What’s Old Is New Again

Inspiration BoardA ’70s Resurgence

by Theresa Long

Trends in interior design, like fashion, are cyclical and shaped by what’s happening in society. With each new cycle, we revive the best from a bygone era, imbuing it with a fresh slant. We’ve globally enjoyed a resurgence of the midcentury look as it made its way back into the design vernacular. Locally, antique-peppered environs, clad in white marble, stainless steel, and modern, neutral linens have successfully updated homes. But now, we are emerging from this period of Belgian-country-meets-industrial design with an antidote inspired by post-modern designs of the 1970s. 

Like in the ’70s, recessions and the Middle East are issues, and social movements against corruption and for preserving natural resources are back in motion. Excess is out and comfort is in. People want homes that cocoon them against the outside assaults of life. Contrasting studies in earth tones and bold, bright colors are rising together as revived decorating options, providing warmth and positive stimulation for those ready to move past the greige trend. Rich browns of all shades are the new neutrals, punctuated by oranges, yellows, greens, and blues in every hue.

Thinking about décor from this era may elicit memories of rusty-toned shag carpeting and avocado-hued ovens, but these were also times of great design ingenuity. Take Verner Panton’s Visiona. Cradled in his amoeba-like structures, 1970 furniture fair attendees reconsidered how the human body interacts with a piece of furniture. The chair isn’t just a means to an end. It can be the journey as well—an artistic expression in design and texture. Form, function, and comfort, coexisting seamlessly. That is the takeaway from this decade in design.

Current ’70s design trends are found in any movie or television show from that time. The stone columns, tulip chairs, open stairwell treads, and plus-sized lamps in The Brady Bunch are current. The David Hicks carpet in The Shining remains classic. And who wouldn’t want to live in Dr. No’s apartment? Or the evil Blofield’s lair in You Only Live Twice? Bond villains’ disparate collections of modern and traditional style, infused with texture, mood, and gilt, are still way cool. There is also a takeaway from today’s movies paying homage to the decade. In American Hustle, the oh-so-amazing Mastercraft brass poster bed, boldly set against metallic, geometric wallpaper, captured the audience’s imagination just as much as Jennifer Lawrence’s leotard-clad monologue. Well, almost as much.

The ’70s design trend debuted via magazines and catalogs with the revival of…the houseplant. Companies known for their mid-century aesthetic began tempering linear furniture offerings with organic, cozy elements. Neutral linens, natural wood tones, and industrial metals slid over to make room for ethnic prints, bold geometric patterns, and sensual yet hi-tech textiles, like laser-cut velvets and pleather. Lacquered furniture, smoked mirrors, Lucite, and foiled and flocked wall coverings have also made a re-entry.

There are many ways to achieve a postmodern look in your home. Explore the works of architects and designers like John Lautner, Luigi Capriolo, and Milo Baughman. Think Italian. The Italians dominated the design scene of the ’70s. Terms like Bel Design were born to describe luxe, comfortable interiors, filled with furnishings from Gio Ponti, Atrium, and Fontana. Today, freeform, low-slung styles from decades-old design firms like Minotti, Natuzzi, and Ligne Roset still rule the haute interior world, with this look starting to permeate design for the masses as well.

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