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The Power of Nostalgia

Recently I presented some tile options to a client, and they said, "It reminds me of the 70s." She said it like it was a bad thing! She followed with, "I was a child in the 70s so that's not for me.” I was stunned. I too was a child in the 70's. I did not have a perfect childhood, but I still adore all things from this beloved era.

Angela Harris Dunmore Sonata Decor 8x8 Polished Ceramic Wall Tile

Later, when I once more triggered her loathe for the disco decade, she revealed design details of her childhood home. "Bright orange countertops, green shag carpet, dark wood paneling", I gasped and interrupted her litany of style grievances, “You lived in the cool house!” The Brady Bunch House! She ignored my comment. Okay. I probably should have done a better job of qualifying this client. She was nice as can be, so I dove in, but in addition to having bad feelings about our shared childhood era, she also ordered a vanity from Wayfair. That alone was heartbreaking, but it was also a style and color that had nothing to do with the design. “Uncle!”

I understand. I’m somewhat skeptical of the 80’s trends coming back to haunt us. For instance, the color “Mauve” which we now refer to as “Redend Point” Sherwin Williams’ color of the year for 2023. Full disclosure I specified a very similar color for a master suite (not pictured below) last year. So long as we aren’t creating a time capsule dedicated to this decade or that, it is always appropriate to find inspiration in the past even at the risk of evoking ill sentiment.

Sherwin-Williams "Redend Point"

As much as I want to look around my home and see beauty, I also want to look around my home and get a feeling, and more than likely the feeling I'm searching for is in the past, in nostalgia. To follow are a few things I remember with fondness and might bring into a design today, but with an updated spin.

Tudor style was really having a moment when I was in grade school. Jumer’s Castle Lodge in my hometown of Urbana, Illinois was proof. My grandparents would treat us to dinner there when they came to town. It was grand and dark and fancy in my eyes. They served miniature cinnamon rolls instead of dinner rolls. Dreamy. I love Tudor houses to this day and love to have at least one dark and cozy area in a house. Jessica Helgerson designed a Tudor home in Portland with a dining nook that I can not get enough of. I can see myself sitting there drinking coffee and journaling in the morning. Dreamy.

Jumer's Castle Lodge Peoria, Illinois

Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

Brown was king. My grandmother told my mom that brown was her favorite color. Hmm. Well, it certainly was in vogue in the 70’s. To this day my ideal sofa is the darkest brown velvet with jewel toned accent pillows. And where there is brown, there is likely wood and brick.

Hart to Hart


There was a definite love of brick. My grandparents had brick patterned vinyl flooring in their kitchen and laundry room and brick could be found on walls and fireplace hearths everywhere. Some of the best mid-century architecture brought the brick indoors. My dad was a janitor, and he cleaned an advertising agency that was the coolest! It had brick walls and large abstract oil paintings as well as leather and chrome furniture. I found it a little scary and mildly titillating. My job was to empty the stinky ashtrays. Gross. I didn’t mind though if I could be in that sophisticated space where people came to work their glamorous advertising jobs. When I was in 4th grade my parents finally put in a brick fireplace. Until the novelty wore off my mom let us sit and roast marshmallows off the end of wire hangers. With memories like that how can I not feel good about the 70's?! Although the picture below is without brick, it has the cool vibe of the ad agency I spoke of earlier.

1970's Interior Google Images

Sara Hillery Design llc.

Brown wasn’t the only color. Bold colors dressed the homes and the bodies of all fashionable grown-ups. Golden yellows were popular along with burnt oranges and deep greens. My dad was many years older than my mom and had grown children from his first marriage. His oldest daughter lived in a split-level with green shag carpet and green and white tropical foliage wallpaper. Her dining set was white wicker, and her kitchen wallpaper was brown and orange with chickens on it. The best part was the yellow plastic barrel chairs at her kitchen table. Her husband was a mechanic and owned a gas station. I thought they were rich. Over and over I find myself drawn to the daring use of color in the below Amanda Nisbet living room. Those curtains! I'm relieved that "Color is coming back", according to the "experts" whoever they are. I say color never left.

Mary Tyler Moore Show

Amanda Nisbet

As for 1007 Country Squire Drive, it was a mishmash of styles. There were leftover pieces of furniture from the home’s early days as a 1960’s model home (my dad was so proud) mixed with antiques from my grandparents and various bohemian touches from my mom’s previous divorced-with-daughter life that she lived with my sister in an upstairs apartment downtown. Our house always felt cozy and inviting. In junior high and high school my well off “professor brat” friends loved coming to my house. It was “homey”. They could relax. I have my mom to thank for that. We always had dogs, and nothing was ever so precious you couldn’t use it. She kept it clean and tidy and lit candles every evening, traditions my sister and I carry on today. From this childhood home comes my greatest overarching influence. Not bound by a decade or the ranch style architecture of the house itself, our house taught me to love eclectic design over any other prescriptive style. Homes with story and soul. Homes that span the decades and have a collected and put together look. Where seemingly disparate parts come together to make a beautiful whole. Much like my family, these are the homes I love.

Me and my family in front of my grandparent's fireplace 1976.

There’s no doubt there was a lot to find ugly in the 1970’s, (serial killers, key parties, polyester) but it was truly a fun time to be a kid. That’s why a tip of the hat to my childhood decade brings a smile to my face whether in fashion or interior design. Enjoy these designers that are making me smile.

Woods + Dangaran Architecture

Heidi Callier

Hate the 1970’s? Wayfair's got just what you need!

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