Theory & Research - 70s Furniture Icons – Rigby & Rigby

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Theory & Research – 70s Furniture Icons

“The decade that taste forgot”



The 1970s was a decade in conflict: economic hardship and design decadence, dreary colour palettes and psychedelic patterns, free spirited bohemianism and cutting edge futurism.

The decade saw a significant transformation for interior design. It marked a reaction against the sleek design of the 50s and modernism of the 60s in favour of self-expression and individuality. New living concepts arose; there was a trend towards open plan living, taking design back to nature and embracing colour and pattern.

, Theory & Research – 70s Furniture Icons

Interior Design Characteristics

Open plan living

The idea of “open-plan living” was created in the 1970s. Kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms were all connected openly to create a free flow of space. The kitchen became a social family space and was no longer the sole domain of the housewife. Similarly, internal balconies and mezzanine levels became popular which led to large, bright and airy double-height spaces.

The main aim was to create homes that were joyful, carefree and comfortable.


Hippie Influence of Nature

The oil crisis in 1973 combined with the hippie culture coming out of the late 1960s led to an interest in more natural lifestyles and a rejection of materialism.

architects and designers used natural materials such as timber and stone to create spaces that acted as organisms operating as part of their wider surroundings. Large windows and House plants were also a staple of the 1970s creating urban indoor oases.

Psychedelic Pattern & Colour

Form, function and funkiness was celebrated by architects and designers. Popular colours were earthy brown and orange tones juxtaposed with bright and vibrant colors. Pattern and colour were layered together to create vibrant, free and playful spaces.

Clashing patterns found their way into wallpaper, carpets and fabrics, bringing disco culture into the home.

, Theory & Research – 70s Furniture Icons

Furniture Design

Furniture design in the 1970s found its expression in embracing imagination. high-tech plastic, tubular steel, vinyl and chrome were used for boundary-pushing and experimental furniture designs in bright colours that created a space-age look. after the relative affluence of the prior two decades, the 1973 energy crisis brought economic austerity so the design world and craftsmen continued to promote cost-effective mass-production, clever storage, lighting design, inflatable elements, transparency, and lightweight furniture pieces.

Italian designers were especially famous for the innovative design of chairs and office furniture mostly made of plastic. the quest became for maximum comfort and ultimate convenience; furniture was multifunctional and movable. Leather bean bag chairs and floor pillows were popular as well as built-in space, saving in furniture.

as nature became popular in architecture during the 70s, natural materials also became important in furniture design. As people wanted to get back to their roots, they desired simple, natural pieces. materials such as wood and bamboo were often seen in furniture designs.

, Theory & Research – 70s Furniture Icons

Furniture icons

Camaleonda – Mario Bellini, 1970

The Canaleonda sofa was designed by Mario Bellini for B&B Italia in 1970 and is a striking and impactful piece of furniture design. Characterised by its bulky, bulbous and heavily padded modules, the sofa became and remains today, a sought after addition to many interiors.

Despite its rotund appearance, the modular make up of the Camaleonda was an innovatively versatile piece. It was one of the first modular sofas which, in the 1970s fit in with the movement towards comfortable. Social, open-planned living.

It was and is endlessly customisable, easily transforming from a linear form that might echo the line of a wall, to a group of cloud-like seats grouped around a table; or an angular daybed to a series of individual lounging chairs.

, Theory & Research – 70s Furniture Icons

Atollo – Vico Magistretti, 1977

The Atollo lamp was designed by Vigo Magistretti n 1977 and won the Compasso d’Oro in 1979. it has since become a timless, classic piece of design. Magistretti wanted to revolutionise the classic design of the Abat-jour lamp shade and translate it into a new lamp which was sculptural, sleek, elegant and versatile. It’s simple, yet strong geometry represents the style and taste of the 1970s era it was born out of and yet even today, it does not appear dated.

the Atollo table lamp is composed of three main geometric shapes; a cylinder, cone and hemisphere.  It transforms the traditional open top lampshade into a small abstract structure.

“The extremely pleasant lighting enhances and is enhanced by the simple geometric form of the overall construction. It has no unnecessary frills or features. This characterises most of Vico Magistretti’s lamps. Elegant proportions and stylistic composure make them perfect “domestic characters”.”

Taken from: “Vico Magistretti Architetto e Designer” written by Irace Fulvio, Pasca Vanni, (1999), Milano, Mondadori Electa.

When considering the designs of the 70s, it is safe to say the Atollo has become a new archetypal table lamp, from which many other contemporary lamps were born.

, Theory & Research – 70s Furniture Icons

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