For 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.
1. 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.
The 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.
(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.