Disco ball Pexels.com
A disco ball ... the brilliant colours of the 1970s Image Credit: Pexels.com

Rules are a thing of the past in many forms of self-expression today… thankfully. We have the freedom to be playful, whimsical, dipping into any style era as we wish - whether in fashion and beauty, accessories or homes.

But, when did that start in our homes? When did we, as a collective, really say, ‘Nope, I want a yellow shelf over a yellow washbasin in a yellow-pattern tiled bathroom. I am going to mix five patterns and colours in my living room, just how I like it. Peril be to my guests who don’t like fiery orange because my corridors are going to be liberally doused in it.

‘My house will be a technicolour rainbow, and that’s that.’

Well, in the US in the 1970s, people were tired of it, you know – the previous decades of sleek, spare furniture in every space. Mid-century modern and Minimalism had sprung up as the main design inspirations in the 1950s, and things were neutral, steel and plastic and often understated. Enter the hippie counterculture movement in response to the Vietnam War – fuelling Boho life and the explosion of technicolour, ‘funk and groove’ pattern and texture that was the ‘70s. No rules!

Nature-inspired neutrals mixed with bright technicolor splashes as patterns became zanier than ever. Much like our situation post-COVID where everyone wanted to see more greenery in the house and spend more time outdoors.

- Nisrine El Labibidi, designer, author and founder of Dubai-based Harf Noon Design Studio

Nisrine El Labibidi, designer, author and founder of Dubai-based Harf Noon Design Studio, explains, “Post the disillusion of the Vietnam War, people were keen to turn their attention to themselves and their families. Nature-inspired neutrals mixed with bright technicolour splashes as patterns became zanier than ever. Much like our situation post-COVID where everyone wanted to see more greenery in the house and spend more time outdoors.”

Like what’s happening now, people went for warmth, biophilia, fluffy natural textures and bright colour to decorate their homes. Sleek furniture went out of the window again, the bean bag was invented, snug conversation pits became a thing and design became more free.

70’s style in Dubai

Hanging chair
Hanging chairs and plants, wicker and cane furniture and furry shag cushions and carpets rose to fame in the 1970s era. Image Credit: Pexels

A fan of hanging plants? The well-loved rustic and bohemian addition was actually given to us by the ‘70s, when biophilia and sustainability gained importance.

A more familiar space of ‘70s style interior design could be your grandparent’s place, where you might have come across coloured bathrooms – with matching patterned tiles, a coloured washbasin and a coloured floor typical of some homes built in the 1970s and 1980s. Dark, beige or brown floral print sofas – that became famous as the ‘Grandma Couch meme’ are also ’70s style.

What about ‘70s style interiors and architecture in Dubai?

“There are plenty of buildings in the UAE that represent the 70’s style interior design although they weren’t all built in the 70’s - we can safely say the trend arrived a bit late here and they were a mix of seventies and modernist buildings. My favourite, as we lived across from it, is Al Omaira Building with its green-maze-like outside,” says Lababidi.

As for pop culture ‘70s moments, Lababidi reminisces, “The ones that come to mind instantly are the Brady Bunch, That 70’s show and Charlie’s Angels - where we see a lot of the earth tones, harvest gold with the avocado green, hot pink and fiery orange.” Even the K-drama beloved in the UAE, ‘Crash Landing on You’ female protagonist, Yoon Se-ri’s house sees ‘70s style inspirations - with the ‘70s favourite fiery orange contrasted with a patterned blue carpet, biophilia in a profusion of plants and warm brown terracotta tiles.

70’s style that you can spot
• Open-plan living, with a living room that connects to the dining room; and staircase spiralling up to a second-floor internal balcony.
• Coloured washbasins, coloured shelves
• Shag carpets
• Faux fur anywhere
• Hanging plants
• Bean bag

Funky and groovy 70s style additions to your 2022 home

“If you want to achieve this style today, I would say pick a few elements and not everything together,” says Labibidi.

There’s a reason this is also known sometimes as the ugliest era in design – explored in-depth in the book, ‘Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes in the Horrible 70s’ by James Lileks. Prioritising ‘more is more’ and boldness meant you could have garish clashing patterns on every available surface along with wall-to-wall shag carpeting in dimly lit interiors. All you’ve to do is steer clear of that happening – and with our guide below, that should be easy.

