The 1970s are known as the decade that style forgot but nothing could be further from the truth as two major new exhibitions are setting out to prove. The V&A opens its David Bowie Is retrospective on 23 March, an acknowledgment of a stellar career that has its roots in the 1970s. And at the Tate Liverpool, Glam! The Performance of Style celebrates glam rock and the glittering 70s until 12 May.
The 1970s were a period of uncertainty in the UK but the decade was also a time of creativity. Despite the three-day week, power cuts and strikes, artists, musicians and designers of the period were exuberant and experimental. Bowie was just one of the boundary breakers: everyone from Biba to the Buzzcocks had an influence in this period of disco, punk, kipper ties and flares.
Interiors were all about vibrant colours, swirling patterns and psychedelic glam. Homes took inspiration from sources as diverse as the louche and glam, black and gold interiors of the Biba Big Shop, to television show The Good Life, where Tom and Barbara embraced suburban sustainability and eco-friendly vibes. There were plenty of Eastern influences too, as travel to countries like Morocco and India became more mainstream.
If you want to reference the 1970s look at home today, start with colour, says Mini Moderns co-founder Mark Hampshire. “Orange and mustard were both popular in the 1970s, when they were typically teamed with chocolate brown. For a more contemporary feel, use orange and mustard as highlights and give them a sharp modern twist by adding charcoal grey as a base colour,” says Hampshire.
Clashing and mixing pattern is also a great way to get a 1970s look, but to keep things modern combine vividly patterned cushions and throws with minimalist furniture or mid-century design classics.
Wallpaper is another easy way to reference the 1970s. Forget feature walls and go maximalist with dense, all-over pattern: in the 1970s it wasn’t uncommon to wallpaper inside cupboards and drawers.