Commonly known as the “decade style forgot”, you might be wondering why I’m covering the 70s in our ‘Furniture Guide‘ series. But for every shag pile carpet and orange lacquered sink basin (yes, this was a thing and I have the photos to prove it), the 70s brought with it design innovations that are still making waves today. From artisan macrame wall hangings to ergonomic office chairs, here’s your guide to 1970s furniture and interior design.
Back to Nature
A hangover from the ‘flower power’ of the 60s, the 70s saw the continuation of a move back to nature. According to Michael J. Goldberg in his book, ‘The Collectible 70s’, “home decor of the 1970s simply absorbed the imagery popular with the ‘hippie’ movement and made it mainstream-friendly”. Psychedelic floral prints, for example, became the Victoriana-inspired Laura Ashley motif that still appeals to the masses of today.
Another iteration of the ‘back-to-nature’ theme manifested in the advent of the familiar earthy bohemian aesthetic. Of particular note was the whole macrame craze.
The ancient knotting technique – thought to have originated with Arabic weavers – became the craft of the 70s. Homemakers across America used macrame to create home-made everything, including wall hangings, bedspreads, tablecloths, plant hangers and more.
To match the macrame madness, earthy terracotta tiles were the order of the day.
Much like the 50s, the 70s can be identified by its iconic chairs. Though the number of new chair designs were actually few and far between, the ones which did appear were memorable for their whimsical design and innovation.
Although created in the 50s, Saarinen’s Tulip Chairs took on a futuristic life of their own in the 70s thanks to their appearance in the popular Star Trek TV series.
In 1971, a modified form of the Tulip Chair was used in the design of Project Cybersyn – a Socialist-driven experiment in cybernetics which was considered cutting edge for its time.
In the realm of chair design, the legacy of the 70s lies in its innovation in office chairs. The decade saw the design of the first ever office chairs to consider ergonomics.
Leading the way was manufacturer Herman Miller, who collaborated with ergonomics specialist William Stumpf to create the Ergon Chair. The Ergon Chair was revolutionary in providing a comfortable cushioned seating experience while still giving critical posture support.
Bold use of color was probably the most defining feature of 70s design. Whilst the natural stone and earthy terracotta tones discussed above were prevalent, it’s the avocado greens, punchy purples and zingy oranges which people tend to remember the most. This, in my opinion, is the decade’s downfall, cementing the 70s in the minds of many as a decade of bad taste.
An Explosion of Color
The 70s color craze is not for the faint of heart. It was not uncommon, for instance, to find whole rooms decked out in lacquered red or fussy orange tiles. As an aesthetic concept, technicolor funk was the Scandinavian hygge of the decade.
Synonymous with the crazy colors of the 70s was the famous shag carpet. In their heyday, shag carpets were the epitome of luxury. Soft and fluffy underfoot, its often gaudy hue immediately caught the eye, making it a common statement piece in households across America.
Open Plan Layout
Open plan living is one of today’s most popular design layouts, but did you know that the trend originated in the 70s? Part of a move towards a less formal way of living, the open plan layout was designed to create a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere at home.
The Sunken Living Room
A key feature of open plan living in the 70s became the sunken living room seating area. Also known as conversation pits, sunken seating areas served the function of dividing an open plan space into zones.
Beyond design, this feature facilitated closer human interaction between family members.