The '70s Are Back. Can Ya Dig It?

I know the idea of a lot of 1970s design makes us shudder, but the age did have some severe swagger. The song of this summer this year, Daft Punk’s ’70s-inspired “Get Lucky,” has us rewatching old episodes of Soul Train to understand the way to groove to it (just ask Steven Colbert); iconic muscle cars from the era have been rereleased; Amanda Seyfried is playing Linda Lovelace; Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and American Hustle will premiere in the end of this year. Even though no one is predicting harvest-gold appliances will be must-have kitchen items again anytime soon (or ever again), there are lots of elements to subtract from your age and consider in a new way.

David O. Russell’s latest movie, American Hustle, will premiere in December. I love Amy Adams’ tight curls, but I love Bradley Cooper’s more. In the Led Zeppelin–soundtracked trailer, this look likes it’s going to be very slick.

Now, on to the way to catch those exciting parts of seventies design without going full-on Brady Bunch.

Western Electric Sculptura Phone – $50

Doughnut telephones. While Blondie didn’t release “Call Me” before 1980, I wonder whether she wrote it while contemplating one of Western Electric’s doughnut phones. They’re so much better looking than any cutting edge cordless out there (true confession: I’ve got two).

Browse more vintage phones

AIA, Mark English Architects

Strong curves. From the ’70s round dialog pits, circular curved and rugs sectionals were the grooviest, and upgraded to a modern scale and balanced, and they have still got it.

Works Photography Inc..

Large abstract paintings. These brought in bold colors in the ’70s, frequently too much bold color. Here using these vivid colors is controlled, picking up on the painting’s palette although not overwhelming the room.

Terrat Elms Interior Design

Gingham. This plaid pattern emerged in more traditional rooms back in the afternoon, but today designers are mixing large-scale ginghams into contemporary and modern spaces.

Chronicle Books

Groovy L.A. looks. Somehow Los Angeles managed to do the ’70s well, then and now. Trellis and lattice patterns, large curled coffee tables and bright yellow are plucked right from the age.

Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects

Malibu surfer chic. Also coming from California is the laid-back type of old surf-shacky Malibu. My favorite description of Malibu in the 1970s was written by Rob Lowe in his memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. He paints a picture therefore markedly distinct from movie moguls’ blocking off beach access with their megamansions.

Moroccan rugs and live-edge wood in an all-white room are exotic and natural upgrades on surfer and hippy style.

Melanie Coddington

Brown and orange. This was a go-to color combo in the ’70s, but it frequently made rooms dark and depressing. On an accent wall balanced by mild neutrals, this daring floral background from Osborne & Little elicits a far-out feeling.

Annie Santulli Designs

Grass fabric. This wall covering has been found largely in tan and other brown hues back in the daytime, but now it’s available in a wide range of colors. Designers love the rich texture it attracts.

Atmosphere Interior Design Inc..

The glint of chrome. Metal furniture and accents were a part of Jetsons-inspired futuristic ’70s design.

Studio Marler

Brass. This metal finish was perceived as gaudy by the time we’d all seen enough of it throughout the ’70s and ’80s, but now it’s being used in complex ways in houses from traditional to modern.

Heather ODonovan Interior Design

Foil wallpaper. Happenin’ rooms from the age also embraced the metallic look in wall coverings. Today we appreciate how these coverings reflect the light and add glamour.

Andrea May Hunter/Gatherer

Lucite. The ’70s offered lots of new ways to work with Lucite. Today’s designers appreciate the glamour of this material as well as how its apparent views make a space feel larger and airier.


Solar panels. The Carter administration made a significant push for utilizing solar energy, even installing solar panels on the White House in 1979. Unfortunately, we burned through a great deal of oil while the thought gradually caught on and the technology improved. (The panels have been removed during the Reagan administration in 1986.) But solar panels returned to the house in 2002, and more are being installed this month.

See more structure with solar panels

JMJ Studios

VW buses. While it’s uncommon to see one on the street nowadays, some homeowners are embracing the magic bus in distinctive ways.

Pal + Smith

Bold florals. Florals at the ’70s were large, proud and loud, in certain color combinations which were downright obnoxious, brazenly expressed in daring geometries. Here a more subdued floral mixes having an op-art-like floor in an eclectic combination.

The Office of Charles de Lisle

Pops of joyful florals. This clean, modern space does not take itself too seriously; it’s punctuated by pop up floral prints atop the bar stools.

Re:contemporary Design

Organic architecture. A design that has been popular during the age is enjoying new life, with architects upgrading the buildings, retrofitting them for contemporary life and adding on to them in ways that improve the original structure.

Jodie Rosen Design

Shag carpeting. From the ’70s the thicker a carpet was, the better, and it was frequently used wall to wall. Today thickness comes in smaller area rugs or rugs which don’t reach the walls for a more chic look.

Macramé. This knotted craft, therefore average of the ’70s, is making a comeback in new colors, in simpler layouts and in larger scales.

Knot Again: Macramé is rear

Divine Design+Build

Bright countertops. These were likely to be Formica in the ’70s; today recycled glass and custom-colored concrete (seen here) bring large color to counters.

Mindi Freng Designs

Brightly colored cabinets. Turquoise, taxicab yellow, kelly green — not all was avocado or harvest gold throughout the age. After a lot of years of natural wood stains or white, colorful cabinets come in equally high gloss and matte.

Tell us ers, for those who lived through it, which pieces of ’70s style would you look back to fondly?Which ones give you nightmares worse than a leaky waterbed?

More: Take a Tour of Popular Colors Throughout the Decades

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