Home decor trend alert: There’s a 1970s revival making its way back

We tell you how to get the look without going over the top

Interior of a vintage living room. Getty Images
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These days, there’s no need to peek into your neighbours’ homes to find out what trends are hot in the world of interiors. Instead, you only have to look online. A recent report by Pinterest shows us that searches for peacock chairs have gone up by 156 per cent; searches for shag rugs have gone up 87 per cent; and searches for vinyl players are up 56 per cent. That can only mean one thing: the 1970s are back, and in a big way.

We first noticed the signs in 2015, when the odd macramé wall hanging started creeping into our Instagram feeds. Today, it's clear that we've totally embraced the decade, right down to the shag rugs and earthy colour palette. Which isn't that surprising, really. With all the political upheaval going on around the world, it feels a lot like the period leading up to the 1970s.

The decade, like the 1960s before it, was driven by social change and idealism. And the interiors of the time were designed to bring people together in spaces that were bright and vibrant, and took a stand against the way the world was.

Perhaps we’re being drawn back to the same interior trends that appealed to people back then – cosy, colourful nests where we can feel secure and happy, surrounded by our nearest and dearest.

Colour, pattern and kitsch

The 1970s were a pretty controversial design decade. Words like tacky, kitsch and garish could be used to describe the strong colours, bold patterns and out-there accessories that made up the decade’s signature look. But for those who love that era, it’s all about embracing its over-the-top spirit and making it work.

Start with your colour palette. Unlike the cool, minimalistic trends that have been popular in recent years (Scandi, for example, and the “new” neutrals), the 1970s were all about rich, earthy tones. Think mustard yellow, ochre, olive green, chocolate, caramel, cream and camel. For a traditional look, stick to block colours and bold graphic patterns. Curves are good, with repeating loops, twists and basic florals, but hexagons and arrows are also an option.

Records lying on floor surrounding 1970s stereo system. Getty Images
A vinyl player. Getty

You can add pattern into your look in all sorts of ways. Wallpaper is especially powerful, and was massively popular in the 1970s. But rather than boxing in your whole room in a way that could end up feeling quite claustrophobic, choose one or two feature walls, instead. Also think cushions, bedspreads, lampshades (the big drum ones in particular) and rugs. When it comes to materials, there was a lot of exposed brick, so if you’re planning any kind of building work, bear this is mind. Otherwise, leather, rattan and timber are all excellent choices for furniture and accessories. And don’t forget terrazzo, that colourful material made up of marble chips, quartz or granite, which is making a comeback in its own right this year.

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Essential items for your 1970s shopping list

There are several key items that every good 1970s interior should possess. Which is not to say that you need to go out and buy every single one of them. Just choose a couple of your favourites, so that your home doesn't start resembling a set from Happy Days.

The first is a shag rug. These have a long pile, and are soft and luxurious underfoot. They’re extremely comfortable to walk and sit on, and have boundless visual appeal. The cons are that they’re harder to keep clean, which can make them a poor choice for allergy sufferers.

Then there’s the peacock chair, which was the ultimate statement furniture item and made from one of the decade’s hero materials, rattan. If you can’t find a peacock chair, then anything curvy and luxurious in moulded plastic, glossy wood, rattan or upholstered in brightly coloured fabric will do nicely.

When it comes to accessories, there are plenty to choose from. Lava lamps will add a youthful party vibe, while macramé wall hangings have more of a homemade mumsy feel.

Of course, if you want an authentic 1970s look, you definitely can’t forget houseplants. People were a little bit obsessed with them back then, so add in as many as you fancy. Cheese plants, rubber plants, spider plants and ferns are particularly evocative of the decade. But don’t feel restricted to these.

Houseplants are another option. Courtesy Audenza
Houseplants are another option. Courtesy Audenza

Patterned plants are another popular search trend on Pinterest, so that could be a way of bringing your 1970s look subtly up to date.

Authentic vintage and personalising your look

Going back to the roots of 1970s design, we can’t forget the major recession that took place during the decade throughout much of the West. This, combined with the social and political changes of that time, made people much more aware of consumerism. As a result, it was actually a time of reusing and upcycling rather than always buying new.

This fits in very well with our modern understanding of the environment and the part we play in protecting it. Use this opportunity to buy vintage, scouring online secondhand marketplaces to find original pieces. These will definitely add a touch of authenticity to your 1970s home. There was an awful lot of plastic around back then, though, so if you’re not buying vintage then try to look for alternatives.

Image of a disco ball in a nightclub. Getty Images
A well-placed disco ball. Getty

You can also throw in some of the mid-­century elements that would have been around in the years leading up to the 1970s. After all, it’s rare for people to ditch an entire houseful of furniture at the turn of the decade and start again, so it would make sense to have some older pieces in the mix.

The current 1970s resurgence is more about reimagining rather than recreating the decade, so don’t feel like you’re tied to a set of strict rules. For one thing, the 1970s were about throwing away the rulebooks. Mix in an industrial light fitting or a chic hobby dresser, and see how it feels to you. You’ll give your look longevity and create a home that makes you smile which is, after all, the whole point.