Sometime’s people don’t know what to do and so they start doing a bunch of weird shit. The ’70s was an entire decade of modern interior design trends where everyone just decided to do some weird shit. And I’m all about it.
My favorite thing about ’70s decor was the fearless belief that brown was the best color, and pea green was the second best color. The American Cinematic Universe is a linear timeline and the color palette of the ’70s is in direct response to the events of the ’60s.
In the 1950’s homes were almost exclusively decorated by post-war women who lived in a culture that highly valued traditional femininity. So these methed up middle class housewives filled the homes with aqua and pink and pastel yellow.
The 1960’s brought in even more colors. A clear line between the populuxe from the previous decade to the the psychedelic mod fashions of the ’60s. Bright, optimistic colors were still the vogue, but now they had sleeker, sexier silhouettes. The saturation was turned up to 10. The 1950’s housewife made the home, and the 1960’s minx was gonna fuck in that house.
But realistically we got our asses handed to us in the late ’60s. The Cuyahoga river kept lighting on fire cuz it was full of oil. The Bald Eagle was facing extinction due to farmers spraying DDT. An oil rig was leaking millions of barrels of oil just off the coast of Santa Barbara. Whales were almost extinct due to human hunting.
After everyone who fucking mattered got murdered and we got wrapped up in Vietnam, bright optimistic colors seemed passe and disingenuous. No one was feeling super stoked.
And the hits kept coming. In May of 1970, the National Guard just straight up murdered college kids at Kent state. In 1973 we had the oil crisis. In 1974, our President just fucking quit and peaced out forever.
In response to this, we saw the the first ever Earth Day in 1970. The hippie idealistic optimism evolved into brute force activism and environmental consciousness. And this is how the ’70s found it’s look. The ’70s found its groove in Earth tones. And boy are they wonderful.
Harvest Gold, Burnt Sienna, Avocado, and poop brown define the color palette of the decade and overtime people have really developed an aversion to those hues. They find them to be dirty and dingy. In some people they evoke an auto-qualmish response.
But for me they conjure images of a special, secret space where clandestine adult affairs take place. They feel warm and cozy but alive and exciting. There’s something very special about rooms that seem trapped in time and nothing evokes the feeling of time-travel quite like brown and pea green.
Around this time weird mushroom designs and fascination with dragons and elves became in vogue. But there was something else happening in the ’70s that shaped it’s weirdness.
People were obsessed with bi-centennial. Holy shit were they nuts. There was so much bi-centennial merch going around at the time. From commemorative plates, t-shirts, and changing the design of the quarter (for one year only). American’s were fucking hopped up on patriotism in 1976, and this too bled over to interior design.
The public was really hopped up on this whole “Spirit of ’76” shit and so the interiors of ’70s homes were fucking weird. We were still shooting rockets into space, and so modernist designs looked a lot like the ’60s space age minimalism, but with an earth tone color scheme.
And the middle class? Well they were doing this weird American/Colonial revivalist thing. And from that came the most icon item of ’70s interior design. Every single person had this thing and it’s so strange to me that there is no modern analogue. You can find items and artifacts that draw their inspiration from almost any time period. But you cannot find a modern version of this. And, make no mistake, this thing was everywhere. It was an evolutionary dead end. A design that flew so close to the sun, and burned up, never to be seen again.
Of course, I’m talking about:
This gross brown and orange velour sack of stuffing was everywhere. I don’t think people today understand. In the summer of 1999, Tom McCarthy and I went 148 days in a row where we heard “All Star” by Smash Mouth every single day. But this couch was in every single home for like 15 years. It was that much more popular than “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Wow.
So you had modernist space age designs and intentionally rustic colonial designs (the worst of which was Bi-centennial chic, where people had american revival furniture and their whole house done in red white and blue, ugh), all mixing together. And the universal thing that tied them together? The colors.
The ’70s had wildly diverse designs and shapes. Round chairs. Angular mid-century shapes. Bean Bag furniture. Hanging swing chairs. Papasan chairs. Wicker. Rattan. Velour. Polyester. Steel. Lots and lots of wood. It was a weird ass time.
But the thing that tied it all together? Dem colors yo.
So if you want to incorporate some ’70s flair into your home. The stuff doesn’t actually matter. What matters is the colors. What matters is the brown. The ’70s proved that if you keep your color palette the same, almost everything can work together.