Decorating styles made popular in the 1970s are back with a modern spin. Learn how to achieve a retro look with advice from design experts.

By Jessica Bennett
April 22, 2021
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Interior design in the '70s certainly had its quirks. It was a decade defined by wall-to-wall shag carpeting, funky technicolor furniture, and knickknacks galore, but 1970s interior design also encompassed many timeless elements that are once again resurfacing in homes today. Current decor trends like rattan furniture and earthy color schemes stem from the retro style and are now emerging from the past in modern ways.

seventies-style print orange couch
Credit: Jay Wilde

"A lot of the trends we've seen this past year are rooted in nostalgia because it's comforting during these unprecedented times," says Tiffany Olson, trend expert for the online resale marketplace Mercari. "1970s trends in particular feature cozy and warm elements that people want to bring into their homes."

Over the past year, Mercari has seen huge spikes in demand for many quintessential elements of '70s design. Searches for rattan and wicker on the site have nearly tripled, while decor featuring macramé, crochet, and fringe details has also surged, Olson says.

Fifty years ago, these items might have been layered amid wood-paneled walls and psychedelic floral patterns, but today's adaptations of '70s design are more subtle. Use these expert tips to introduce a retro vibe to a modern home.

eclectic boho dining room with green accents and rattan chair
Credit: David Tsay

1. Bring in wicker or rattan furniture.

Rattan furniture incorporates a weaving technique that dates back to ancient times, but the style achieved widespread popularity in the 1960s and '70s. The lightweight, laidback look still appeals today, and rattan and wicker pieces are once again in high demand. "They are the perfect materials to bring a little texture, depth, and fun into the crispness that has permeated new homes and construction for the past few years," says Los Angeles interior designer Stefani Stein. She notes that you can easily incorporate these pieces into a variety of decorating styles for a vibe that feels "both current and nostalgic." Try bringing in rattan or wicker through statement-making accent furniture, such as a vintage peacock chair or hanging egg chair, which were both popular in the '70s.

2. Layer on texture.

Texture is key to recreating a retro look. Layers of tactile materials such as macramé, shag carpeting, and bouclé fabric steep '70s style in casual comfort, and you can easily incorporate these textures amid more contemporary furnishings. The goal is to "add a bit of retro whimsy to a space while maintaining that much-needed air of sophistication," says Lance Thomas of Lousiana-based Thomas Guy Interiors. For example, lay down a shaggy area rug in front of a sleek mid-century sofa, or toss in a few throw pillows with fringe accents. A macramé wall hanging is another way to add texture without going overboard.

3. Incorporate warm colors.

Colors like mustard yellow, burnt orange, and vivid citrine energized '70s homes. To give this palette a modern spin, err on the side of earth tones as opposed to the bright, campy colors of decades past. Think ripe avocado green instead of emerald, terra-cotta red over jewel-tone ruby, Thomas says. Mix muted shades with warm neutrals for a '70s-inspired color scheme that still feels fresh.

Retro credenza white brick wall
Credit: Anthony Masterson

4. Swap in retro lighting.

Replacing modern fixtures with '70s-inspired lighting is a simple swap that nods to the style without overwhelming a room. Look for fixtures with glossy finishes or bold geometric silhouettes, like the domed shades of mushroom lamps. It's even more impactful if the lighting contrasts with the existing style of the space. "I love adding a pair of Italian '70s pendants to a traditional kitchen," Thomas says.

5. Mix and match styles.

Blend '70s design trends into a mix of other styles to achieve a personalized look. Start small with accents that are easy to swap out. "For example, incorporating rattan lampshades or a macrame wall hanging will make an otherwise contemporary space feel modern and bohemian, instead of feeling like a 1970s time capsule," Olson says.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
April 29, 2021
Love this, can you tell me where you accessed the x 3 retro prints that are behind the leather couch in this article? Thanks- Dorothy