Sputnik hangs by the windows of entrance lobby. Photo ©

This is just one of many gifts, from sculptures to tapestries, that adorn the building at every few paces. As none of these are curated with a theme or broad direction, it gives this epicenter of power a strangely homey atmosphere. One United Nations source described it as ‘looking like grandma’s house’.

Though the art collection may be random, the interiors are so slick that they look like Roger Sterling commissioned them to impress Joan Holloway.

GREEN ENVY...lounge area where even the shadows are hip. Photo ©

GREEN ENVY…lounge area at United Nations where even the shadows are hip. Photo ©

One particular lounge area is arranged with angular white tufted leather couches, set on a grass-green carpet, against a window that allows sunlight to pour in, casting Mondrian-style shadows on the floor.

The United Nations Delegates Lounge is also blessed with two whole walls of floor-to-ceiling windows and Scandinavian modernist furniture in green, blue, purple and yellow.

AIRY...the Delegates Lounge is filled with Scandinavian furniture

AIRY…the United Nations Delegates Lounge is filled with Scandinavian furniture. Photo ©

This lounge, and the canteen, both command uninterrupted views of the East River and the famous Pepsi-Cola sign, with boats streaming past, seemingly within touching distance.

The Trusteeship Council Chamber is a modernist dream, with lime-green chairs contrasting with the yellow, red and black stripes in the carpet, the teak paneling and the primary-colored box lighting, suspended from red horizontal ‘ladders’.

STRIPES...playful carpet design in the Trusteeship Council Chamber

STRIPES…playful carpet design in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. Photo ©

SQUARING THE lights in primary colors at the Trusteeship Council Chamber

SQUARING THE CIRCLE…box lights in primary colors at the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  Photo ©

The Security Council Chamber is even more spectacular, and could pass for the War Room in Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove. Powder-blue, tomato red, and sage green seats face towards a center circle desk, backed by a vast mural by Per Krohg which is reminiscent of a church stained-glass window.

It seems appropriate that this elegant, symmetrical space is where resolutions are made about world peace.

*For tours of the United Nations, please click here.

COLOR POP... the beautifully bright Security Council Chamber

COLOR POP… the beautifully bright United Nations Security Council Chamber.   Photo ©

DETAILS...part of a tapestry donated to the UN in the 50s

DETAILS…part of a tapestry donated to the United Nations in the 50s. Photo ©

Pin It

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

« »

Scroll to top

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.