Best designs of the 1970s enjoy new popularity

A colorful 1970 Henryk Stazewski (Polish, 1894-1988) acrylic relief painting on panel achieved $18,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2022. Image courtesy of Material Culture and LiveAuctioneers.

A colorful 1970 Henryk Stazewski (Polish, 1894-1988) acrylic relief painting on panel achieved $18,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2022. Image courtesy of Material Culture and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — The 1970s were an eclectic time for decor and design. Mirrored disco balls, beaded curtains, plastic furniture and chrome — lots of chrome — were hallmarks of the decade, but it actually boasted a wider range of styles that extended to avocado-colored appliances, coral-colored furniture and shag rugs. Some 1970s styles, such as flared jeans, need never come back, but many of its better design aspects have re-emerged.

Television shows are perennial inspirations. Period-set shows often create market bubbles, as with Miami Vice’s pastel suits and what Mad Men did for the cocktails crowd. Even Banana Republic issued a fashion line inspired by the latter show back in 2010. Recent shows such as HBO’s Minx, with its 70s-inspired decor, are helping keep the disco era alive.

Reviewing auction results from the last year and a half show that 1970s decor and goods are definitely having a moment. Prices are strong and buyers are choosing statement pieces from this era to decorate their homes today.

A 1970s Gabriella Crespi tiered Cloud table earned $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of E & E Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

A 1970s Gabriella Crespi tiered Cloud table earned $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of E & E Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Furniture styles in the 1970s continued to espouse sleek lines and silky surfaces from the Mid-century Modern era. A case in point is a 1970s Gabriella Crespi tiered Cloud occasional table finished in black lacquer that brought $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021 at E & E Auctions.

Arguably no material has been as transformative in the 20th century as plastic. During the 60s and 70s, it became a key material in furniture design. The acrylic plastic Lucite was lightweight and flexible yet durable, and its glossy and translucent sheen inspired many designers to create furniture made from it. A group of six circa-1970 Lee Rosen Pace Lucite dining chairs sold for $1,700 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021 at Westport Auction. Featuring bold and curvy arms and legs, the Lucite-bodied chairs offered a pleasing and striking contrast with their coral-colored upholstery.

A group of six Lee Rosen Pace Lucite dining chairs, boasting a rich coral hue on its upholstery, sold for $1,700 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Westport Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

A group of six Lee Rosen Pace Lucite dining chairs, boasting a rich coral hue on its upholstery, sold for $1,700 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Westport Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

Paintings and accent walls tended to be big and bold with a vibrant color palette. A perfect example of artwork from the decade is a 1970 Henryk Stazewski (Polish, 1894-1988) acrylic relief painting on panel featuring large color blocks of orange, blue and hot pink. One of these abstract compositions sold for $18,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2022 at Material Culture.

Lighting ranged from lamps and shades that sported natural textures to others graced with shimmering metal. Mushroom lamps were all the rage in the 1970s, and they are blooming anew in the contemporary style lexicon. It’s hard to go wrong with chrome lamps, though, and a pair of Elica wall lamps made for the Italian design house Aureliano Toso would look good in a modern setting. A large two-light pair, having helical glass of varying sizes set on a chromed metal framework and dating to the 1960s-70s, realized $3,743 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2022 at Viscontea Casa d’Aste srl. The lamps, standing about 57in tall, have connected glass pendants that shimmer and cascade down like drops of water.

A pair of 1960s-70s Elica two-light wall lamps for Aureliano Toso realized $3,743 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2022. Image courtesy of Viscontea Casa d’Aste srl and LiveAuctioneers.

A pair of 1960s-70s Elica two-light wall lamps for Aureliano Toso realized $3,743 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2022. Image courtesy of Viscontea Casa d’Aste srl and LiveAuctioneers.

While the 70s are commonly associated with chrome and the glitz of the disco era, the decade stands out for its overall experimental design, which fostered several notable style trends. Many homes featured macrame wall hangings and accessories made from natural materials such as jute, accented with chunky wooden beads. Rattan furniture has long been popular for porch settings, but it enjoyed a heyday in the 1970s, with interior-use pieces created for everything from the bedroom to the dining room. A Palm Beach Regency bamboo rattan cocktail bar in the manner of Tito Agnoli or Franco Albini made $900 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022 at Westport Auction.

A bamboo rattan cocktail bar, in the manner of Agnoli, made $900 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022. Image courtesy of Westport Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

A bamboo rattan cocktail bar made $900 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022. Image courtesy of Westport Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

Whether you are looking to capture the boho hippie aesthetic of the 70s, the glitzy disco look, or something else entirely, the experimental designs of the 70s offer plenty of choices. Save for a few truly iconic designer pieces, most are still affordable and all can easily be incorporated into modern homes.