The '70s: The Best Decade of All Time - or the Worst?

The '70s: The Best Decade of All Time - or the Worst?

Nancy Mitchell
Mar 23, 2015
(Image credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

Maybe it's because I grew up in the 80s and never had to experience it firsthand, but I have a strange fascination with the interior design of the 70s. There are strange shapes, strange colors, strange things that you never thought you would see in an home, but there they are, bold and unabashed. In the 1970s, interior design reached a level of raw exuberance that has never been equaled since.

I had a lot of fun (a whole, whole lot of fun) gathering together these examples of the worst (or the BEST?) excesses of the 70s. Take a tour with me of 10 interiors so outlandish they couldn't possibly be real — but they were. Whether these spaces are magical or horrifying or horrifyingly magical is entirely up to the beholder.

Above: If your houseplants match your bedspread which matches your wallpaper which matches your striped shades which match your carpet deep enough for a toddler to get lost in, you might be living in the 70s. This delightful space occured in a 70s-era issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Spotted on Creative Pro.

(Image credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

Also from vintage Better Homes and Gardens, via Creative Pro, is... this. They've gone to plaid.

(Image credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

The dark ceiling (or is that a mirrored ceiling?) is a little bit opium den, but I'm kinda diggin this. And look at the books! So many books. Honestly, if you were to tone down the colors a bit and get rid of the carpeting, I could totally see this in a modern house. Better Homes and Gardens via Creative Pro.

(Image credit: Inside Today's Home)

One of my favorite things about the 70s is the way designers played with alternative kinds of seating, resulting in installations like this one, which straddles the boundary between furniture and architecture. Covering the whole thing, of course, is that iconic shag carpeting. From Inside Today's Home (1975) via AnOther Mag.

This is from a decorating book, and presumably is not anyone's actual house, although it would be pretty awesome if it were. Besides the pink lighting, there's also the low-slung plastic (?) furniture with a black racing stripe. Try finding anything that cool in stores now. From Bloomingdale's Book of Home Decorating, via Dry Dock Shop.

The ceiling-mounted daybed and the diagonally-oriented geometric painting make this living room from House and Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration (1970) distinctly badass. I would not change a thing.

(Image credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

Crazy graphics painted on the wall was also a big thing in the 70s. Best if they matched the sofa. And the carpet. And the baby grand piano. Better Homes and Gardens via Creative Pro.

Compared to the other stuff we've seen here, this interior is positively restrained, but the lucite tables and curvy, womblike furniture still give it a bit of wacky 70s flair. From House and Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration (1970) via Dry Dock Shop.

(Image credit: Architectural Digest)

And the madness didn't end at the kitchen. Oh no. This 70s kitchen features cane-printed wallpaper, lime green appliances, and, inexplicably, a rocking horse. From Architectural Digest via The Atomic House.

(Image credit: Austria Architects)
(Image credit: Austria Architects)

And while these interiors may seem wild to us, in the world of high design there were even crazier things afoot. One of my very favorite things to come out of the 70s was this installation by designer Verner Panton, who sought to completely redefine the way we think about interiors. To that end he created this wonderfully whacktacular space at the Cologne furniture fair in 1970, where visitors could recline on crazy, undulating shapes that were half furniture and half amoeba.

(Image credit: Panton World)

For those interested in re-creating the look at home Panton created the Living Tower, a small (ish) version of the installation that you could set up in your own home. Here, the designer and some of his friends recline on one, in an image from Panton World. The living towers are still being made by Vitra, and I will confess that I really, really want one, even though they cost 14 thousand dollars.

What do you think? Does 70s design speak to some place, deep in your soul, that craves the funk? Do you feel repulsed but also strangely drawn to this kind of design? Or just repulsed? Please tell.

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