Have you ever gone thrift shopping with your parents? Odds are that, to you, it will be a “gorgeous Scandinavian walnut dresser”, but to them “exactly the same junk we had when I was growing up”. The sight of an orange velvet sofa will have you squealing with delight, while they would remember that time they gladly got rid of a similar one their own parents used to have.
It seems like today’s generation is drawn to the era of their grandparents. In the past few years many major furniture and home décor brands have introduced designs influenced by last century – Smeg’s 50’s funky retro, West Elm’s 60’s Mid Century modern elegance and Jonathan Adler’s 70’s cheeky kitsch to name a few. With these trends making an inevitable comeback and getting even more prominent in the upcoming 2015, we are going to talk a bit about the distinct differences that one of them has and how a style from the past could be so refreshing in the present day.
We bypassed the obvious choice of the 60’s since we have a soft spot for modern design anyway, and ventured into the next decade instead – the glamorous 70’s. While Mid Century design is known for soft simple lines, natural wood stains and warm colors, the decade that followed developed some new features that completely changed the look of that time, which also made it very recognizable.
70’s style was an eclectic mix of “back-to-nature” with its earth tones, embroidered wall hangings and lots of wood and stone; and “hi-tech” associated with sleek plastics, shiny metals and geometric shapes and lines. Bright colors and bold patterns spilled out generously into both design directions.
The revival that we see today includes some of those same elements – updated, yet still unmistakably 70’s. Funky colors and inexpensive materials are left in the past, guiding this style into a darker, more romantic direction. Here are a few ingredients to a contemporary space inspired by this 50 year old look:
1) High gloss plastic and acrylic – inspired by the rise of the sci-fi cinema back in the day, these contemporary materials could still look quite luxurious with the right approach. High quality plastics with perfectly smooth, almost lacquered surface are the winners. (Table Lamp, JCPenney)
2) Geometric shapes – faceted pieces specifically are taking center stage, but other ambiguous organic forms are still holding strong. (Vase, Target; Paperweight, Anthropologie; Bookends and Sculptural Spheres, West Elm)
3) Brass – and lots of it! Potentially the loudest indicator of a 70’s-inspired interior, brass is taking over the sleek cold chrome and steel. Forget the lacquered shiny brass from back in the day and go with warm tarnished, brushed or hammered pieces for a modernized look. With Kelly Wearstler’s metal of choice, you simply cannot go wrong. (Tray, Target; Hourglass, Mile High Thrift)
4) Raw natural materials – some of the hippie culture-induced nature themes did make their way into the modern-day take on 70’s. A combination of raw yet refined materials is what you are looking for – malachite, exotic woods such as mango or eucalyptus, and bone inlays. (Frame, Target)
5) Marble – some could say that, in the 70’s, this noble stone went hand-in-hand with brass, creating a very classic and time-specific look. If a marble spiral staircase with brass railings just isn’t your thing, look into some lighting or desk accessories for a smaller dose of glamour. (Table Lamp, West Elm)
6) Glass and Lucite – anything from Philippe Starck’s iconic Ghost chair to Debra Folz’s gorgeous Echo tables fits the bill, as long as it is elegant and transparent. Lucite, a durable thermoplastic was developed in 1928, but the boom of its use in furniture did not come until late 60’s. Keep the tradition alive and invest into a fun piece or two. (Candleholder, Target)
7) Velvet – fascination with the soft short hide of this plush fabric carried on from the 60’s into the decade that followed. While velvet sofas and armchairs are all the rage, there is nothing wrong with simply adding a throw pillow or two to the sitting arrangement you already own to bring the look of your space closer to the 70’s.
8) Color scheme – 70’s-inspired interiors we see today are decidedly different from the originals. While wildly colored rooms ruled the day 50 years ago, they are, in most cases, simply too much to handle in the present. A monochrome palette of black, white and brass/gold is what you should be looking for, completed with humble pops of emerald green, hot pink and turquoise with a bit of royal blue.
In summation, many consider the 70’s “the 60’s hangover”, or even “the decade that style forgot”. We, however, think that it was an important time that contributed to the development of architecture and design as we see them today. No matter how much you love or despise that era, its new up-to-date interpretation is unlikely to leave anyone indifferent.