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This 1977 time capsule house may spark a new love affair with 1970s interior design — 37 photos

1977 decorator houseAugust 2015 — Interior design of the 1970s still gets such a bad rap. And what a shame. Because design from any era, done well — is design done well. Case in point: This 1977 time capsule home in Lebanon, Pennsylvania — a veritable showcase of lovely, livable design from the era. It’s like a real-life Traditional Home magazine cover story from 40 years ago. 

Oh — and 37 photos! Many thanks to Annie of Annie M Designs — not only did she photograph the home, but also she recommended the homeowners contact us for this story. Her photographs of this 1960 time capsule house appeared here in 2013. She remembered us, and knew we’d love this house, too.

1977 decorator houseFrom the property listing:

  • Price: $280,000
  • Year built: 1977
  • Bedrooms: 4
  • Bathrooms: 3 (2 Full, 1 Half)
  • Square footage: 3,048 Sq. Ft.

Custom spacious home w/quality & character. 1st floor MBR w/en-suite bath, office on 1st floor. See through FP from dining to FR. Abundant closet space, eat-in kitchen w/island & pantry. Replaced windows during ownership, professionally installed water proof system.

1977 decorator houseFrom the moment you walk inside this impeccably decorated and maintained home, you just know you are in for a visual treat.

1977 decorator houseThe main living space, made up of the living room, dining room and an office area is beautifully layered — interesting yet restful. From every angle, there are new textures, colors and patterns to explore, yet none of them are an assault on the senses. 

1977 decorator houseYou can tell that a professional decorator was consulted for this space. While every piece of furniture and decor has its own unique look, they all blend together seamlessly and create one gorgeous, lavish and lovely room.

1977 decorator houseTake the dining room, for example: If you stand along the back wall and look towards the living room, you get a sense of warmth and comfort. The warm wood tones of the table, hutch and buffet … matched with soft greens of the (crushed velvet?) sofas … which are paired across the color wheel with rust-meets-coral colored carpet and chair upholstery — together all make the room feel cozy.

1977 decorator houseThen, when you look towards the back wall of the dining area, you’ll see a more serene white paneled wall and fireplace, bright light pouring in through the windows, soft window treatments and light colored wallpaper and side chairs. This “calmer angle” to the room ensures that the rich decor is not too overpowering and allows the viewer’s eye to rest, bringing a breath of fresh air into the space. Brilliantly designed decor, don’t you think?

1977 decorator houseEach room in the house has at least one special design element that is out of the ordinary. In the den, the curved brick fireplace creates a nice focal point, while a ceiling fan with clear blades allows the exposed ceiling beams to play an uninterrupted supporting role. And of course, we are totally digging the panelled walls, the lime-washed bricks and those beams. Even the stained glass Coca Cola pendant light — the perfect note of whimsy.

1977 decorator houseThe kitchen has many hallmarks of 1970s style — butcher block laminate countertops with hudee ring cutting boards, dark wood cabinets and of course, more wallpaper.

1977 decorator house 1977 decorator house 1977 decorator houseThis kitchen has a country feel, thanks mostly to the plaid wallpaper and the hanging basket gallery wall. We would not change a thing!

1977 decorator houseThe master bedroom has a bit of a French Provincial feel. Oh my: the upholstered headboard, the patterned wall-to-wall carpet, the window valance and of course those built-ins. 

1977 decorator houseThese built-ins are amazing. 

1977 decorator houseFor a cohesive look, the wallpaper has been carried into the master bathroom, which has coordinating white tiles with light blue speckles.

1977 decorator houseLook at the way the designer handled the wallpaper in this bedroom by creating wallpaper insets — very neat!

ethan-allen-custom-room-planLookie all the Ethan Allen Custom Room Plan furniture!

1977 decorator houseAnd of course, insane-for-wallpaper Pam adores this bathroom.

1977 decorator houseLet’s tally up the fabulousness: two coordinating vintage wallpaper designs including a wallpapered ceiling, coordinating fixtures, patterned floor, matching towels and draperies, wallpaper on the vanity doors and drawers. And the color: Our 2013 color of the year Broyhill Premier Chapter One Rich Lime Green. Love love love it all!

1977 decorator houseFinally, who wouldn’t want to spend their entire summer on this screened porch, lounging on this gorgeous vintage patio furniture? Even the cushions on the patio bench have been carefully decorated with coordinating alternated floral and stripe prints. Fantastic!

