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When It Comes to Design, the '70s Never Cease to Inspire Me

White living room with funky furniture.

Rosie Case

The 70s can get a bad rap for shag, polyester, that orange—you know the one. But, I'd make the case that the 70s are actually one of the best eras for vintage treasure hunting.

From brass accents to chinoiserie details and low slung lounge-y furniture perfect for that at-home life, you'll find quirky décor and fabulous conversation pieces when you start shopping the "Me Decade." And, as more designers embrace maximalism with open arms, there’s never been a better time to declare the 70s are back, baby. 

There’s never been a better time to declare the 70s are back, baby.

We’ve been inching our way towards the 70s for a few years now. Midcentury has been the style du jour for close to a decade, as its sleek, minimal lines and warm wood tones fill our homes with a peaceful glow. But, now we’re craving something with a bit more impact. No, we’re not bidding adieu to those midcentury silhouettes, we’re just thinking it might be time to mix them up with a dose of the bright and the decadent.

Wooden decor in shape of hands.

Rosie Case

My love affair with 70s vintage started by chance with a Craigslist find. I came upon a woman selling off her parents’ hand-me-downs and a brass coffee table listed for $40. Its Greek key details and ever-so-slightly glam vibes were right at home with my modern IKEA sofa. A few years later, I splurged on a white lacquered lingerie chest with chinoiserie accents and, again, Greek key details. Then came the Moroccan-inspired gold mirrors, the massive brass lamp, and the marble decanter set. 

As I started to dig into the provenance of all of these favorite vintage finds, I noticed a theme: every single one dated back to the 70s.

Retro dining set with teal velvet chairs.

Design: Jewel Marlowe, Photo: Amy G Photography

So, what is it about the 70s? How did one decade produce so many pieces that are the perfect vintage complement to any décor? The 70s were all about bold color, ornate detail, striking shapes. It was an explosion of technicolor excess—it was fun. 

We’re not decorating our homes head-to-toe in this look—unless that’s your thing, and then you do you. But, when we stumble upon the perfect vintage find, it is just the right amount of maximalist touch. Perhaps you incorporate a chair or a dresser, maybe you keep it limited to a lamp, a mirror, or small sculpture, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you go wild with a modern-day take on a 70s fabric or wallpaper

Vintage entryway with 70s decor

Courtney Madden

You’ll find luscious, curvy lines in the 70s, with exaggerated shapes and sizes that may make you question the scale of your city apartment. The homes of the era saw the first inklings of open concept plans—and that’s exactly the type of sweeping layout these pieces were designed for. 

It’s like you’ve taken the funkiness of the midcentury modern designers and mashed them up with the fanciful tendencies of Hollywood Regency. The result? Something that’s bold, but approachable—a vintage find that hasn’t yet reached over-saturation. 

70s Themes and Pieces to Keep an Eye Out For

I know I’ve stumbled upon a 70s gold mine when I see a few themes show up. The first is Greek key anything. The 70s knew how to do a Greek key detail on a coffee table, a dresser, a mirror. If it’s brass and has a subtle greek key, it’s probably from this era.

1970s Modern Chrome Greek Key Coffee Table
Chairish 1970s Modern Chrome Greek Key Coffee Table $775.00 $450.00

The next is rattan. It’s a subtle bohemian nod to the 60s, but just tailored enough. If you come across a rattan mirror in your vintage hunting, don’t let it pass you by.

Burl wood may be ubiquitous again, but it first found its footing in the 70s. You likely won’t find it as an under-the-radar steal, but it’s a design element that’s timeless. 

Burl wood dresser with decorative accents.

Jewel Marlowe

You’ll find chinoiserie details on everything from lamps to nightstands to sideboards—I’m obsessed with this Henredon beauty. It’s a classic look that’s at home in any era.

Chrome and cantilever may have reminded you of an office building a few years ago, but, again, midcentury modern broke us in for the 70s. Now these sleek lines are artistic and high-style.

Italian Cantilever Dining Chair in Leather
Gastone Rinaldi for RIMA Italian Cantilever Dining Chair in Leather $2,763.00

It’s not always easy to find mint-condition lucite but, when you do, it’s a gem. 

1970s Lucite Base
Chairish 1970s Lucite Base $650.00

Space age design and plastic chairs had a moment in the 1970s, and I love the idea of a bubble chair nestled in a 2020s living room.

Space Age White Plastic and Black Vinyl Chairs
Eero Aarnio Space Age White Plastic and Black Vinyl Chairs $4,205.00

And, nestled somewhere between space age and gilded, Brutalist accents, particularly chandeliers, evolved from midcentury into the 70s, where they took on even more bizarre—and beautiful—shapes. 

70s Makers I’m Always Drawn To

Now that you know what to look for, you might be wondering where to start your 70s collection. Vintage and antique shops are always my first stop, but there are a few makers that pop up again and again when you go down the rabbit-hole of online vintage shopping. Mastercraft brass coffee tables, like the one that led to my 70s obsession, are a solid find. With a subtly glamorous look, they’re at home in any room. 

If you’re drawn to refinished case goods, then Dixie Shangri La is a 70s maker you’ve likely seen before. From dressers to nightstands to lingerie chests, this furniture maker incorporated the most intricate chinoiserie detailing and incredible brass hardware into their pieces. You’ll often find these pieces lacquered in bold colors online.

And, of course, there’s the crown jewel of 70s vintage finds: a Miles Baughman sofa. With curvy, serpentine lines, a Baughman sofa is everything you need in a living room that begs you to lounge—and isn’t that exactly what we need right now?