Live again the days gone by
August 11, 2010 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Retrospace will bring back all those memories. '70s home decor. '80s teen comedies. Lifestyle magazines from 1977. And so much more. So very very much more.

Bonus link: Vinnie Rattolle's. Where cheese and retro media mix into a pleasant party dip.
posted by hippybear (60 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
What is it about the decor palettes from 3-5 years before one's own birth that is such an effective emetic?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:20 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh — It's the actual color and scrambled texture of vomit!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:22 PM on August 11, 2010

durr, link.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:22 PM on August 11, 2010

The interior designs in that Apartment Living magazine are so ..confused.
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 PM on August 11, 2010

Oh god AV, that room is haunted by the spirit of a bald man in black pants and socks who yells at the TV.

They say at night you can hear the clinking of ice in glass.
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 PM on August 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

The heady days when moire patterns weren't an accident.
posted by Babblesort at 8:24 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

By confused I mean's like....a game show , or something. Where they asked 5 people to decorate the same room. Blindfolded. In under an hour.

I've never seen places just actively refuse to collide into a single image like that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 PM on August 11, 2010

The Ethan Allen Romantic Refuge set is so... not.
posted by Lukenlogs at 8:27 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

That being said, some the advice is good, if strange (Buy a big dress! use it for fabric!) and that Mastercard ad is so thudding blunt I can hear the gray-blond mustache it came out of.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was there. It was both far worse and far more beautiful.
posted by philip-random at 8:31 PM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Back to the book, it was written by Romeo Muller, who not only wrote all three Puff specials, but also a ton of other classic TV specials, mostly for Rankin-Bass ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "The Hobbit," "Return of the King," etc.) as well as the campy, once-aired TV adaptation of the infamous Broadway flop "It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman!"

If that's not enough to get you to click on the last link, I give you the phrase "Vampire disco rock opera"
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 PM on August 11, 2010

No lie #6. Take that girl's shirt and that wall as a blazer and all of you now have the outfit I put together and attempted to purchase at the D.A.V. today. Unfortunately, after trying it on in the middle of the Bible Belt and everyone, I realized I needed to go on a vegetable jello diet. Purchase averted.
posted by psylosyren at 8:44 PM on August 11, 2010

What is it about the decor palettes from 3-5 years before one's own birth that is such an effective emetic?

I grew up in Montgomery Alabama's model home of 1977. That recession ruined my homebuilder father, so until I was in 6th grade my home was THE home...of 1977...
posted by jefficator at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

For some reason red and brown flocked couches make me think of kids who's parents where never home and who had a sword collection.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 PM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Because of this thread, I now know the musical gifts of Peter Wyngarde! (YT) HOORAY!
posted by psylosyren at 8:55 PM on August 11, 2010

If you follow the 70s home decor link, this first picture (the top one) is the furniture system that my mom bought when I was very, very young. I grew up with all of those cabinets scattered around our house -- and even those chairs and a very similar couch.

I was always told as a kid to be careful: this isn't cheap stuff, my mom would say, this is good Ethan Allan furniture! Now I know what my mom was thinking. And it scares me a little.

It is still the furniture in my parents' home today. Thankfully, they don't have tragically yellow walls.
posted by eschatfische at 8:57 PM on August 11, 2010

that frontal shelving cabinet wouldn't be half-bad against a darkish green wall. I'd have to see it close up tho.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 PM on August 11, 2010

I was born in the early 80's, but my parents still had a lot of 70's crap hanging around. I grew up with a brown, red and gold/yellow/puke/whatever color that is floral pattern couch made of velvet or some polyester material that felt like scratchy velvet, not soft. It was terrible, and the feel of that kind of fabric to this day makes me CRINGE.
posted by Malice at 9:06 PM on August 11, 2010

I guess I was born 30 years to late, because the 1970s activate every part of my joy matrix.
posted by Gin and Comics at 9:07 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

What is it about the decor palettes from 3-5 years before one's own birth that is such an effective emetic?

Funny, for me the period 2-5 years before I was born is a primary aesthetic touchstone.
posted by jtron at 9:19 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My parents still have their vintage Ethan Allen bedroom furniture. Thank goodness and Crate and Barrel, they've lost the jauntily nautical captain's chairs and laminated wood table. What did people with good taste decorate with?
posted by theredpen at 9:34 PM on August 11, 2010

Funny, for me the period 2-5 years before I was born is a primary aesthetic touchstone.

Ditto, love this stuff. So much so that a copy of Betty Crocker's Starting Out, which is filled with advice on how to achieve a first home like this, has sat on my coffee table for several years now.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Highly recommend it to anyone who loves kitschy home design.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:42 PM on August 11, 2010

posted by scratch at 9:44 PM on August 11, 2010

Speaking of things we'll all mock in the future, can I rant about how all those "Design Contest" shows produce the Same. Exact. Room. Every. Time?

Not every room needs to look like a cheap Thai Restaurant!

calm blue ocean calm blue ocean
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I also developed an unhealthy fixation on the littler dude from the D-list "Clean House" (shutupiknow) during a sick-day marathon viewing when it became clearly he utterly loathed his job, the show, and his co-workers so much that that he was one cute pun away from setting the whole place on fire WITH HIS MIND.
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Ethan Allen rooms are designed as people-camouflage. Notice how you can barely see if there's a person there, you really have to look. I think this was intentional, it was a room of refuge into which you sort of "disappear" from the difficult realities of the world, represented by the harsh colors and patterns. Hiding in (not so) plain sight.
posted by stbalbach at 10:17 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

every Ethan Allen room comes with 7 ninjas.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

(also the prices seem ...high to me? I know EAllen is a "luxury" brand, but I could find dressers from them for the same price now. Am I missing something?)

Also no people means you have no scale. If I had to single out one problem with modern American Furniture is that that everything about it, from the scale to the details to the risers, is SO FUCKING HUGE. Seriously, I have a Colonial revival chair and a 20s-era daybed and they look like doll furniture next to the circa 1990s sofa.
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

And I'm a 6'0, wide-ass dude and I can fit into both the chair and daybed without problem. Some of it as the result of more low-skill factory production (glue, stick, move on) but the sheer waste of space gets me. They're not more comfortable (a lot of them retain the same profile as older designs and the cushions aren't exactly tops, you know?) then the older designs, they're just BIGGER. With all this extra stiffness and scratchiness.
posted by The Whelk at 10:27 PM on August 11, 2010


The mottled aqua-and-turquoise shag carpet of the "Mellow Cheerful At Home Room" doubly so.


*Genuine; not sarcasm. Pinkie swear. I know sometimes people have trouble telling the difference.
posted by ErikaB at 10:30 PM on August 11, 2010

What's wrong with me? I was born 3 years after it was published, but sincerely like stuff in Apartment Life Magazine, May 1977.

The furry thing in the corner scares me--as does the matching shag carpet--and I'd replace the couch with something not vinyl, but otherwise this room is really cute. It doesn't look that different from the kind of stuff you see on Apartment Therapy, does it?

Not so bad either, including the DIY advice. Cube wall storage! Duffel bag bolsters!

Shut up, Apartment Life Magazine! Hipster crafty types do and blog about all of these things now, except they say it's green and call it up-cycling when they alter thrift shop clothes and use them as cheap sources of fabric. I even like the outfit on the girl in the boots. But what is a piano shawl?
posted by thewrongparty at 1:52 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, The Whelk, those ginormous couches everyone sells these days are ticking me off. I have a pretty good home, with larger rooms, but I can not bring in a gigantor couch because the room is meant for more uses than "sit on couch" - there's a piano and a wall for of records in it as well. I've resorted to only buying furniture from the 50, 30s and so on. Only then can one find very small things, as well as a shelving system that can cover an entire wall if you want.
posted by dabitch at 2:32 AM on August 12, 2010

Also no people means you have no scale.

I've seen magazines with some of these bedrooms before but they usually feature a body and a blunt instrument nearby. I pretend its the designer.
posted by hal9k at 4:23 AM on August 12, 2010

That Screwballs review made me die a little in my mouth.
posted by DU at 5:03 AM on August 12, 2010

I'm almost positive this couch and table set was what my mom was given for her wedding in the 70's. I remember it, because as I grew up climbing all over the fabric- which kind of felt like burlap- that it was the first thing I ever felt was "ugly." She still has this set. I need to email her this ad and remind her that it might be time for a change.
posted by haplesschild at 5:16 AM on August 12, 2010

There may be a lot of kitsch there, but I would love to have a poster of this (from their tumblr blog). And I don't even put up posters in my house.
posted by TedW at 5:36 AM on August 12, 2010

posted by wenestvedt at 7:14 AM on August 12, 2010

You can call this decor a lot of things but "timeless" isn't one of them.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:26 AM on August 12, 2010

My husband's grandmother recently died; in her attic we discovered a treasure trove of 1975 Better Homes and Gardens magazines saved for some unknown purpose.

The are full of ads like this; one paint ad featured a bathroom that you could do in any of four mindblowing shades of pepto bismol pink, turqoise-ish blue, blow-to-the-head-afterimage yellow, or sickly-yet-pulsing neon green.

With matching rugs, curtains, etc. in each photo, all the exact same shade.

It was the drugs. It had to be. That's the only explanation.
posted by emjaybee at 8:40 AM on August 12, 2010

AHEM! SOME of us are old enough to not only REMEMBER this crap but to have actually PURCHASED it... on PURPOSE!!! "Retro"! Hmph inDEED! Why, when *I* was your age...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:43 AM on August 12, 2010

Oh and for the record, I am old enough to have worn polyester pantsuits and Buster Brown shoes as a child, and we had for many years a silver/red/black coat of arms with swords stuck in it (not real, made of plaster) wall hanging to give that sweet 70s Conquistador style to our living room.

(what was that Conquistador thing about? I remember lots of wrought iron, red, and black and pictures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and random flamenco dancers in people's houses).
posted by emjaybee at 8:52 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Depends on your taste. When I was a kid in the '70s, my mom brought home some books of wallpaper samples to play with. I was very impressed by the textured and flocked wallpaper and the Mylar wallpaper (mirrored! printed with patterns!). Unfortunately, my parents had conservative tastes and stuck to eggshell white paint. Only one room, designated for music, had black-and-white shag carpeting, a Japanese paper lantern, big pillows covered in faux black, brown, and white leather, and a sofa called the "white whale" because it was covered in white wide-wale corduroy and swallowed anyone who sat in it.

A little later, friends had wallpaper that looked as if actual strips of dry straw had been stitched to it. They also had a 2" deep shag rug and a precariously suspended chrome lamp, a kitchen table from "The Jetsons," and those metal tubing chairs shaped like the letter S that toppled if you sat too close to the edge.
posted by bad grammar at 9:40 AM on August 12, 2010

My parents had an avocado green living room that had "tapestries" on the wall, "paintings" of conquistadors, velvet chairs, and a collection of medieval weapons.

When my parents were gone, my little brother and I would chase each other around, me with a sword, and my brother with a flail.

Ahhhh... the sheventies... never mind the dain bramage.
posted by RedEmma at 10:28 AM on August 12, 2010

Also... my first chore as a child was to rake the family room carpet.
posted by RedEmma at 10:28 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are great. Can't wait to spend serious time with that site.

Vis-a-vis home decor, what the heck were people thinking? Those pics hurt my eyes. Perhaps it was a backlash against the drabness of the depression era or the austerity of WW II. Or maybe this was how conservative folks coped with psychedelic culture. Either way the color combinations and outrageous use of clashing patterns reached some kind of nadir during the 70s. Maybe we were all so dazzled by our patterned, shiny polyester shirts that we just didn't notice.

My 88-year-old mother (who had a gold-and-avocado fetish) will still, on occasion, comment that something is "avocado green." My sister, ever stylish, quickly corrects her, "No, Mom, it's sage now. Sage."
posted by kinnakeet at 10:37 AM on August 12, 2010

I think sage has more of a grey undertone to it than actual avocado green. 70s avocado green is a pretty distinct color, and sage is more of a 90s "santa fe" pallet color. At least, to my mind.
posted by hippybear at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2010

These super bright pastel colors are what Colonial-era houses used, like at Williamsburg or Monticello - the reasons were

1. Bright colors reflected better in dim light, like when an entire dining room is lit with the wattage equivalent of a refrigerator door light.

2. Bright colors were a sign of wealth - the more pigments used, the most costly it was.

The founding fathers painted their rooms like hippies with psychedelic bright and clashing colors. The muted pastels typically found in restored houses reflect the paint after generations of fading.
posted by stbalbach at 11:43 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Maybe we were all so dazzled by our patterned, shiny polyester shirts

I want at least three of those.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2010

Seconding Priceless stuff.

RetroSpace is now in my bookmarks.
posted by sundrop at 12:27 PM on August 12, 2010

70's decor: I hated it then and I've not grown any fonder of it since.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:32 PM on August 12, 2010

I love it, no - not to have in my house, never - but to look at like this and in old movies. The avocado green and that golden hay color on bathroom tiles was just a killer. In the mid-eighties we moved to an apartment that unfortunatly had the 70s avocado tile and dark stained window shutter style cabinet doors with oversized handles. I suffered the 70s decor far too long. Went a little nuts doing 80s decor in my room to counter the effect, but trust me on this - decorating your house the way the rich new yorker does in Beetlejuice is not an improvement. "Stone spray paint" is not for furniture.

Here's a site that has taken the good, the bad and the ugly of wall-murals to show off.
posted by dabitch at 1:33 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I LOVE THIS STUFF. I am always on the lookout for '60s and '70s magazines at thrift stores and the like, so I can sit at home and read them - so far I've only been successful in finding five magazines, I guess either people don't keep them or thrift stores don't think they're worth selling.

I'm going to be moving into a rented house instead of a rented apartment soon, and all of the options have been places built in either the '50s or the '70s. If they have their original horrendously-coloured kitchens and baths, I give them extra points. We've decided we want to decorate whatever house we end up in using period aesthetics, and so the search is already on for The Ugliest Sofa We Can Find. (We haven't had room in the apartment for a sofa, so getting a house with more space in it will finally let me obtain the avocado-and-orange floral scratchy-velveteen couch of my dreams.) Am adding this site to my design reference bookmarks.
posted by titus n. owl at 3:15 PM on August 12, 2010

Oh, we keep them. I had all ID magazines & The Face & Arena from the eighties, carefully collected in boxes because they would be a goldmine 20 years down the road.

Then mom moved, so just threw them away. Aaargh. Oh well, I did manage to save my 1970s Vogue collection. The small ads in them sell the greatest stuff.
posted by dabitch at 4:20 PM on August 12, 2010

Oh, hello there, childhood.
posted by desuetude at 6:32 PM on August 12, 2010

that golden hay color

Harvest Gold. The official colors of 70's decor and appliances were Avocado Green, Burnt Orange, and Harvest Gold.

Anyone who lived through that era owes a debt of gratitude to Martha Stewart for kickstarting the array of colors we get to choose from now.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:10 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh yes. Harvest Gold. Googling that brought me Invasion of the 1970's Recreational Vehicles at retrospace.
posted by dabitch at 4:41 AM on August 15, 2010

(which I should have found the original linkage but I get lost at blogspot blogs...)
posted by dabitch at 4:42 AM on August 15, 2010

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