And we’re not done yet. The actual tipster on this house was Megan, who grew up in the house. She shares:

Thanks so much, Pam and Kate — I love it so much but it’s because of the nostalgia! It was great growing up in the house — adults downstairs, kids upstairs. The master bedroom is on the first floor, and we had an extra TV room upstairs where we spent all our time when we weren’t outside. There is even a crazy, long crawl space where we used to hide. The cedar closet was a great (and weird) place to hang out too. The upstairs bathroom! –straight out of the 70’s. The house has amazing bones — they’re just not built like this anymore. Honestly, though, the best part was/is the neighborhood  but I know that doesn’t have anything to do with the house: So many kids to play with.

Thank you, Megan — and for sure, we are all hoping this house finds a sympathetic buyer who recognizes it for the real gem it is!

Link Love:

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge up to 1,000 pixels wide on screen… click anywhere to move forward and look for previous and next buttons within photo to move back or forth… you can start or stop at any image:

All material featured in this story copyright Retro Renovation 2015.

  1. pam kueber says:

    Makes sense. And what’s good about traditional furniture in this sense — you can easily change the colors thru new upholstery.

  2. Mary Elizabeth says:

    My favorite room is the soft green bathroom. People don’t remember that there were a number of kinds of green in the 1970s. The pops of flowers in the wallpaper give the decade away to me.

    However, they whole house reflects that a real family lived there, with their own tastes and lifestyle.

    People sometimes think there was only one mid-century modern style. Colonial and classic period furniture persisted in many homes, with the Scandanavian and modern choices carried out in others. You’ll notice that Ethan Allen never went out of business over all those decades, from 1939 to the present, although as I recall they did have some closures in particular plants in the early 21st century and traded hands a few times. Remember that the Bicentennial celebration in 1976 gave a great boost to the traditional/colonial furniture styles that were enjoyed in the 1950s.

  3. Too much 80s/90s for my tastes but I do love 70s decor and certainly lived with a lot of it my day. The home itself is supremely well built with many quality touches. And for that price I couldn’t buy a shack here in Glendale CA. I wish I had the means as I’d grab it ASAP. I’m guessing the contents don’t come with it so it would be a blank(er) slate anyway.

    I like these stylistic detours, they keep things interesting!

  4. Joe Felice says:

    Wow! How-impeccably kept! Your statement “design done well” is the key to all interior decor. Unfortunately, so much design in the ’70s was ad lib based on what was the fad du jour. I recall the dark paneling, the green, yellow & orange shag, hanging plants, and the avocado, coffee or gold appliances. Lots of orange, gold and dark brown paint. But, at least the homes had character, which was lost when, in the late ’80s, along came greige and boring, boring, boring.

  5. Joe Felice says:

    This would be a million-dollar house if it were in Denver. Unfortunately, Denver is fast becoming unaffordable, like San Francisco and New York, the difference being that, in the latter two, wages tend to keep pace with housing costs.

  6. Norma Beaird says:

    LOVE this house – it has been beautifully maintained and the furnishings are lovely. Thank you, Pam, for emphasizing the need to preserve these beautiful homes and for encouraging modesty and frugality.

    Okay…..Pam……a mild rant coming on!…..;-)

    Sometimes, when my husband and I watch one of the popular home-renovating shows on TV…..it’s almost stomach-churning when we see one of these scenes:

    The real estate agent will take a younger to middle-aged couple into an older home (such as this) that has been impeccably maintained. The kitchen cabinets are in excellent condition, the bathrooms are in great shape; and overall, the house is structurally sound. And then the wife says, “Oh, these kitchen cabinets are so dated, we would have to completely gut this kitchen!” ……and then she walks into the bathroom and starts the same commentary, as though it’s against the law to have a countertop more than six months old. Again, there will be nothing wrong with the countertops or cabinets. However, the couple is willing to part with $20 – $50K just to modernize perfectly good kitchens and bathrooms…..when all they made need is a fresh coat of paint, a new lighting fixture (maybe) or a new shower curtain.

    In my opinion, that is a gross waste of money. It’s as though they can’t have people over for dinner unless they have granite countertops. When I was coming up, people “made do” with what they had. You didn’t tear out completely good flooring or countertops just to fit in with the current trendy style. When something wore out, then you replaced it. In our house, if we wanted to update the bathroom, we put up fresh wallpaper and bought a new shower curtain – that’s it. The tile and everything else was in perfectly good shape.

    This up and coming generation will probably be noted in history as one of the most wasteful generations ever. If it’s not brand-spanking new or has granite countertops, it’s considered a travesty, thanks to a certain TV network. Consequently, this creates a very materialistic psychology that leads to overwhelming debt for young people who truly can’t afford it. They become “house poor”. They’re eating Ramen Noodles and ham sandwiches, but at least they have all stainless steel appliances.

