on the beat | Aug 24, 2023 |
What’s your favorite design decade? We’re making a case for the 70s

The trippy, eco-driven designs of the 1970s are back—and more sophisticated than ever.

Though nostalgic motifs have been trending since the start of the pandemic, it’s the designs of the 1970s that are making a major comeback in present-day interiors. “We’re entering a new era of design that favors quality over quantity,” says Jaye Anna Mize, vice president of home and lifestyle at trend forecasting agency FS. “Younger generations are more sustainability minded, and 1970s-inspired designs combine heritage with contemporary elements, while introducing the concept of biophilia in the home.” Data backs up the era’s surging appeal: “Searches for ‘1970’ are up 12 percent year over year on 1stDibs,” says the platform’s editorial director Anthony Barzilay Freund.

The ’70s ran the aesthetic gamut, starting with the space-age styles of the late 1960s all the way to disco-inspired designs and hippie-friendly bohemian looks that rounded out the decade’s later years. “Though the period was stylistically diverse, natural materials like bamboo, rattan and a palette of deep mineral tones—burnt orange, mustard yellow, warm browns and greens—reigned supreme,” says Freund. “The furniture was curvaceous and a bit audacious, breaking with the rigidity of high modernism that had defined the preceding decades.”

Funky geometric patterns and lively organic motifs were all the rage, as were comforting curved silhouettes and low-lying furniture profiles. “The 1970s design aesthetic was all about decadence, love, nature, color and futurism,” says New York–based designer Sasha Bikoff, whose recent line for custom rug brand Rug Art draws heavily from ’70s styles. “It was a reaction against midcentury modernism and its minimalistic appearance, and all about creating a sensual vibe.”

Hallmarks of the era mirror some of our most pressing societal concerns today. The concept of communal living, which first rose to prominence in the early 1970s, plays a pivotal role in the period’s resurgence. “The Pew Research Center reports that there are now 59.7 million U.S. residents who live with multiple generations under one roof,” says Mize. “This encourages more of a cultural exchange between generations, influencing everything from our purchase decisions to our core values of family and belonging.” The decade was also shaped by environmentalism—the first-ever Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970—and biophilia, a term that emphasizes humans’ innate attraction to nature, was coined by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in 1973. “That relaxed, back-to-nature vibe feels feels in sync with these times—or at least aspirational,” says Freund. 

» Related reading: Retro finds to bookmark for next time you need some far-out flair

In today’s interiors, ’70s styles are reappearing in strikingly sophisticated forms. New York designer Robert McKinley, for instance, recently painted the kitchen door of a client’s Montauk home avocado green; Bikoff regularly employs ’70s-esque color palettes and psychedelic motifs throughout her projects. “The aesthetic was very uninhibited,” says McKinley. “It played on basic human emotions, beauty, organic forms and the environment—things that resonate more than ever today.”

While McKinley acknowledges that the untamed nature of 1970s decor can make integrating the trend a challenge, its key features are a lot more approachable than they first seem. “The trick is to not take the look literally, but to be inspired by its boldness and experimental nature,” says the designer, whose furniture and lighting brand Monea showcases elements of the period alongside minimalist-modern accents. “We continue to explore the possibilities of new materials and natural shapes, while finding fresh ways for them to coexist with more refined details.”

Homepage image: Sasha Bikoff took inspiration from the 1970s for a seductive contemporary bedroom, which features Pierre Frey’s Portor wallpaper in Noir; a glossy caramel-colored paint treatment on the ceiling; and a plush, faux-fur–upholstered Grinza bed by Fernando and Humberto Campana for Edra | Lesley Unruh

This article originally appeared in Summer 2023 issue of Business of Home. Subscribe or become a BOH Insider for more.

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