What Was '70s House Decor?

Written by shelly mcrae
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What Was '70s House Decor?
Plastic, glass and metal were used in 1970s design. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Home decor in the 1970s moved modern design concepts from the cutting edge into the mainstream home. Design schemes combined wood, plastic, glass and graphic patterned fabrics to create visually stimulating, if not jarring, interiors. Wallpaper and panelling pushed painted drywall aside. Furniture squatted low to the floor, and the floor was covered in carpet from wall to wall.


The 1960s lay claim to the "Psychedelic Era," with colours that appeared electrified to brilliance. Designers in the 1970s took the palette down a few beats, toning down fire-engine red to a more subtle purple-red or brown-red. Popsicle green gave way to leafy green, sweet pepper green and other more natural shades. Blues lost their neon glare, replaced by ocean blue, blueberry and robin's egg blue. Other colours, though, still played bold roles, such as dark chocolates, burnt orange and sunny yellow. Harvest Gold and Avocado Green are still identified as star players in the 1970s colour palette.


Checks, stripes and floral patterns fell by the wayside in the 1970s, replaced by graphic, highly stylised designs. Ordinary shapes were twisted and bent and filled in with a multitude of colours. Fabrics and wallpaper highlighted the still lingering sense of the psychedelic of the previous decade, with wavy lines, concentric circles and twisted ribbons of colour. One particular concept in pattern that is closely identified with the 1970s is the infantilised flower in which the flower is reduced to a series of teardrop shaped petals set in a circle, similar to a child's artistic rendition.


Plastic, glass and metal played prominent roles in 1970s decor. Egg-shaped plastic chairs were not confined to waiting rooms but were found in eat-in kitchens and finished basements throughout suburbia. Glass tables with metal legs populated living rooms, set alongside and in front of couches and chairs upholstered in vinyl or leather. Metal-based floor lamps with plastic shades stood tall in the corners, some with multiple lights that created a myriad of shadows across the graphically patterned papered walls. Wood cabinetry and framework offset the cooler, harder surfaces in 1970s design, and dark woods made for high contrast in design schemes filled with paler shades.


The 1970s offers a study in textural design, mixing the smooth, clean visual lines of low-slung leather furnishings with the deep, cushiony look of shag carpeting; the sleek sensation of glass and metal with the visual softness of embossed wallpaper; and the cool shine of plastic with the warmth of dark-stained wood. Design in the 1970s relied heavily on visual textures and contrast within those textures. When it worked, it was eye candy; when it didn't, it was blindingly awful.

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