    Sometimes, I become so disgusted by the “spoiled” behavior of some of these potential home buyers, that I just turn the channel. These homeowners will take an ax to perfectly good cabinets and countertops when a fresh coat of paint would completely change the look of the kitchen. I’m going to sound exactly like my grandmother on this one, but there are MANY people in foreign lands who just wish they had a nice bed to sleep on or plenty of food to eat. They would give anything to have a house like this. Money doesn’t grow on trees and in our culture, wasteful consumption has become acceptable, if not demanded.

    People have allowed themselves to fall into a trap of deception. Materialism only grants temporary satisfaction. Consequently, when people trade modesty in exchange for grandiosity, they’re never really satisfied because true happiness and satisfaction comes from inside, not from outward appearances.

    Okay……rant over…….

  7. ineffablespace says:

    More endangered than the well-maintained custom built time capsule are mid-century houses that are fairly intact but poorly maintained or that have already undergone some remodeling.

    I live in an architecturally significant inner city development and the houses were not particularly well-built, and mine was poorly maintained for a couple of decades (and then cheaply renovated).

    Of the four houses like mine, mine is the only one that reflected the architect’s stylistic vision to begin with. Two of the others have been extensively remodeled, and nothing was really done to consider what the existing house looked like.

    Mine needs to be essentially gutted and few people understand why, since I have to do so much work anyway, that I want to make it look like was originally intended and not something current to 2015.

    There is no official historical interest in houses of this era in my city.

  8. Megan says:

    Thanks so much for all the comments – it’s amazing how knowledge the people on this site are!! Believe it or not, we might have to actually to put the house up on auction! We are in a must sell situation and it breaks my heart. The housing market is horrible here and you’re right, younger couples would come in and completely remodel. Luckily the house will forever live in my mind and my heart!

  9. Priscilla says:

    I agree 110%!! You really hit the nail on the head. It breaks my heart when I see people in those shows destroying history and true craftsmanship. They prefer mass-produced garbage or cheap Swedish plastics and corkboard to beautiful man-made furniture. I’m 38 and I long for the “good ol’ days” when people were grateful to even have a home of their own. Now they just come in swinging axes at everything that doesn’t “look modern enough”. Either that or just let the house fall into such disrepair and simply stop paying for it completely. So sickening.

  10. Ed says:

    On a similar note, I believe my grandparents still have the same furniture as they had when I was a kid. Pretty amazing that it survived all those grandkids, and now great grandkids. I guess a little maintenance goes a long way, as well as some discipline and redirecting some of the rambunctious energy outside.
    I guess it feels to me that a mix of earlier styles can add some credibility to a faux time capsule living space.

  11. LCH says:

    So strange to look back into history and see that I dislike that era’s style as much now as I did when I was living through it….no matter how well it was done. But the space does look loved and cared for, and I love the emotional reactions the space provides for people.
    I was hoping to generate some excitement over the bathroom wallpaper but just couldn’t quite manage it. What feels like home to people? Familiarity? I liked my family home and can make a long list of things that were functionally awesome about the home that my parents designed and built….but I never felt quite at home with my parent’s mid-century modern style, though I shared my mom’s love of some of the wild florals of the 70’s, and I was regularly teased by friends about my mom’s choice of kitchen wall color: deep Flamingo pink, lol! I heaved a sigh of relief when simple, classic antiques began to come our way, courtesy of older relatives when they passed away. I longed to paint all the baseboards in the house WHITE. I got a big NO from mom and dad. Funny how I knew what felt like “home” to me from a young age – it wasn’t the suburban opulence of the late 70’s, like in these photos, nor the casual, friendly MCM of my childhood; it sure wasn’t the American Colonial stuffiness I saw at friends’ homes. Nor was the rooster infestation of the 90’s or the depressing Tuscan era. So many homes were so DARK back then! But I knew I came home to my style when I saw simplicity, natural light, spaciousness, white curtains, white baseboards, simple yet elegant lines to furniture, minimal patterns, minimal surface decor, plenty of plants, and ideally an ocean or lovely garden through the windows…the rest of the details were not as important, whether Scandinavian or British Colonial or Organic Modern, etc. I’m afraid I would have been guilty of ripping out all the busy wall-paper and the pink carpet, had this house passed into my hands. But I totally agree that there was no need to tear out what looks like a very well designed kitchen with quality cabinets (though the walls might have turned out Flamingo pink just for fun). Thank you for sharing this fascinating photo and essay!

  12. Pam Kueber says:

    It is so interesting how we each react differently to various designs! Variety makes the world go round!

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