Some things are better off staying dead: zombies, vampires, and 1970s décor. And yet, elements of seventies style have been creeping back into our homes.
It began with rattan furniture and houseplants. What’s not to like? Next, beanbags made a comeback, albeit firmer and less liable to leak tiny pellets of Styrofoam; then fondue sets and lava lamps. All good clean fun.
They were swiftly followed by DIY crafts like macramé and crochet. Soon everything was sprouting fringes and draped in granny blankets. The 1970s revival had a toe in the door.
Before long, Irish new-builds began to feature sunken conversation pits and floating staircases. So far, we’ve escaped the return of stone-clad statement fireplaces, but it’s probably only a matter of time.
Watch out for the return of shag carpeting, fake wood panelling, patterned lino and orange-on-brown colour schemes. They’re lurking out there in the shadows. Like vampires, they need to be invited in.
“There were an awful lot of bad things about the 1970s,” says Egon Walesch, interior designer. “For a long time I would have steered clear. There’s nothing wrong with brown in itself, but there was a bit much of it around then.
“And you weren’t surrounded by nice things. They were cheaply made and they haven’t lasted at all. There were a lot of bad fabrics — nylons and polyesters —they didn’t look nice and they didn’t feel nice.”
Walesch spent his 1970s childhood in a split-level house in Athlone, designed by his German father. “It was quite modern. My parents were good with design.”
He remembers bright geometric wallpaper and a cobalt-blue dinner service. It was made by Kilrush Earthenware company, trading as Celtic Ceramics, in their “Connemara” pattern.
Now, that dinner service would be highly collectible. “We tend to reject eras that we associate with our parents, and then we come to terms with it and it’s ok again,” he says.
Now, Walesch finds himself increasingly drawn to using elements of 1970s design in his interiors.
A recent project involved a vintage German ceramic lamp with a shade that he had made up from 1970s print fabric.
“I love the juxtaposition of the ceramic with the fabric, but you don’t need any more than that. If the same fabric was made up in curtains, you’d probably run screaming from the room.”
Another advantage of using vintage 1970s accessories and fabrics is that, compared to the coveted mid-century designs, they’re still reasonably priced. In London, where he now lives, it’s relatively easy to pick up vintage fabrics.
He also finds that, where people have a much-loved piece of seventies décor — a favourite lamp or a picture — it can make an excellent starting point for a design.
“Seventies objects have such power, visually, and so much personality. A lot of the time you’re looking to shake things up. You don’t want a design scheme that’s boring or bland, and the 1970s stuff is really good for that. It doesn’t blend quietly into the background. It livens things up and stops them from being safe.”
Only a very few people can go the whole seventies shebang. “For most of us it’s about knowing when to stop,” Walesch admits.
“Give the bright colours room to breathe.” He finds that younger people, who never knew the full horror of the 1970s proper, are surprisingly open to the style. “They don’t have the associations and they don’t have the baggage.”
Siobhán Lam of April and the Bear identifies as an eighties devotee, through and through.
“I’ll always pick a leg warmer and bum bag over a bell bottom, and the same goes for interiors. I’ve never been the biggest fan of 1970s-style décor but I can’t deny that interiors and homewares are heavily leaning on this period for inspiration at the moment.”
Witness the trend for softer curves and especially bouclé, a heavily textured fabric made from nubby looped yarn.
“People want to embrace more tactile and comforting materials. After the year we’ve had it makes sense really.”
Bouclé favourites include the Rico Lounge chair and sofa range from 366 Concept (€2,035 for a two-seater in bouclé, or cheaper in other fabric).
April and the Bear, a shop with an interior design studio, has recently moved to a “bigger, better and more pink space” beside the Stella Cinema in Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Expect playful homeware, including the 1970s-inspired range of ceramics from HK Living, which she describes as: “a slew of mugs, cups, pots and other coffee ware in rich ochres, saturated oranges and mature greens.”
A set of two latte mugs in the range costs €17 and coffee pot costs €40. These are retro, rather than vintage.
Should you desire the real thing, vintage 1970s Irish ceramics can still be found in charity shops. Brands to look for include Arklow Pottery, Celtic Ceramics and the Kilkenny Design Workshops. Be systematic and relentless, and you will find them.
In terms of introducing this trend to your home, Lam recommends a cautious approach. “I would go lightly unless you are a seventies aficionado. Start small with some super-saturated home accessories. If you love them, add more. Have fun with this trend, it’s loose and punchy and supposed to be playful. So play, and see if it’s for you!”
Tara O’Connor of The Designed Table has recently launched an autumnal range of table linen, including a 1970s-inspired floral pattern with rich yellows, cyan, pinks and orange (€48 for a set of four napkins; €110 for a tablecloth).
It’s intense and, for anyone who experienced a seventies childhood, a blast from the past. “I love the boldness and vibrancy of the 1970s,” O’Connor says. In the design, she admits to the helping hand of her best friend, Koo Donnelly.
“Like me, she’s a seventies child. She wears these colours a lot and she loves print as much as I do, so she helped picked the vibrant colours. It’s great to have a fashionable friend to run designs by.”
If you’re not super-confident about integrating 1970s influences in a contemporary, let someone else do it for you.
The autumn collection from Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic at Dunnes does exactly that. It’s not ironic. It’s not retro. But there’s a strong undercurrent of seventies style in the rattan furniture (€250 for a headboard); floral print bedlinen (from €45 for a single duvet set); and jewel-coloured enamelled vases (€8 to €20).
This is a house-trained version of 1970s style. It won’t run amok and take over the home. Donnelly’s put manners on it.
See egondesign.co.uk; aprilandthebear.com; thedesignedtable.com;