These Are the Unmistakable Features of a 1970s House, According to Real Estate Experts

published Feb 11, 2022
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old couch from the 70s, in a basement
Credit: MYP Studio

There’s nothing that screams the 1970s quite like bell-bottom jeans, lava lamps, and feathery Farrah Fawcett hairdos. Bold fashion trends aside, the ’70s were also a distinctive decade for architecture and interior design, with homebuilders and decorators introducing several recognizable features — some of which you’ll still find in homes on the market today.

Below are some of the iconic features you’ll likely find in a 1970s house.

Wood Paneling

Wander into the basement or rec room (and even some living rooms and bedrooms) of any untouched 1970s home and you’re sure to find dark, shiny, vertical, Will Rodgers, a real estate agent in McLean, Virginia. “Some homeowners have decided to paint it, which looks fine, but others have replaced it with drywall.”

Carpet Everywhere

The ’70s were a good time to be a carpet salesperson — and, in particular, one who sold shag carpet, that iconic fringey material that’s nearly impossible to clean.

“With the pile height stretching up to four inches in bold colors like avocado or lime, you can’t miss it,” says Ron Leffler, a real estate broker in Alexandria, Virginia. “It was installed wall to wall and even occasionally made it up the wall.”

These days, shag flooring is making a comeback in the form of area rugs in much softer color palettes, Leffler notes.

Sunken Living Rooms

Sunken living rooms were an absolute must-have in the 1970s. As the name suggests, these rectangular or circular spaces — also called conversation pits — were built a few feet below floor level and were often carpeted.

“It created a separate area from the rest of the room that was solely for people to sit and enjoy each other’s company,” says Scott Rubzin, a real estate investor in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Credit: Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Big, Bold Colors

Dusky orange, avocado green, mustard yellow, and all sorts of tan and brown shades were incredibly popular during the ’70s — all the more so when they were incorporated into big, bold, splashy wallpaper.

“During that decade, florals and geometric patterns were among the most popular wallpaper design choices,” says Isabelle Emond, a real estate broker in Costa Rica. “These types of wallpaper are now deemed antiquated — brightly colored and vividly designed wallpapers simply do not fit in with today’s popular design aesthetics of minimalism and modernity.”

A Single Story

One 1970s home trend that has remained a top priority for modern buyers? Single-story, ranch-style homes. They’re especially sought after by retirees and seniors, who tend to appreciate that everything is on one floor — but they also have broader appeal.

“These home layouts are so practical and beautiful,” says Sarah Sain, who has updated multiple ’70s homes (including her own) with her family’s renovation company, Sain Homes, in Greenville, South Carolina. “Usually, they have plenty of natural light, the rooms are spacious, everything has its designated place, and laundry doesn’t have to get carried up and down the stairs all the time.”


This thin, sticky floor material was popular in other decades, too (including the 1950s), but it took on new ’70s hues and designs, Sain says. There were lots of brown, green, and yellow geometric patterns that just wouldn’t mesh with most homeowners’ styles today.

“Practical as linoleum is, these floors were ugly and not made to last,” she says. “I have yet to see one with a color, texture, or pattern I thought beautiful and worth saving.”