The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Mad Men Decor on a Dime

mad men decor for less

We have always loved Mad Men, but, as a “scrappy upstart” ourselves, we’re even more in love with this new season, as Don and the team break the mold and try to bootstrap their newly formed ad agency on a Shoestring budget.

Color palette and accessories can make a huge difference in the style of a home office or small business, and opting for vintage or secondhand furnishings is a great way to outfit a new workspace without emptying your wallet. These 5 budget-friendly pieces give your space an early ’60s flair, and Shoestring‘s own mid-century maven Kara Butterfield has decorating tips to make sure your home’s Mad Men makeover is fit for a king — or a suave, well-dressed ad exec.


Vintage Typewriter ($75, This Is Not Ikea)

Email is definitely the way we communicate these days, but there will always be something special about a handwritten — in this case, hand-typed — letter.  This is Not Ikea sells typewriters, such as this teal vintage model, that will have you feeling like an official Sterling Cooper Draper Price staffer in no time. Of course, when buying vintage pieces like this, make sure to test the keys to ensure everything is in working order. When you’re ready to get typing, eBay is a great place to find replacement typewriter ribbons (no ink cartridges here!) so you can keep S.W.A.K’ing ’til your heart’s content.

I Love Lamp ($39.99, Modcloth)
Brighten up even the darkest basement office space with this sleek and chic lamp. Its streamlined shape, teal cylinder shade, and shiny brushed-silver base combine form and function in a statement piece that channels authentic mid-century modern taste.

Retro Phone Card Holder ($9.99, Modcloth)
For any scrappy upstart, business cards are a must — but the genius lies in how serious Mad Men (and women!) display them. This retro-styled wooden card holder is an adorable and affordable solution to loose cards in a stack on your desk. Plus, in cellphone-dependent times, this retro phone icon is a refreshing reminder of the pre-technology era Mad Men has painstakingly brought back to life.

Mirrored Trays ($32, Amazon)

Etched mirror trays are an elegant way to subtly evoke the glamorous lifestyle of our favorite Mad Men, and we found this set of two on Amazon for less than $50, complete with free shipping! They’re perfect for organizing pretty glass perfume or apothecary jars in a bathroom or on a vanity — easily found at thrift stores and flea markets — or use them on your workspace to elegantly collect paper clips and other desk detritus. For the DIY crowd, try the etched glass bar set project for a custom cocktail kit suitable for Friday afternoon happy hours.

Empire State Building Print ($4.98)

For under five bucks, your blank walls immediately get a million-dollar view. Whether it’s surrounded by a thrifted frame with a DIY paint job or an expensive designer piece, the Empire State Building exudes elegance and glamour anywhere it’s displayed… kind of like Don, no?


Kara Butterfield, a sought-after Boston-based interior designer and stylist, mid-century modern design maven, and Shoestring‘s own Home & Garden Editor, shares some of her expert tips and tricks for recreating the iconic mid-century look featured on the Mad Men set without making your home or office look like, well, a set.


1. Lighting can create a sultry mood, so invest in table lamps with cone-shaped shades and accent lights with multiple heads for a cool, calm, and collected feel. To further channel the mid-century design era, choose pieces with brass accents.

2. Create a mini bar on a bar cart or credenza with vintage cut-glass decanters and short Scotch glasses. If you can scope out some bottles with appropriate name plates, they’ll add delightful period detail.

3. Use a muted color palette of browns, mustard yellows, ochres, and sea blues that accent patterns with a theme, like plaids or florals. Try putting sheer curtains behind a heavier drape, but keep it tailored in order to stay chic and modern.

4. Select a sofa with clean lines; for a more authentic look, try one that sits low and is accented with wood trim. Keep it company with a credenza in walnut and several small accent tables. To finish off the look, add a standing cigarette holder, some abstract art, or period-appropriate wall decor.

Remember, when buying mid-century furniture, look for pieces in the best original condition as possible; check the details, veneer, and make sure that it is well proportioned; and if the piece needs to be restored, choose a period textile, such as one from Knoll or Maharam.

For more inspiration, Kara recommends Jonathan Adler, Design Within Reach, Urban Outfitters, ModHaus, or Machine Age, as well as Craigslist and eBay, for both creative ideas and genuine vintage pieces.

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS