10 Real Life Home Fashion Choices from the 1970s

Part of research for writing can be mining one’s own past environment.  I made a list of the early 70s fashion items which impressed themselves most indelibly in my memory. Maybe you even have some of these goodies in your own home today. (I admit that I have two of these items).

  1. The fork and spoon on the kitchen wall. Ours came from an interior designer who rented an old house from my dad for her business. When she couldn’t pay the rent and wanted to move out, she gave him some merchandise in lieu of the back rent. These items included the big wooden eating implements. I couldn’t find a photo of ours when I wanted them, but there are images all over Google.
  2. The long, low brown, tan, or gold couch with the beige drapes. The sample here is from my in-laws’ house. Being Canadian, my MIL still called the couch a chesterfield. Also please note the Stiffel lamp and the leggy houseplants.
  3. The small, light-colored television set. In the following photo, once again we have a long, low brownish couch–this time it’s in my parents’ living room. The same beige drapes that my in-laws had. To watch our TV you had to sit in one of the two arm chairs that were facing the couch. Remember that these couches were not for lying down to watch TV. Most people weren’t couch potatoes. This couch was “Swedish modern,” and it was very uncomfortable. Photo shows Dad, brother, and me at one of our usual pastimes, Monopoly.
  4. The odd hotel-like artwork on walls. In this case, we have a rug in a fake design (as opposed to a real hooked design). Bland paintings and posters were other common wall hangings, as were macrame plant hangers. Notice that the following image also features a couch of the time period–in this case, there is a pattern. The lamp and shade are similar in shape to the Stiffel.
  5. The table/lamp combination. Here is my MIL at another relative’s home. We all had these lamps.
  6. Large feathers, even peacock, or pampas grass stuck in vases or baskets to decorate corners of rooms. In the following photo, the chair is a mini version of the couches, and the lamp once again has the same shape.
  7. Paneling on the walls. Wood paneling was particularly popular in living rooms, family rooms, and basement rec rooms. This one is a rec room, and my brother is trying to keep from being stabbed with a dart.
  8. Another favorite for walls was flocked wallpaper. Which was worse: the wallpaper or my perm?
  9. Long strands of beads instead of draperies. In the window behind Uncle Frank we have a “wall” of green beads on our kitchen window. Also, please note the strange plastic “canisters” for storage, both on the counter and hanging from the cabinet.
  10. The large, free-standing microwave on its own cart. Good grief. As if it’s a kitchen altar. I must mention the gold wall phone. That cord was always tangling up dishes, food, and pens.Make it a great week, everyone!

70 Comments

Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, History, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

70 responses to “10 Real Life Home Fashion Choices from the 1970s

  1. Oh my word! Our homes were identical, Luanne. I loved that our gold wall phone had a cord long enough to lay on the kitchen floor. 🙂 My mother hated when I did that. Thanks for the blast from the past!

    • LOL! I know. My brother and I both took the phone halfway down the basement stairs and shut the door so we had privacy since the phone was on a long cord.

  2. Fun and helpful blast from the past!

  3. Instead of Midcentury Modern (which my best friend’s parents favored), my folks opted for Early American/Colonial Revival: wing-backed sofa and chairs in a large agricultural print (ours was a relatively tasteful assortment of fruit); maple side pieces with turned legs; sturdy brass lamps; nature prints for wall decor (owls and mushrooms in our case); all in that yellow-and-brown color palette, accented with green, beige, and orange (not much of the latter in our house, thank goodness!) It was substantial in heft and appearance, extremely sturdy, and pretty comfortable. Not that we sat on it much, as the inaptly named living room was reserved for entertaining guests. 😉

    • My grandparents had a lot of the Early American, but some of my friends’ parents did it up right. With an antique churn, stuff like that. I was so jealous of those houses hahahaha.

  4. I remember all of these 1970s interior decor choices very well–although only in my friends’ homes. My parents were vintage hand-me-downs/homemade all the way. My dad built a worktable for the den out of two-by-fours that was so rugged it could have withstood a nuclear blast.

  5. Wow, talk about a blast from the past! We had a gold wall phone just like the one in your last photo. You brought back a home decor era.
    Enjoy YOUR week, Luanne.

    • So many people must have had that gold phone. Some had avocado or bronze, but I’m sure gold was the most popular haha. You enjoy your week, too, Elaine!

  6. This post is hilarious. I remember the fork and spoon on the wall. And the wood panelling… everywhere. I don’t remember ever seeing large feather or grasses stuck in vases. I lived in a small town so maybe we were behind the times when it came to interior design trends.

  7. There was so much paneling around that I refuse to use it in any way now. I won’t even use the currently popular shiplap because it reminds of the paneling I lived with for so long.

    • It kind of makes me sick to see it. The house the gardener and I lived in before moving to Cali had a basement with ACTUAL wood panelling–knotty pine. Very very fancy. It was both very cool and creepy at the same time. So glad I don’t live with that today.

  8. Amy

    This post really made me laugh! My parents had the beige drapes, the uncomfortable modern sofas, and the light colored television. I don’t remember microwaves being around in the 1970s. My parents got us our first one when our second child was born in 1984, and it was a miracle to me. We didn’t have a room with paneling, but I sure remember it in the houses of my friends.

    • We got our microwave in 1976 or 77 at the latest. It was the newest thing. Hahaha, what was with the beige drapes and those horrible couches? I thought it was weird that the gardener and I grew up in houses with those “matching” living rooms, but it must have been SO common.

      • Amy

        Yep. And I imagine that fifty years from now our grandchildren will look at photos of our furnishings and say the same thing. “What’s with all those granite counters and stainless steel appliances? What were they all thinking?”

  9. That is a fun view into the past! We had a dart board, too. Pampas grass would never last in this house with all these cats! 🙂

    • Lavinia, you are not kidding! We have these weird tassels on a table runner and the cats pull them off and then the gardener puts them back on. I roll my eyes.

  10. Such sweet memories. I am hooked up with a bunch of Mid-Century Modern sites right now, so it’s fun to see how these furnishings fit in with that ethos — chuckle, chuckle.

    • The current Mid-Century Modern is really icky to me. But I do like houses with a really cool 1950s/60s look straight out of Perry Mason episodes. I just couldn’t live in it.

  11. We tore out most of the ugly paneling in our house when we moved in–along with the shag carpeting and ugly brown and beige drapes. We still have some of the paneling in the kitchen. And our microwave is on a separate butcher block cart because there is no where else to put it. 😀

    • I bet you were thrilled to get rid of the paneling. I get it about the microwave. OK, I’ll fess up to the two things we still have. The table/lamp combo. The gardener won’t get rid of it. It’s 45 year old item that probably cost $80 tops at the time, but he loves it. And that Stiffel lamp from his parents’ house. Only I put a different style lamp shade on it that doesn’t really fit it. I still like it better that way. Those big lampshades of the 70s are so ugly.

  12. Great photos Luanne. I remember all those things.

  13. I enjoyed this post very much. I also grew up in the 70s and much of the decor you show here is very familiar to me, although we never had the peacock feathers. One thing I’ll always remember is a velvet painting of an old salt smoking a pipe, given to my parents by a relative. It hung on the wall for years. Thanks for sharing these!

    • LOL, so funny that you mention the velvet painting. This is a different level, but remember the one with the dogs playing poker? I actually knew someone who had that on the wall!!! So funny. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • Haha – we never had that, thankfully 🙂 But plenty of paneling on the walls and, by the way, I’m pretty sure I had a pair of painter’s pants that looked like the ones in that picture.

  14. What a groovy blog post, Luanne! I recall some of this stuff, but not necessarily in our house. Orange was a popular color in our furnishings (I confess to being partial to it at the time). Yep, bad perm, bad wallpaper. 😆

    • Hahaha! OK, orange. Thank you for bringing that up. I was looking for a pic of the first couch the gardener and I bought–late 70s. ORANGE. I mean bright, candy orange. With flowers. A Chippendale. I saw it in the window of a furniture store, fell in love with it (being SOOOOOOOOO different from that brown and gold straight line boring stuff in my parents’ house), and we bought it on Layaway. First big purchase as a couple.

  15. The lamp! And so many other things. I’m surprised you didn’t have a rust-orange, wall-to-wall shag carpet in there,

    • My photos mainly didn’t show the floors, but floors are so of interest. If I could find the pix I could do a post about the floors! Shag was everywhere, but where I mainly saw it was family rooms and rec rooms, not so much living rooms. You know what I saw much more of and lived with? Gold sculptured wall-to-wall. Nasty stuff that showed the dirt so fast.

  16. Fascinating reminders of the decade that fashion forgot

  17. I loved seeing these photos!!! I like the one of the three of you playing monopoly. We played so much monopoly…This post did bring back a lot of memories of days gone by. 🙂

  18. Wow, what a blast from the past! I shudder at that wallpaper, but i wouldn’t mind a game of Monopoly. 🙂

    • Haha, I know that wallpaper. And then we had that wallpaper in beige (I called it puke because our whole house when I was a teen was done in “puke”) in our dining room. My mom probably wouldn’t have decorated the house that way, but it was a new house, a model home, and it was already decorated like that. We play Monopoly, Racko, and Password. The adults played Bridge and Pinochle.

