1970s interior designFor the past 10 years, I have been absolutely immersed in researching homes built from 1945 through 1963 — the classic, post-World-War-II baby boom years. And over the past decade — and the past two-to-three years in particular — there is no question that I’ve seen a major transformation in how mainstream media, real estate agents and — yes, prospective home buyers — view these homes. The original, high quality features… the architecture… and the wisdom of restoring, rather than gutting — yup, folks are starting to ‘get it’. To be sure, there is still serious work to do to showcase how smart appreciating and preserving these homes can be, but, we are well on our way, I am convinced. So, that gets me to thinking: What is “the next big thing”.  The answer, of course: 1970s houses. And buckle your seatbelts, peoples, because I predict that the love train for 1970s architecture and interior design will be even bigger than for 1950s and 1960s homes. Why? (1) Sheer numbers. And, yes, (2) the sheer amazing style, too.

historical housing data1. The Numbers: Long story short: There were more houses built in the 1970s — overall and as a percentage of population — than during any other decade in American history.

I am afraid this might bore a lot of readers, so I’ll keep this brief-ish. I have been doing research on housing growth, and this government report from 1994, is pretty informative. In one of the paragraphs above, it says:

The housing stock grew by more than 20 percent in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1970’s. Growth rates less than 20 percent occurred in the 1960’s and 1980’s.

The largest increase, 19.7 million housing units, occurred in the 1970’s, despite three economic recessions within the calendar years from 1970 to 1980s. The net gain in that decade represented an average increase of about 2 million housing units per year. Demand for housing was high in the 1970s as the leading edge of the baby boom population entered household forming years, wellin the 24-to-34 years age groups.

It. Always. Happens. About 20 years after a housing style, with its attendant interior design style — booms — we Hate it. This goes on for a while. About 50 years after, a shift starts to occur. There is a new generation — the grandkids, typically — who have fond recollections of their grandparents’ homes, and embrace they style. They also can afford these “stylistically discounted” — “dated” — houses. In addition, the larger population — including designers — has the perspective to look back and appreciate the best of a style, and let go of the rest. The 70s housing re-boom is on a trajectory to start in earnest in about eight years… and leading edge design savants are already heading there.

housing starts 1945 through 1969housing starts 1970 through 1989housing starts 1990 through 2010The housing boom of the 1970s was even greater — numerically and as a percentage of population — than in the now-infamous bubble of 2000-2010. Note: I am creating my own Excel spread sheet (shown above)(I already see how I need to fix where the 1990s tally up, but I am fed up looking at this and need to take a break). There are reports and reports, with a variety of government agencies (BLS pre-1945, and Census 1945-on), and technical slicing and dicing, to puzzle through. My numbers may not match other numbers. Unless I find someone who has done just the kind of timeline-report I am looking for, I have a bit of a journey ahead of me. Nonetheless, I believe my spreadsheet so far is directionally correct. You get the point.

1970s interior design(2) 1970s style rocks. Of course, 1970s style is infamous, too. The more I research and write about retro design — the more I love it. I want it. I am collecting it. And I will be writing more and more about it leading toward the big boom to come.

Categoriespostwar culture
  1. V. says:

    Hey Pam, young 1960s-1970s enthusiast here–I’ve been following your blog since its beginning, and collecting retro furniture since I was 15! I know this post is a few years old but I couldn’t resist. My husband and I recently purchased an unfurnished time capsule-type 1972/1950s home (the 70s level was built later onto what we think is a 50s basement-level living quarters). Rather than modernize this lovely Ozarks abode like the previous owners begin attempting to do here and there, we’ve taken it back to its 60s-70s roots (with before and after pics!). We’ve enjoyed our minor renovations, furnishing and “retro-fitting” the place so much that I’d love to share pictures with like-minded retro renovators. Is there a way to have a home featured in your blog? We do have a design dilemma…

  2. I’m having such a good time reading these seventies posts! We are in the process of finishing our bonus room and have inherited a burnt orange sectional sofa along with a mid century hutch, table, and chairs from a grandmother. I’m having fun planning a decorating style for that room while embracing the sixties/seventies furniture we’ll be using. I was born in 1977 and my parents have never been quick to remodel so that style has a nostalgic appeal to me…it’s what I grew up with. My home isn’t old (built in 2009) but I’ve decorated it with a mishmash of styles and thrift store finds and love it!

  3. PJ Chartrand says:

    The same thing happened to me when I bought a small bungalow when I was single again. After 100 year old houses and building a log house I ‘had’ to decorate it properly 😉 and suddenly everything was mostly Danish Modern to ’50’s. I would have bet a lot of money before the bungalow that would NEVER have happened so, yeah, never say never as the heart wants what the heart wants in more way than one it seems. Being in a conservative in taste in furniture city I managed to furnish the house months before it started to take off here … blessing to be sure.

  4. JustanotherPam says:

    We bought a time capsule ranch we’re moving into next week and stipulated in the offer that they could leave anything they didn’t want as nothing had changed since it was custom built in 1973. The family had put stickers on things they wanted including door hardware in the main bathroom and a built in so we’ll see if that came to pass but I’d rather deal with that then have the house ruined by renovations. We were both surprised how excited people we knew were about things like orange kitchen counter tops (keeping) and the orange/ivory/green shag (leaving because it’s stuck to the floor) as I thought those of us in this area who wanted a time capsule were far and few between.

  5. Brigit says:

    My GenX experience is similar to yours in some ways. As a kid I loved the loudest, flashiest 70s stuff- felt totally glamorous when my parents replaced their (fabulous) 1959 newlywed MCM with burnt orange and wrought iron and flocked wallpaper “Mediterranean,” envied people with foil wallpaper and shag-carpeted conversation pits. Then I got hooked on Victorian through the dollhouse miniatures craze, and then in adulthood I got obsessed with the 20s through the 50s, cottage and thrifted. My goal for my 1949 semi-Cape Cod has been everything vintage. I still can’t imagine wanting to live in a 70s house. However, I now cheer when I see people preserving and restoring them. They do bring back happy memories, and they’re a lot of fun.

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