Decorating with Major Tom: Decor of the 1970s

I am a sucker for history, especially if it is amusing, so when someone donated a book to us of kitchen planning and decorating, I was thrilled. Why?

THE iconic interior design color of the 70s. Original photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen Planning and Decorating, 1972

Because this book was published in 1972, and is rife with photographs of horrible wallpaper and awash in Avocado green and Harvest gold. Remember Harvest Gold? Don’t deny it. If you were around in the 70s, you know Harvest Gold. I am pretty sure there was some sort of law dictating that all American households must have at least one kitchen appliance in this color.

I looked at the pictures in this book, at all the dark paneling (Rec room, anyone?) and bordering-on-an-acid-trip wallpaper (Why was this so frequently in the guest bathroom? Did they *want* their guests to feel like Major Tom?), and I was entranced. Part of it was nostalgia, and part of it was hilarity. I wondered, Did we really think this décor was beautiful? We must have. Like wearing bell-bottoms, very few may actually admit it, but those of us born early enough to experience this will recall living in a place with wallpaper and appliances in colors that didn’t strike us as awful at the time. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

You know what would make this kitchen better? Some Harvest Gold Appliances. Original photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen Planning & Decorating, 1972

Still, there is something wonderful about the interior design of the 70s. It was loud and full of life, glorious and unrepentant in its own tackiness. Even colors meant to represent nature were somehow plastic and artificial. Mind you, I’m not going to go and redecorate my home in the 70s style and slip on some double knit polyester slacks, but I do appreciate the art of interior design. Any interior design is dependent on the attitudes and beliefs of the time, so looking at any given time period’s homes will give you a glimpse into popular culture. Looking at the 70′s décor, I am reminded of James Bond, the aftermath of Woodstock, and even the fascination with NASA and the space program, just by looking at the décor. Do you see it? Look at the swirling, spacey designs on some of the wallpaper, and the frankly groovy futuristic design of many of the chairs of the era. In creating art, we mirror the world around us and the ideals of the people in it.

I wish someone would explain the appeal of macrame owls to me. Photo by April Killingworth, via Wiki Commons

Still, I am ever at a loss to explain macrame owls. What was the obsession with them? They were ugly in the 70s, and they are ugly now. Perhaps I am a minority in this opinion, since I did find an internet site dedicated to them: http://www.macrameowl.com/

If you are interested in seeing more pictures of horrible interior design, check out James Lileks’ website. He also has a book out about horrible foods, called The Gallery of Regrettable Foods , available the the library.

Do you dig the 70s? Check out a bunch of books on the subject!

I like to call this kitchen decor "Flower-splosion." Original photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen Planning & Decorating, 1972

 

If you are interested in the history of interior design:

A history of interior design / John Pile.

History of interior design & furniture : from ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century Europe / Robbie G. Blakemore

or go visit Local History’s furniture collection at the Main Library or on their webpage!

Maybe you actually like macrame wall hangings? Then take a look at Big-knot macrame / Nils Strom and Anders Enestrom . It was published in 1971, so I’m sure there must be a macrame owl somewhere.

 

What goes with Harvest Gold? The real question is: What DOESN'T go with Harvest Gold? Original photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen Planning & Decorating, 1972

Until later, keep on truckin’, cats and chicks.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

13 Responses to “Decorating with Major Tom: Decor of the 1970s”

  1. May 11, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Those  "groovy space-age chairs" are real treasures. Though those in the picture are probably knock-offs, they are actually modelled on the Tulip Chair, designed by Michigan architect Eero Saarinen, of Cranbrook Institute and the St. Louis Arch fame. True Tulips have a hefty price tag. My parents had a similarly groovy smoked glass-top table with matching Lucite Tulip chair knock-offs when I was growing up. Very cool.

  2. May 11, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    I don't remember my family having harvest gold or avocado appliances, but a lot of our Tupperware was! We also had some pretty groovy wallpaper.

  3. May 11, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Those  “groovy space-age chairs” are real treasures. Though those in the picture are probably knock-offs, they are actually modelled on the Tulip Chair, designed by Michigan architect Eero Saarinen, of Cranbrook Institute and the St. Louis Arch fame. True Tulips have a hefty price tag. My parents had a similarly groovy smoked glass-top table with matching Lucite Tulip chair knock-offs when I was growing up. Very cool.

  4. May 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    I don’t remember my family having harvest gold or avocado appliances, but a lot of our Tupperware was! We also had some pretty groovy wallpaper.

  5. May 12, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    I'm sure your family had some harvest gold somewhere. I suspect you're just blocking it out.

  6. May 12, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I had a Harvest Gold stove at my last apartment. It was almost identical to the one in the first picture, except it had this awesome awning on it that collected condensation that dripped back down onto what I was cooking.

  7. May 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I’m sure your family had some harvest gold somewhere. I suspect you’re just blocking it out.

  8. May 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I had a Harvest Gold stove at my last apartment. It was almost identical to the one in the first picture, except it had this awesome awning on it that collected condensation that dripped back down onto what I was cooking.

  9. May 14, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    I love retro stuff. It makes me sad to see wonderful vintage design torn from old houses and replaced with new stuff that doesn't match the style of the house and will itself be outdated in a decade. 

    I sell vintage kitchenwares online (including lots of harvest gold and avocado green), and while some of it may not be beautiful, it's interesting and delightful in its own way.

    If you feel the need to buy harvest gold or avocado green, I'd love to have you visit my shop, http://www.LaurasLastDitch.etsy.com

  10. May 14, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    I had all of these things growing up and more! Don't forget burnt orange carpet.

  11. May 14, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    I own The Gallery of Regrettable Foods!  I have to read it in small doses because I seriously cannot stop laughing.  Great post.
     

  12. May 14, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    I own The Gallery of Regrettable Foods!  I have to read it in small doses because I seriously cannot stop laughing.  Great post.
     

  13. March 21, 2014 at 3:57 am #

    Nowadays, 1970s style of interior decorating is becoming popular. This reminds me of our old house in Utah. Too bad that we need to sell it because I lost my job.