In the 1960s, a lot of different decorating styles suddenly emerged all at once, reflecting the general foment in all creative fields that decade. That means there is no single 1960s style, but there is a huge variety of modern and futuristic elements that are recognizably of the decade. Take a cue from the Swinging Sixties to add a little retro flash and fun to your space.
1960s style was eclectic, and drew on a wide range of influences, from the flowing, organic lines of Art Nouveau to the brand new materials of the Space Age. Entertaining at home was important, and living rooms in particular were designed to facilitate relaxed conversation. Key concepts include playfulness, experimentation, and sociability.
Some of the most iconic furniture and interior designers of the 1960s are Joe Colombo, whose Cart Armchair and Sofa have recently returned to production; Arne Jacobsen, creator of the Swan and Egg Chairs, and David Nightingale Hicks, whose interiors revolved around bold combinations of color, heavy patterns, and furnishings from contrasting eras.
When you think of the Sixties, you probably think of color. There’s a good reason for that; young designers were rebelling against the restraint of the 1950s in a big way, leading them to turn away from neutrals in search of more exciting combinations. Sometimes this led to ultra-high contrast color combinations, like blue and orange; sometimes it meant glossy blacks, ice whites and clear acrylics won the day; and sometimes adjacent colors like red and pink were paired in defiance of conventional wisdom. Colorful patterned fabrics by the likes of Marimekko and Emilio Pucci make exciting and authentic Sixties accents.
Appropriately for a time when anything seemed possible, designers in the 1960s began to experiment with new materials and concepts. For the first time, furnishings were intentionally designed to be cheap and short-lived, even disposable; Peter Murdoch’s paper chairs were made to last approximately three months. Fun, colorful plastic became popular, and clear acrylic began to emerge as a chic material thanks to Space Age pieces like Eero Aarnio’s Bubble Chair.
Get the look
Thanks to longstanding manufacturers like Matrix, Knoll and Thayer Coggin, some of the most iconic furniture designs to adorn American homes in the 1960s remain in production. These include Eero Saarinen’s neofuturist Tulip Chair, Tulip Armchair and SA69 Table, all of which exude classic 60s cool.
Sixties-style coffee tables and conversational seating tends to be low to the ground, in keeping with the decade’s emphasis on relaxed socializing. The sinuous curves of the Cool Clip Sectional by Thayer Coggin combines that welcoming low height with the rounded shapes that were so popular in the era of futuristic pods, capsules, and Egg Chairs. The Stainless Steel Drum Table, designed by Milo Baughman, is a classic piece from the period and stands just 17 inches high.
Clear acrylic furniture came into vogue in the 1960s, and contemporary designers continue to keep the psychedelic spirit alive with pieces like the Wave Dining Chair. Kartell are also famed for their distinctive, retro-influenced pieces in clear or colored polycarbonate, like the Phillipe Starck-designed Eros Armchair.
Large florals and bold geometric designs are strongly associated with the 60s; an attention-grabbing area rug, like Dellarobbia’s Vertigo or Fiorenza, instantly evokes the era. So do deep shag or flokati rugs, but if that’s too big a commitment, consider introducing a faux fur throw, cylinder or pillow set.
As far as shelving and storage goes, the Sixties look is about letting it all hang out. Modular shelving and room dividers let you create a totally personalized look while putting your favorite items on permanent display. Consider a large, open shelving system like the Fifty, which can be configured to suit any need. The Eileen Bookshelf by BDI is a study in relaxed cool.