Remembered for shag carpeting and macramé, the decade of disco has much more to offer
Design cues from the 1970s have been broadly overlooked for ages in favour of crowd-pleasing mid-century modern (which, to be clear, we’re also fans of). But a new surge of interest in the decade proves that ’70s design, much like disco, never did die out. Since the ’90s, labels like Vitra and Knoll have quietly revived some icons, while others, like Roche Bobois’s Mah Jong, never went out of production.
After all, there’s so much more to the decade than avocado appliances, wood panelling and macramé everything, among other punchline design trends. The ’70s also saw designers develop new forms and vernaculars, break down previous constraints and – almost as a counterpoint to the decade’s love of beige and earth tones – make liberal use of bright, saturated colours and bold contrasts, a trend pushed to its limit by the Memphis Group a decade later.
Through that lens, it’s easy to see the current relevance of these designs, which, like their mid-century forebears, are being celebrated and reissued for a new generation to appreciate. Here, we take a look at three favourites launched in the era of disco and oil crises, that have helped fuel this colourful revival.
B&B Italia Gli Scacchi
Though inspired by chess, a game dating back more than 1,000 years, B&B Italia’s modular Gli Scacchi pushed aesthetic and technological boundaries when released in 1971. Made with polyurethane foam, which then was typically used only in car upholstery, the sculptural seats were wholly non-prescriptive, inviting users to develop their own arrangements and applications. The latest reissue has leather covers but is otherwise true to the original.
Herman Miller ‘Chiclet’
Launched in 1976 and reissued earlier this year, the Modular Sofa Group, a.k.a. the Chiclet, immediately struck a chord upon release. Its assemblage of rounded forms – made possible by a proprietary two-way stretch fabric – made for a distinctive silhouette available in a bevy of bright colours. The nickname stuck, too. How could it not?
Nothing says 1970s like sink-into-me comfortable seating. Cassina’s Soriana sofa is a perfect example. While beautiful, space-efficient it is not. With a squat, wide stance and overstuffed upholstery, it evokes total relaxation, while its metal frame marries design principles with architectural rigour. Awarded a Compasso d’Oro in 1970, it was a counterpoint to the practical seating of the previous decades, and still sits well in its 2021 reissue.