1970s interior design was sort of like Saturday morning kids shows. You look back now and wonder how we hit that level of cool and surreal (and just what those designers were smoking). Exhibit A: Aqua Man from the ’70s Saturday morning cartoon, Justice League:
Interior design-wise, the world looked equally surreal and cool. Oversized, marshmallow furniture; mind-bending geometric patterns; and don’t forget the colors — everything from the richest earth tones to the brightest Mondrian color-splats.
By the ’80s, the ’70s were all a big joke (in Rock This Town, the Stray Cats sang, “Well, there’s a real square cat, he looks a-1974”). But now — from the furniture to the wallpaper to the hashish-hazed colors — ’70s design is back on top. And we have the pictures to prove it.
In this Nashville home, the owners love their vintage colors. Avocado — one of the largest color trends of the ’70s — plays a starring role in the massive, ceiling-height velvet curtains. You can also use a PPG paint color like Guacamole to bring in the Avocado green.
Another color trend from the Me Decade, mustard showed up in everything from bathroom tile to kitchen countertops. Here, it takes an updated turn in a pantry. Try PPG’s Turner’s Yellow for a similar look.
Proto-designer Michael Taylor, known for creating the California look (large, overstuffed furniture; wicker and metal accents; giant plants; earth tones), would probably love seeing his influence in Jonathan Adler’s white living room. White paint is a great color for design experimentation.
The ’70s were about extremes, from the Vietnam war to the fight for women’s rights. It showed up in the decade’s love for the yin/yang of black and white. Here, four-by-four tiles with white grout harken back to a time when people ate their Wheaties and went out to protest.
In 1976, you put on your Bad News Bears t-shirt, tied your hair in ponytails with crocheted ribbons and sat in your mom’s hanging rattan chair to read, Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret. Even if you weren’t born in 1976, you can recreate the look with creamy white walls, wood-toned furniture, and your own hanging escape pod.
In a time of excess, there was some minimalism, too. Brown, beige, cream and muted orange owned rooms from Boston to Barcelona. In this hallway, the colors are reborn as the tile that warms and grounds the light, white hallway.
If today’s mantra is, “Lean In,” the mantra 40 years ago was, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” People bucked the system lots of ways, but one shocking one (to their parents, at least) was eschewing furniture. Why bother with a couch when it’s cheaper, easier, and groovier to use throw pillows? Make your own nest with a cozy blend of body pillows, rugs, and tribal-print throws.
Geometric patterns showed up everywhere, particularly repeating arches like the ones in these floor tiles. Low-slung furniture in space-age designs showed the decade’s future focus (and its throwing-off of anything traditional).
Here’s another take on the decade’s love of geometric and black and white. This was when metallics and plastics came on strong, too. Lucite, brass, and copper warm up the psychedelic wallpaper in this on-trend powder room.
You can’t go wrong with white walls and well-done wood paneling in any decade. To get a throwback vibe, add low shag carpet, mustard-and-gray furniture, accents, and abstract art. Comfortable, stylish and oh-so-70s.
For more great decorating and color ideas, try our inspiration board. Whether you browse our photo gallery of gorgeous real-life rooms or flip through color swatches, you’re sure to come away with design tips you will totally groove on. You dig?