Home Improvements February 08th2012

The 1960s and 70s: When interior designers ruled the world

The 1960s and 70s: When interior designers ruled the world

This is the second article of a four-part series looking at homes through the decades: from the 50s to the present day.

If the 50s was about modernism and kitsch American-themed living, the 60s brought an entirely different focus. Many believe the 60s was the pinnacle of interior design, when freedom of expression allied with creative expressions of individuality so that no two homes were the same.  It was an era when interior designers helped shape the look and style of the world like no other before or since.

50s design was about clean lines… 60s design was all sweeping curves

The biggest change in design from the 50s to the early-to-mid 60s came in the lines and colours used in the room.

While pastel shades and clean lines were a trademark of the 50s, the 60s were very different. Now the emphasis was on curves, as designers went into overdrive designing a wide range of furniture that was curvaceous rather than linear.

Although the look of the 60s had radically altered, there remained a focus on a contemporary approach. This was a time when the space age was still in its infancy and the technological influence of the time can clearly be seen in design, where the overall look (while having clear influences from the past) combined to create an innovative appearance.

This effect was achieved in many ways, using vivid bright colours for walls, large curved sweeping fireplaces that dominated the room and curved designer chairs, while even windows of different colours and shapes were used to provoke a futuristic feel.

The 60s brought bright, psychedelic colours and patterns to design

The late 60s and early 70s were characterised by designers who took their inspiration from the psychedelic pop culture and art of the time. The Beatles had conquered the US as well as the UK, the hippy movement was in full swing and Woodstock had encouraged many to turn on, tune in and drop out.

The effect this movement had on design was immense. Individualism was encouraged and the emphasis was on bolder, brighter and more unusual patterns. Bright, even garish colours and patterns became the norm as all forms of interior design embraced this emergent culture. Lava lamps were a must-have accessory and abstract and floral patterns predominated.

The late 60s were a time of great social change and this was reflected in the fashions of the day, yet by the time of the early 70s the crazy patterns and bright colours of the psychedelic age were deemed a little passé. As the world teetered on the brink of recession and the three-day week forced many British people into a new form of austerity, interior design was somewhat toned down to reflect these times.

The 70s brought calmer colours as the world moved into recession

Brighter colours gave way to earthy, neutral tones in home decor. Floral prints and patterns proved especially popular at this time and a wide range of different wall coverings and fabrics. Hues of green, brown, yellow and orange were popular and shag carpets made a return for those who could afford them.

Leather furniture also made a return, though in a more contemporary design, while a degree of uniformity returned with clean lines.

The late 70s saw similar themes prevail in design, with the UK under a new conservative government and a minimalist approach returned. Floral patterns still predominated but they were becoming slightly smaller. Designers were moving away from earthy tones and trying to bring a little pastel colour into homes. Economy also played a role as homeowners for the first time tried to incorporate new technology, such as double glazing, into their homes.

The two decades to the end of the 70s had been a golden age for interior design. No era before or since has seen the range of design alter so radically, although by the start of the 80s, interior design was about to enter a new, technology-driven age.

'The 1960s and 70s: When interior designers ruled the world'

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