This is our latest article published this month in Vintage Life magazine, all about the key items you need in a 1970s home. Whether you go for the whole look or just fancy a few key pieces, this should provide some inspiration!
The 1970’s home: Get the Look
The mid 1970s was a tough time economically. Britain was in deep recession with high unemployment and inflation. The coal industries were striking driving up the price of electricity to an all time high. At one point commercial businesses were only allowed to trade for three days a week and even television closed down at 10.30pm. Because of this our investment in home interiors was not a priority.
In troubled times we’ve always looked to the past for inspiration for both fashion and homewares. Today’s love of vintage and retro style in this tough economic climate holds testament to this. The 1970s was no different with everyone looking back to the beautiful design of the arts and crafts movement in the late 1800s.
A key item for the 1970s home are the textiles of William Morris. He was one of the most influential fabric and wallpaper designers ever with his swirling flowers in muted tones. The Golden Lily pattern, designed in 1899, covered 70s sofas, cushions and curtains and is still very popular today. Originally teamed with chocolate brown walls this look is timeless, elegant and much less flamboyant than the previous decade.
For your walls choose advertising poster prints by Mucha and Toulouse Lautrec. Again originating from the late 1800s, these styles were huge in the 1970s home, even appearing on mirrors. The muted tones sit perfectly alongside the fabric of Morris as well as reflecting the overall mood of the nation. They even influenced retail design with the early Biba stores using the swirled lines in their logo as well as the stock they were selling.
Amongst the backdrop of recession, we fell in love with dinner parties. The baby boomers had set up home and were now entertaining friends with European based cooking. The table was laid with candles in the centre (usually in a wine bottle) with coordinating place mats and napkins. There was no place for mismatched china; dinner services were given for wedding presents and proudly used on a Saturday night. Wine was drunk for the first time, discovered on yearly package holidays. We feel the dinner party should be resurrected with your best china coming out from the back of the cupboard. It doesn’t have to be all brown either: this Royal Doulton set is called Forest Flower and has a lovely yellow flower design.
After dinner, everyone retired to the lounge. Key items to get the 70s look are the shag pile rug, chrome glass furniture and glass medicine bottles.
Popular furniture was still made from glossy teak but the younger generation discovered polished chrome with smoked glass table tops. I remember as a child, we had a black glass coffee table with a chess board/backgammon effect within, so after dinner games literally became part of the furniture! It came from Ringo or Robin, a London store with Ringo Star and Robin Cruikshank designing fashion forward styles. We also had a large Marilyn Monroe mirror with a chrome frame. Alas, the table is no more (sent to the tip in the late 80s!) but the mirror is still a firm family favourite.
Wool rugs (of course in muted tones!) added texture and softness to a room. Some even hung them on the walls. They were designed with Scandinavian sounding names such as this Finlandia rya rug. Alongside teak or chrome they now look brilliant on stripped floorboards in a modern, vintage home.
Elegant, tall, coloured medicine bottles were popular, possibly reminding us again of 100 years earlier. Display in a cluster of different sizes and shapes to create a dramatic look.
Towards the end of the decade we started to look forward with new inventions and gadgets. The most life changing appliance was the freezer which enabled women to bulk cook and store, freeing up their time so they could go out to work. Another firm favourite was the soda stream. “Get busy with the fizzy” was the slogan that kids loved, as well as fizzy pop being just a press away. A gadget for the bedroom was the Teasmade. Popular throughout the decade it became a firm favourite for every bedside table. Often incorporated with an alarm clock and electric kettle, the 70s family awoke to a fresh cup of tea made for them while they slept.
Sometimes described as “the decade that fashion forgot”, we feel there were some great designs to come out of the 1970s. With the modern love of cream walls and wooden floors, the muted hues of browns and ambers coordinate beautifully. The baby boomers had finally grown up, decorated their homes and in doing so, created a look that, in our opinion, can be stylish and classic.