Fancy a shag-pile? it's the taupe of the town

Metropolitan life: Seventies interiors are back, but how do you tell the naff from the classic? Emma Cook on the G-Plan revival
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What better to lounge on while wearing your Gucci leather trousers than a creamy taupe leather L-shaped sofa? And to really set off those Bert Bacharach and Carpenters CDs to best effect - maybe a square or two of groovy modular shelving? Now that the Seventies has come to define the mid-Nineties style aesthetic in fashion and music, it's no surprise that its next conquest should be the world of interiors.

We're not talking Camden market kitsch: lava oil lamps, garish glass ashtrays and floor cushions. Forget cheesy Seventies decor - for inspiration think cool, spacious Pan Am lounges; corporate lobbies; Studio 54; the glossy, opulent and aspirational world of early Seventies Martini ads and James Bond films.

It's all there in Tyler Brule's first issue of Wallpaper, "a vision of a fashion magazine applied to the home", published this Thursday. Among the essential "At-Home-Must-Haves", the lifestyle magazine recommends square, Seventies-style Pfister sofas and sheepskin rugs. "The kind of Seventies thing I'm interested in is when a company like Knoll was at its strongest and in every editor's office you'd find a Florence Knoll sofa and table," Brule says.

He believes this particular furniture revival takes its cue from fashion. "You only have to look at this season's Gucci campaign; it's very chrome, very early Seventies; taupe and creamy suedes. The eye is drawn from the Gucci coat or loafer to the furniture."

The re-evaluation of all things Seventies has gained further momentum in the last month, with the unexpected death of Ossie Clarke. In terms of furnishings, David Hockney's famous portrait of ''Mr and Mrs Clarke and Percy'' captures the ultimate Seventies decor; Ossie sitting on a timeless chrome tube chair, bare feet all but submerged in cream shag pile rug. Brule has, naturally, got his own view on shag pile: "Shaggy rugs are about adding texture to your room. People want to give a certain volume to their space - but it's not about putting acres of shag carpet down. I don't think that's a way a lot of us would want to go again," he cautions.

That's the difficult thing about Seventies furnishings - defining your naff from your classic; knowing that while one sheepskin rug and a beige leather sofa can now epitomise chic, wall-to-wall white shag carpet and a smoked-glass coffee table is still pimp territory. Ilse Crawford, editor of Elle Decoration, says: "In the end, there's no such thing as a bad idea, it just depends how you do something. I wouldn't want a grubby nylon Seventies sofa but I wouldn't mind a lovely taupe one."

It's the latter that's the look of the moment, as Andrew Weaving, furniture dealer and owner of the modern furniture shop Century explains: "There's a kitscher side that people can have fun with, but there's the Dolce & Gabbana element which is more sophisticated; a tailored, leather crisp look. And there's a lot of stuff from the same period which isn't rated at all." What about all-in-one furniture - suede head-boards with built in radios? Impossibly vulgar or ripe for revival? Weaving is decidedly sniffy about anything "moulded". "A few good Italians did that sort of thing but it's on the kitsch side," he says. Instead, Weaving rates Seventies Danish designers Verner Panton and Hans Wegner who created, among other things, futuristic plastic chairs, now exhibited in the Design Museum's ''100 Masterpieces: furniture that made the 20th century". Like Brule, Weaving is also a fan of office furniture from the period. "A lot of it is being used in domestic situations because now the look is right," he says. "And far more people are working from home; they're into the padded executive leather chair and lots of wall storage."

The Seventies, like the Nineties, was a highly referential period and designers then were influenced by the pared-down minimalist look of the Thirties and Fifties as well as the futurist zeal of the mid to late Sixties. "It's hard to pin down the actual decades," admits Crawford. "The white Olivier Mourgue chairs from 2001 seem Seventies, yet they were actually made a lot earlier. But modernity just looks so good now; it's optimistic and forward looking." Ironically, the Nineties is content to turn its gaze backwards rather than forwards for modernist inspiration.

It's an extension of a distinctly nostalgic take that appeals to a style- conscious, thirtysomething crowd yearning for images from their youth. As Brule says: "Everything harks back to your childhood. Suddenly the things you hated in your parents' house seem completely chic again and you want to call them up and see if it's still kicking about." Along with mother's platform boots and her Ossie Clarke chiffon blouse.

Now the marriage of fashion and furnishings has caught on in a big way with Calvin Klein, Gucci, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Armani and Lacroix setting up home collections - Donna Karan is due to follow next year. "That's the raison d'etre of Wallpaper," enthuses Brule. "It's responding to a generation who've been raised to buy brands. People want easy answers; lifestyle packages in a way."

High street designers are catching on to the Seventies' mood - Habitat's new autumn sofa is a large, off-white modular affair that wouldn't look out of place in an office lobby and IKEA is following suit with its "PS" Swedish range; sofas, chairs and bookcases in natural wood and chrome that are "inspired by the progressive Sixties and Seventies". Even G-Plan, the poor man's imitation of classic design, is achieving a degree of popularity again. "There are people who've got the whole lot," says Weaving. "But it lacks status." And if you're still in any doubt, ditto fake pine wallpaper and brown nylon bean bags.

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