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The return of the 70s

From the Resene decorating blog

In the 70s, riding on the coat-tails of the 60s hippy movement, and as a rebellion against recession, corruption and disenchantment, designers sought to infuse interiors, and fashion, with a sense optimism and move away from the sleek minimalism of previous decades into an aesthetic that welcomed eclecticism, glamour and excess.

The era might make you think of plastic topped tables and a dearth of traffic-cone orange but this period was actually much more sophisticated – using heavily saturated colours in glamorous jewel tones for example, welcoming pattern and texture and heralding open-plan living spaces – and it’s for these reasons that it’s making a comeback.

Bringing nature into a retro-inspired living room

Walls in Resene Paddock and an abundance of houseplants bring nature into this retro-inspired living room, adding bold colour while allowing zany stencilled floor to take centre stage. Floor painted in Resene Lignite and Resene Quarter Cararra, hanging shelf in Resene Barometer, coffee tabletop in Resene Unwind, tall vase in Resene Intrepid and short vase in Resene Seaweed. Project by Claudia Kozub, image by Melanie Jenkins.

And it’s not just the obsession with colour and pattern that has created the revival, it’s also because interior design in the 70s was a two-sided movement. On one hand, think disco, bold colour sparkle, geometric patterns and paisley prints; on the other think back-to-nature inspired use of organic materials and interiors filled with an abundance of houseplants.

When incorporating elements of 70s style into your home, unless you are creating a true retro theme, keep ‘sophistication’, ‘luxury’ and ‘warmth’ top of mind. Think of introducing a 70s vibe in subtle ways in certain areas of the home using colour and texture.

Jewel colours

Sumptuous colours of the decade include emerald greens such as Resene Untamed and deeper Resene Cardin Green, purples such as Resene Plum and Resene Hot Purple, blues like Resene Midnight and Resene Ming and reds like Resene Hot Chile and Resene Guardsman Red. And of course, golds like Resene Rich Gold and Resene Reno Sand were joined by deep yellows like Resene Golden Sand and avocado tones such as Resene Hacienda.

A bedroom painted in chocolate tones

The cosy enveloping feel of chocolate tones and layered textures is used to good effect in this bedroom. No era embraced shades of brown quite like the 70s. Walls painted in Resene Monkey, floor in Resene Space Shuttle, pendant lamp in Resene Kabul, dresser in Resene Kabul, bedside lamp in Resene Americano, side and hallway table in Resene Kilimanjaro, DIY artwork in Resene Monkey and Resene Madison, vases in Resene Felix, Resene Kabul, Resene Americano, Resene Monkey and Resene Space Shuttle and tall plant pot in Resene Felix. Duvet and pillowcases from Citta, velvet cushion cover, throws and blue linen cushions from H&M Home. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

And on the flip side, along with the back-to-nature leanings of the 70s came the use of more soft neutral tones of beige like Resene Solitaire, peach like Resene Champagne and brown such as Resene Calico and Resene Soft Amber.

Then, there are the pastels in pink, blue, green and brown made popular in paisley prints and the advertising of the era – as well as featuring on bathroom suites and ovens!

For a more modern interpretation, you don’t have to go all-in with bold colour. Instead, try playing on black and white and shades of neutrals with hints of ochre, warm brown shades and hits of black.

While mustard yellow, burnt orange and terracotta energised 70s home, choose more earthy tones to give this palette a modern twist. For other 70s inspired hues that work well in today’s context, think about Resene Avocado, Resene Pirate Gold, Resene Gold Coast, Resene Moroccan Spice and Resene Clover.

A 1970's style painted rug

Managing to be bold and understated at the same time, this hallway embraces geometric shapes made popular in the 70s and soft earthy tones with hits of 70s colours such as gold, brown and avocado. Wall painted in Resene Half Akaroa, floor in Resene Mondo with round painted rug in Resene Brown Pod, Resene Lichen, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Dusty Road, DIY artwork in Resene Quarter Akaroa with shapes in Resene Mondo, Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Half Akaroa, Resene Half Nomad, Resene Lichen, Resene Dusty Road and Resene Brown Pod, vases in Resene Quarter Akaroa with shapes in Resene Mondo, Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Half Akaroa, Resene Half Nomad, Resene Lichen, Resene Dusty Road and Resene Brown Pod, chair in Resene Brown Pod and hall table in Resene Dusty Road. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Bryce Carleton.

Brown is back

One colour that was embraced in the 1970s and is now making a bold comeback is brown. Colours like Resene Leather, Resene Dusty Road, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Brown Pod are increasingly popular. The new browns have the ability to both ground and warm the spaces they are used in. And unlike the one-dimensional browns of the 90s, these variations take their richness and complexity from the jewel tones of the 70s and work well when layered with one another or blended with soft neutrals.

Chocolate can create a cocooning effect ideal for bedrooms, a cosy lounge nook or, for interior designer Tracey Strange, an entertainment room.

“When it comes to media rooms. I love colours such as chocolate, ink and even a deep forest green,” she says. “In my own home, I used a rich chocolate grasscloth wallpaper with flecks of metallic, which worked amazingly. We love curling up watching movies, with little sparkly glints of metallic reflecting off the walls. You could achieve a similar result with Resene Wallpaper Collection 22109 or Resene Wallpaper Collection 22122, which is a gorgeous blue – not too dark but definitely rich and cosy. My tip: Make sure your curtains are a similar shade to the wall. I don’t think this style of decor works well if the contrast between curtains and wall covering is too stark”


In a design trend that represents a conscious movement away from the sleek, minimalist, and stylish design movements that came before it, such as mid-century and Swiss design, 70s patterns signify rebellion, joyous celebration, independence and always, the wow-factor. Look for 70s patterns that exhibit some of these characteristics: self-expression, individualism, psychedelic excesses, highly saturated colour, swirls, geometric shapes, flower or plant-based motifs, trippy typography and paisley prints.


The patterns of the 70s were not only used on walls, in fact, the floor was a more popular canvas for an explosion of shapes, colour and motifs either in shag pile rugs or the vinyl and linoleum floors that were all the rage in this era. Oranges inspired by terracotta floors featured heavily.

Thanks to today’s advances in paint, you can create paint effects masterpieces that mimic the fluffy rugs and ‘plastic’ floors of the past direct onto your hard flooring – concrete or wood. Ask your nearest Resene ColorShop about the best products to use and get creative.

A 1970's style geometric wallpaper design

The simplicity of this geometric design in Resene Wallpaper Collection HX8-053, lends an up-to-date, modern air while the combination of midnight blue and gold is a definite nod to the 70s. As well as adding drama and elegance, the subtle vertical line work will draw the eye up and make a room seem taller and more spacious. Finish wooden flooring in Resene Colorwood Rock Salt for a blonded effect.

Elements that will amp up the 70s vibe in your home

Don’t be afraid to look back at what was successful in the past and make it your own for today for your home. Sometimes old with a new twist is all you need.

Resene Untamed

July 20, 2022

Visit your local Resene ColorShop for more colour ideas and all the expert advice and products you need for a superb finish on all your decorating projects.

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