  19. Oh Luanne, I love this post!
    For the record, I like your perm AND the wallpaper 🙂 (I am a fan of wallpaper overall.)
    We had most of these things in our house. I always liked the giant feathers. I actually think the peacock feathers would look great in my mother’s home now. The lamp that is also a table – oh man, I love those, and also those tables that jutted out from storage shelves.
    In our last Indiana home the entire basement was wood paneled. And I painted it all creamy white and I am damn proud of it still.
    In my dining room today — giant fork and spoon 😀 Purchased in Vietnam by my father, a gift to my grandparents, reverted to my father, who made sure I got them ❤ I had to wait three years for someone to drive them halfway across the country, but I got them.
    I love old things. Great post!

    • I remembered your spoon and fork!!!! So funny reading this in comparison with everyone else. I think people who like vintage all have favorite eras. Is this one of yours? For clothes and stuff, I like the 20s, but for furniture I think I might like the 40s based on old movies. I definitely do NOT like recent years with choices of gray, gray, or gray. NO. Or fake Tuscan houses and plazas like we have out here. Ick. Well, you “guessed” it with the lamp/table combo. That is one of the two things we still have! The gardener will not let me get rid of it!!! You’ll have to give your mom some peacock feathers for a present!

      • I think my mother’s boy cat would KILL peacock feathers LOL
        I think the table/lamp combo is just plain clever, I would totally buy one!
        In decor, I like the 40s best, lots of clean lines, that old green and tons of yellow, scallops and rounded details, linoleum — very joey. I may actually prefer the fashion of the 40s too… pincurls and pleats…
        I also hate the gray gray gray! Oh my goodness, I love color. I’m not a gray hater, but this recent madness of everything gray, BOO! The Tuscan theme certainly looks better in western homes compared to here, but yeah, I’ll pass on that, too.

  20. Love your 70s look, and can relate to virtually all of your 70s pics!! Back then my house featured the same fake-wood panelling, and flocked wallpaper in some of the rooms! Also may I add the ubiquitous “harvest gold” and/or “avocado green” favourites of kitchen appliances to your list! But I never heard of a freestanding microwave before! I bought my first microwave – a small one – on a Florida vacation in 1977. It was decidedly a portable. Wish I had more pics of this stuff. Gonna look!

  21. That last photo seems layered in gold. I remember so many of these items, some in our home, some in others. We didn’t have a microwave. My mother was happy enough with TV dinners that she could heat in the oven. Faux wood paneling, boy, that was ubiquitous, or seemed to be where I lived. Someone mentioned harvest gold and avocado green color choices. I remember getting sick of those colors pretty quickly 😉 Lol. I don’t think I was a fan of 70s fashion even when I lived in the 70s 😉

  22. I finally got here to read this. It looked so interesting from your title. I remember a great deal of the past decor. Mom loved the colonial country look and was allowed to decorate the family room in that style. I think our sofa matched yours. Dad was into Danish modern and got to decorate the living room. No one ever went in the living room except for more formal gathering. I never liked the look. My first husband loved mid century modern so that’s what we got. The last husband had the paneling and blue carpet etc. We ripped out EVERYTHING and started from scratch. If I had my druthers at this point in life, I’m going for shabby chic. Light and flowery. You know, I felt very sepia toned in the 70’s too. Interesting how looking at similar photos to my own brings that up. I’m heading your way in a couple of weeks to spend the holiday/birthday with my son. 🙂 I’ll have to make a stop at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe first.

  23. Pingback: Weekend Wrap-up / Inktober Day 30 (Slither): Somewhat Spooky Saturday | Lines by Leon

  24. Of all of these, the one that resonated the most was the peacock feathers. We had peacocks on my grandparent’s farm, and the feathers of Emma and Charlie decorated their living room. I had no idea it was a fashion trend! I just thought Mamo picked up the feathers from the peafowl pen and stuck them in that yellow pottery vase. Thank you for this memory and enlightenment.

  25. My grandparents had 2, 6, 8, and 9. I remember #6 because I used to always try to play with my grandma’s feathers.
    My parents had 3, 4, and 9, with 9 being over the window in our bathroom.
    And my Dad still has 7 and 8, with 8 being in the bathroom. That poor bathroom.

I'd love to hear your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.