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Why ’70s design is making a comeback

RIP millennial pink. Hello earthy tones.

Why ’70s design is making a comeback
Shelton Mindel [Photo: Michael Moran/courtesy 1stDibs]

What will our homes look like in 2021? A lot like they did in the 1970s, according to more than 600 interior designers interviewed by design marketplace 1stDibs. Next year, expect to see a lot of warm, earthy tones, like cobalt blue, burnt orange, and mustard yellow. Consumers will also embrace prints inspired by nature, with plenty of bohemian floral and plant motifs. That’s right: Your home is about to look like the set of That ’70s Show.

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M Interiors [Photo: Stephen Karlisch/courtesy 1stDibs]
Part of the reason the ’70s look is about to have a resurgence is because it is so grounded in nature, and after a year of being trapped indoors because of the pandemic, the design experts surveyed believe people will want to bring the natural world into their homes.

Laura Hodges, one of the designers surveyed, predicts consumers will embrace botanical wallpapers and hand-painted nature-inspired murals. There will also be an explosion of potted plants, trees, and vertical gardens (a trend that was already on the rise thanks to startups like Horti, the Sill, and Bloomscape, which ship houseplants straight to your door). “We’re finding ways to bring that natural beauty indoors,” Hodges says.

There may be other reasons why the ’70s are roaring back, since that decade bears many similarities to this one. It was a period of deep political turmoil, with President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, protests about racial justice and women’s rights, economic turbulence thanks to the energy crisis, and a growing environmental movement. As we wrestle with the complexities of our own time, it makes sense to look back to the ’70s, including the design sensibilities of the era.

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This shift toward ’70s style will mean saying goodbye to some current trends. Millennial pink, which has been popular for years, is finally going out of style, according to the designers surveyed. Bright red, bright orange, dark purple, and light yellow are diminishing in popularity as well. Preppy styles are also losing their pep, with stripes now officially unfashionable.

Many people are looking for extra warmth and comfort in their homes, in part because they’re home more and in part to offset the trauma of COVID-19. As a result, designers say we’ll be staying away from harsh, industrial materials, like exposed cement, concrete, and metal.

Hadley Wiggins Inc. [Photo: Howie Guja/courtesy 1stDibs]
COVID-19 is also changing how many people use their homes. Designers predict that outdoor spaces will be highly coveted in 2021 and beyond. When searching for a new place to live, many buyers and renters will be seeking out amenities like patios, porches, and terraces. And since some people expect to work from home even after the pandemic is over, having a well-appointed office will matter more than ever.

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2020 has been a tough year. Many people are eager to turn the page by giving their homes a refresh. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you might take the advice of professional interior designers: Buy a nice potted plant, embrace flower-power prints, and for goodness’ sake, get rid of all of that millennial pink.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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