Photo courtesy of @tonybaratta

The Art Of Styling Retro Colors In A Home

Suddenly everyone loves the colors we love to hate.
Roxanne Robinson Oct 21, 2020
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Everything old is new again. So goes the saying. But this goes-around-comes-around phenomenon does drive design in both the fashion and the interiors sector. It's no wonder, then, that those awkward, almost ugly in nature retro colors of the '70s have come back to a new generation of homemakers looking to create a fresh, distinguishable look in their space. Here we dive into the new art of styling retro colors in a home.

So, what were those '70s hues that prevailed until somewhere in the mid-'80s, when they looked positively gauche? Harvest gold, avocado, tiger lily rust, practical beige, and a slew of brown tones dominated the era's color scheme. Those colors resulted from the advent of Earth Day, which debuted in 1970 — yes, folks, we've actively been thinking about the health of the planet for over 50 years — and ushered earthy tones into the collective aesthetic consciousness, according to Sherwin Williams.

Photo courtesy of @lance.gerber

But the flip side of that movement was the psychedelic trend that also snuck its way into the halls of suburbia, generally in the form of eclectic, Pop Art–inspired wallpapers mixed with either shag carpeting or tile-like low-pile carpets in…wait for it, the kitchen. (The decade even produced a bathroom or two with carpeting, cringe-worthy. Fortunately, building codes and the increase of environmental allergies put the kibosh on that concept.)

Wall stickers and murals were also a result of this psychedelic and Pop Art influence. One of the best-known stars of the movement was Peter Max. The German-born, Brooklyn-based artist adorned walls of homes, stores, and other commercial venues throughout the late '60s and '70s. Their trippy design promoted a mash-up of mustard yellow, acid green, bright orange, and electric lavender. Max derived some of his earliest influences from the time his family spent in China as well as a six-month Paris stint that yielded drawing lessons. After attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he created an iconic poster in 1967, the Summer of Love. Max's iconic "Be-In" poster inspired several hundred hippies to gather in New York City's Central Park and helped crystallize the moment.

Max summed up his life's work in a biography on PeterMax.com, saying, "My life's journey has been an odyssey through time and space, filled with vivid moments, abundant with color, dazzling with sights, and vibrant with euphonic sounds. These moments collectively create my story, not only of who I was but also of who I was to become — an artist living in New York City, where I have been fortunate to reach a global audience with my art and philosophy."

As inspirational as psychedelics can be, today's approach is to add touches of these motifs to your décor as one styles retro colors in a home. Even re-creating the cultlike obsession with the home that the original blended family, The Bradys, lived in on the '70s TV classic The Brady Bunch is going a step too far today.

Instead, dabble in adding touches of retro colors via paint and other designs. Wallpaper with a retro design covers one accent wall versus the whole room. Shag carpeting is best in the form of an area rug, not wall-to-wall. Maybe add a piece of macramé art to a wall in one of the "off" hues. Other aspects that allow for a modern take on the style involve clean graphic components — furniture in light woods or white to play against a retro color. And for Pete's sake, go easy on the paneling when using retro colors. Otherwise your space may look like it traveled to TV Land.

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Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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