Case in point, this was allowed in the '70s - 

The decade actually also housed another extreme style – the Space Age. Inspired by human advancements in space travel and technology, the style includes high-tech futurism with sculptural chrome, glass and plastic – think movie 2001: A Space Odyssey’s space hotel.

Here are a few tips to include the best of ‘70s style design in your home:

1. Bright, earthy colours

Lababidi says, “Use bold colors on your walls, or try pops of colour in green and orange in cushions on your living rooms.”

Famous shades of the time are avocado green, hot pink, fiery and acidic orange, lime green, ocean blue and harvest gold – and an autumnal colour palette of browns, mustard yellow and burnt orange was especially in vogue.

Moreover, this is when everything became colourful – shelves, basins, side-tables, ceilings, for example, so you can subtly add ‘70s style with a colourful shelf.

2. Groovy waves, geometric shapes and floral print

1970s flora fauna wallpaper interior design style
Flora and fauna prints can be added in touches such as accent walls or lamps. Image Credit: Pexels/Designecologist

Loud, colourful prints also became widespread, especially for wallpapers. Feel free to mix and match patterns, or add a subtle accent wall with print wallpaper, or a patterned artwork. Here are some options:

• Flocked wallpaper - Flocked wallpaper with velvet damask patterns that are traditional-inspired

• Graphic wallpaper with geometric patterns, palm-leaf and nature-inspired prints. Palm or leaf-print wallpaper are also a great ‘70s addition – perhaps on an accent wall.

• Vinyl tablecloths with colour-blocking.

1970s interior design style vinyl tablecloths
Vinyl, plaid tablecloths in the 1970s. Image Credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

• Plaid cushions.

• Patterned linoleum floors.

• A round sunburst rug.

• Animal print armchairs.

3. Thick, fluffy textures like shag, fur and macramé

A wall-to-wall shag carpet screams ‘70s but is a much-hated memory of the time (classed among the interior desecrations) - a shag rug, a faux fur cushion are a classic, understated touch. Textured fabrics on sofas (such as boucle), cushions with fringe accents, corduroy cushions or sofas, crochet patterns also work well.

Lababidi says, “Macramé interpreted in wall art is a beautiful spin on the 70’s typical pot hangers.”

4. Textured poufs and bean bags

Small, textured woven seating in Moroccan or macramé poufs, a beanbag are perfect for channelling ‘70s era overdone snugness.

5. Mushroom or bubbly table lamps and lights

1970s interior design style mushroom lamp
Plastic mushroom lamps in the classic colours of the time are a great way of adding the '70s pop to your house. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Curvy, bulbous sculptures like the mushroom lamps that are trendy right now are an easy way of bringing the spirit of the ‘70s to your home.

Lababidi recommends adding pops of colour through a bubble table lamp in a subtle avocado green, orange or a bright purple.

6. Comfy seating - Egg chair, hanging chairs and five-fingered chairs

Hanging chair
Image Credit: Pexels/Keegan Checks

This was the era of the comfy chairs perfect for lounging around for conversation such as a rattan or cane hanging chair or an iconic egg chair.

The famed Saarinen tulip chair and the Verner Panton chair are sleek Space Age design-style pieces.

7. Back to Nature with biophilia – plants, wicker, cane

The ‘green’ sustainability movement became stronger during the ‘70s, also due to the 1973 oil crisis. Natural textures like rattan, cane, wicker that we still love and use today actually gained its popularity during this era. Bring in vibrant green through hanging plants in macramé or terrariums, and ensure plenty of natural light using big windows and skylights.

8. A conversation pit with L-shaped sectional sofas

Want to include a snug space to hang out with friends and family at home? Changing interiors to include conversation pits can help you boost social interaction like it did in the ‘70s.

Lababidi summarises it, “You have to mix old and new – a sunburst mirror, a pop of color in a table bubbly table lamp, a subtle avocado green, orange or a bright purple. If you don’t find any of these, Moroccan poufs will do the trick!”

There it is – you can play with textures, colour and pattern for a bright uplift to your interiors, courtesy the ‘70s. The interiors equivalent of, as ABBA had put it in their 1977 smash hit ‘Dancing Queen’: “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life....”