Elements of 1970s Retro Decorating Style
American novelist Tom Wolfe labeled the 1970s as “the Me Decade”. He based this on America’s newfound preoccupation with self-discovery and self-awareness.
Amidst an oil crisis and rising inflation, American interior design changed to reflect a new regard for nature and an awareness of environmental concerns.
Design also reflected an Asian cultural influence as people sought answers in their spiritualist teachings. The anti-establishment trend that got its start in the 1960s continued and was expressed in home décor through the use of innovative designs. The 1970s “Mod” look was impacted by these factors, in addition to the continuing inspiration of Space Age technologies and the availability of new materials. The result was the creation of many stylish and innovative design trends that are popular again today.
Trendy colors were bright green, turquoise, sunshine yellow, orange and brown. White was used everywhere – in furniture as well as for backgrounds to offset brighter colors. Strong uses of black and white were often accented with a bright color by use of pillows, accent chairs and other fixtures.
Some color combinations that were hugely popular were bright green and blue, black and white, yellow and white, pink and purple, yellow and orange, yellow and green and pink and green. Red, black and white were used together to create a color scheme with a huge impact.
Fabrics and Wallpaper
Bedspreads were adorned with large, bright flowers or graphic patterns. Paisley and abstracts were common and chenille bedspreads were popular. Mushrooms, flowers and geometrics were popular themes and were always printed in bright or bold colors.
Popular materials were Lucite, glass, vinyl, and leather, as well as metal, chrome and wood. Chrome and glass created a clean, space age look. Plastic became an acceptable material for furniture, and beanbag chairs became a trend for relaxed seating.
Furniture design ranged from stark, Scandinavian and Bauhaus to organic shaped plastics, vinyl and fabric chairs. Faux fur was used as a radical new material for upholstery. Wicker furniture and rattan peacock chairs were the rage when going for a more hippie, bohemian look.
Built-in desks, beds (including bunk beds) and seating were very common, as well as floor pillows for comfortable seating on the floor.
Kitchen dinette sets with plastic, metal and vinyl organically shaped high-back chairs on wheels, very often upholstered in bright neon vinyl, emerged. Rec rooms appeared in the basements of homes, and were usually equipped with a built-in bar.
Fluffy shag and llama area rugs contrasted with the modern lines and materials used for furnishings. Linoleum and wood flooring were used throughout the home, and ceramic tile was common for bathroom floors. Indoor/outdoor carpeting became popular for rec rooms and sunrooms leading to outdoor areas.
Flooring appeared in all of the bright colors of the 1970s palette. that are listed above. A bright yellow linoleum floor would have been considered very fashionable, as well as hot pink or neon green wall-to-wall carpeting.
Lighting was innovative and new design solutions included the lava lamp, arc floor lamp in chrome and large, white globe lamps. Chrome and plastic were the most popular materials for lighting. In contrast, accessories made of macramé were also fashionable, such as hanging plant holders and wall hangings.
1970s wall décor was modern, with abstract paintings and sculptures being preferred. Paneling was used on the walls of family rooms and rec rooms. There were also unexpected outdoor materials used for interior walls, such as brick and cedar shingles.
Bold, foiled wallpapers adorned kitchens and bathrooms. A single large wall may have been covered with a wallpaper mural depicting a scene from nature done in natural colors, creating a contrasting backdrop to the modern furniture and accessories in the room.
Kitchens were larger and functioned more efficiently with abundant storage and state-of-the-art appliances. The dishwasher was no longer considered a luxury.
Laminated kitchen cabinets and Formica countertops, as well as appliances and cookware, were typically in the very latest harvest gold or avocado colors.
The general look was bright, sunshiny and Mod. The Jetsons were on television and their influence was felt in 1970s home décor. The most modern homes looked more like space capsules. But even the more modest homes saw the 1970s influence with pops of bright color and plastic and vinyl furnishings.
Do you live in a 1970s-style home? We’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories!