Get your disco pants on with funky interiors

Kya deLongchamps discovers that the decade taste forgot was merely misunderstood, and more than deserves a second chance.

Get your disco pants on with funky interiors

Seventies interior style was once relegated to the design sin-bin, complete with gold-plated dolphin taps, spider plants, avocado bidets and crochet cushion covers.

Foreheads dribbled in a permanent wave, dung-coloured bell bottoms flapping to the Bee-Gees in the midst of the (to quote Billy Crystal) the ‘white-man’s overbite’ — the memories are fresh, painful even.

They say that if you remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. If you remember the 1970s house, you might prefer to forget.

The inexplicable macramé tangled over furniture, walls clad in hectares of black veneered shelving units and clunky teak, knee deep in shag carpet — all vibrating in the assault of hysterically patterned wallpapers and fabrics.

Did we completely lose our minds? Still, the decade had its highly original decorative and architectural successes.

Open-plan living, the en-suite bathroom, huge frameless walls of window glass, sunken rooms, tile and laminate flooring, steel tube furniture, the rise of the imported Italian leather suite, and bold experiments in lighting. There was a lovable, cheeky bravado to that over-excited wild child.

There are signs that the discotheque charm of this confident era is expectantly grooving back to life.

The market in quality 1970s and 1980s vintage is already thriving in Britain and Europe. Could this take hold with Irish collectors? Dublin dealer Paul Byrne, known affectionately by his moniker of Paul Retrorumage, sells affordable mid-century pieces.

He claims Irish buyers are leery of late 20th century furniture right now and has to take his better ’70s and ’80s finds to Britain, where they are far better received by the well-heeled boutique buyer.

“Although there is a keen interest in mid-century modern design in Ireland at the moment, Joe Public is still out in the cold when it comes to designer 1970s furniture,” says Byrne.

“High-end moulded plastic pieces by designers such as Sergio Mazza and Anna Castelli are still not as well-received as teak furniture from the same era.

“In London, Paris, and Milan, the case is completely the opposite. Shrewd dealers and collectors from these cities see ’70s plastic design as aesthetically pleasing and good long-term investment bets.”

If the 1970s scares us off, what about the 1980s? Byrne argues that we are not enthused as yet, and with good reason.

“Apart from the post-modernist movement, the 1980s whimpered about furniture design rather than shouting. Post-modern pieces were expensive, and limited at the time, and future interest will be niche [expensive].

"The best-known designer of the ’80s is Philippe Staarck. His production did not become prolific until the 1990s, and it’s too early to predict the investment potential of his designs.”

Geoff Kirk of Kirkmodern in Sandymount deals in an unashamedly upmarket selection of furniture and accessories from the 1950s forward. He hesitates when asked about the ’70s pieces available here in Ireland.

“We just did not have the same disposable income as Britain in the 1970s and there was not a comparable volume of progressive furniture here in Ireland,” says Kirk.

So, where we can find it, here or abroad? I asked Geoff what should we be collecting from the ’70s opus.

“Habitat was the driving force on the high street and the affordable face of the new consumerism, and now becoming highly collectable,” he says.

“Key pieces to look out for are the MacLamp by Terence Conran, Clam Shell box by Alan Fletcher, Crayonne plastics — all sold through Habitat — Ladderax shelving systems, Rya rugs, and iconic electronic designs such as the Space Helmet TV, which was designed to be hung from the ceiling, and the Toot-a-Loop wrist radio.

Scandinavian influence on design was still very strong with key pieces by Louis Poulsen (Panthella Lamp by Verner Panton), Eero Saarinen (Tulip Dining Set), and Lotus enamel coffee pots by Cathrinholm.”

On the high street here, the hip decade is an emerging story, shaking its cool thing everywhere, in shape, colour, and pattern. Iconic 1970s interiors reflected the lively reaction to authority, thumbing the nose to the polished sophistication of safe, tasteful mid-century homes.

Personal discovery and reinvention, a reckless love of colour, and mind-bending pshycadelic pattern shook established middle-class taste to its core. Today, we seem less afraid to accept a return to the velvet underground, though in small pulsating servings cooled by a spacious, neutral setting.

The most obvious and consistent examples of the design style would be scattered through the aisles of Ikea, which saw the majority of its stores open across the world in the 1970s.

The new look is taken from a folksy, wood-supported hippy chic, or what the vintage dealers term the luxury, or ‘rock-star’ end of era. Both interpretations are playful, confident, and saturated in juicy colour.

Young designers clearly love what the ’70s has in terms of inspiration. Look out accessories, feature furnishings and these evocative touches:

* Dark dramatic walls taken to soft black or aubergine, as a foil to bright, day-glow furnishings. The work of Brave Boutique in Britain glows in the dark.

* Upholstery, accessories and dishes in brown, rust, mustard and Marsala (Pantones colour for 2015). Go new and Scandinavian to keep the look fresh.

* Resin and acrylic furniture with colour and gold tinted transparents. Bloom chairs by Calligaris are a perfect entry point for some 1970s feel that’s still sleek and well-behaved. €255 Caseys Furniture, Cork.

* The return of wicker, knitting and rough woven fabrics. Fetch out those dusty Peacock and hanging basket chairs. Bring the resin woven chairs indoors. Boqa French furniture is affordable and cool.

* Flower power — the mathematically perfected, stylised flower in fabrics and wallpapers remained popular from the 1960s. No-one does it better today than Irish designer Orla Kiely. Take a look at her recent Pear and Tulip prints.

* Engineered wood panelling (a huge story in interiors this year), plywood, cardboard and revealed brickwork, either raw or painted white. Need I say — Jennifer Walsh Design for her stacked cardboard lighting?

* Chunky, masculine wood-framed seating furniture and low back slouch couches. Rent Season 7 of Mad Men, and study Don’s New York apartment in 1968/69 where the best of what was to become mainstream was already uptown.


Zespoke is a young company based in Northern Ireland, lighting up the interiors world with their retro-inspired furnishings. I asked co-founders Stephen Richmond and Paul Elliot about their curvaceous hits in coffee tables and media storage:

Why these wild shapes?

Most modern furniture is mass produced, something that is entirely opposite to what we do. Most of our designs have curves that are almost impossible to mass produce, giving each piece an almost timeless feel. The shape of our furniture seems to be able to sit with almost any interior style.

How do you select colours?

We lean towards bright and we like to offer colours and combinations that just aren’t available anywhere else. We have developed a customiser that lets you build a 3d model of your table in the colours you like as a try-before-you- buy.

Any unusual commissions?

We make a lot of furniture for the corporate world, including tables for Barclays, Lear Jets, Peugeot and Triumph Motorbikes. In a recent commission the client wanted a 2m table that we would have been unable to ship due to its size. Stephen came up with a clever solution, making it in two parts with a centrepiece. Result? A very happy client.

Any new designs or shows you are included in across Ireland or Britain where we can see new work?

Our business is solely based online, our Facebook page is the best place to keep up to date with new products, and one to look out for is Ze Clock (£249), a new take on a grandfather clock.

Zespoke products can be found at and the firm offers free delivery nationwide.

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